07/20/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Are We Beacons of Democracy Only When it's Easy?

Our leaders have developed an achingly obvious flair for the dramatic when it comes to talking about democracy and what it takes to change the world. For example,

I will never forget that the only reason I'm standing here today is because somebody, somewhere stood up for me when it was risky. Stood up when it was hard. Stood up when it wasn't popular. And because that somebody stood up, a few more stood up. And then a few thousand stood up. And then a few million stood up. And standing up, with courage and clear purpose, they somehow managed to change the world. -- Barack Obama speech, Jan. 8, 2008

As we become increasingly good about talking about standing up, we seem to become increasingly unwilling to actually stand up and do anything.

Just over 18 months ago, a group of monks, men with no arms and possessions stood up against a brutal dictator who rules with astrology, terror and an army, feeding his insanity with a steady diet of drugs and jewelry sales.

As we talked the talk, the monks walked through the streets of Yangoon, and literally paid with their lives.

Today, Aung Sang Suu Kyi is undergoing a pathetic show trial, and yes I know we are gravely concerned and all that, but really, we aren't doing anything.

Today, in Iran, the crackdown will come. Hundreds, thousands, may be killed in the terror. Freedom and democracy and the right to vote, people are standing up for that today in Iran.

What exactly are we doing to help them?

Besides talking about it.