Images are more powerful than words.
That’s why the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong became global news. When somebody says “What’s happening in Hong Kong?” you don’t picture crowds of people with signs, which could be a protest in Manhattan or Mumbai.
You picture umbrellas.
Maybe one umbrella, like the photo above. Or thousands of umbrella.
But you see umbrellas, and they mean something, because it’s what protesters are using ward off tear gas and pepper spray while they march for free and open elections, like they were promised.
Right there, the terms of the debate are framed. You sympathize with the protesters, who are organized and determinedly non-violent. Students taking part are doing their homework and picking up trash from the street.
Citizens might have used something else, say garbage bags, to protect themselves from tear gas and mace. It wouldn’t be the same.
The simple, common umbrella is a powerful symbol and tool. It’s not fancy. It’s not expensive. Everybody, rich or poor, has an umbrella.
You don’t need to join a political group. All you have to do is grab an umbrella from your hallway closet and walk outside. People around the world, folks who don’t speak the language or understand Hong Kong history and politics, they all the message.