It is mid-August, a period that some consider to be the doldrums of summer.
Here, we engage in recriminations over a completely botched exit from Afghanistan, barely a testament to the supposed return of government jurisdiction. Our tired debates over masks continue to nausea. Many seek a third injection of the vaccine while others refuse a first.
A few, fewer and fewer, endlessly show their capacity for personal disgrace by persisting in beating the drums of the “stolen election”. All the while, Congress is discussing ways to spend the extra trillions that it doesn’t have.
In Colorado, this fall’s election campaigns haven’t really kicked off yet. The political class is biting their nails as the cutting commissions have the finish line in sight. Residents everywhere have come to realize that Mother Nature usually has the final say and that the Colorado Constitution does not include a clause guaranteeing the right to drive from Denver to Grand Junction in less than four hours.
Our Colorado Rockies manage to win about four out of nine games. While endless words are spent on a disappointing quarterback battle for the right to lead the Broncos to what is probably still a lesser winning percentage.
It is summer, indeed. Typical debates and side shows compete for attention as many of them sort it all out, preferring to focus on milking the last few drops of the remaining weeks of heat, hot dogs, hiking, and long, active days of outdoor fun.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a ruthless authoritarian regime brutally oppresses some of its own citizens based solely on their ethnic and religious identity.
Not content with breaking his own word in Hong Kong and ringing louder and louder about Taiwan, in addition to the ever-increasing repression of its own huge demographic, Chinese authorities (as in “authoritarian”) are now eight years in a concerted campaign of barbarism against its Uyghur citizens.
The civilized world has seen this coin too often over the past century. From Stalin’s Russia to Hitler’s expansionist, from Aryan Germany to Mao’s Cultural Revolution to Cambodia’s battlefields to Rwanda’s fratricide and the massacres in Kosovo, it’s a scene we only know about Very good. This is by no means a complete list.
Time and time again, much of the world has under-reacted. The concern is expressed; the resolutions are adopted; sentences are passed; modest aid packages are assembled; a handful of refugees can be admitted here or there.
But the answer is rarely up to the moment. Bill Clinton has more than once referred to his lack of assertive intervention in Rwanda as one of the main regrets of his presidency.
Uyghurs are an ethnic population of around 13.5 million people. More than 90 percent live within China’s borders, mainly in the far northwest region of Xinjiang. Their religion is a moderate form of Sunni Islam.
Since 2013, the repression against the Uyghurs has been increasingly intense and has taken various forms. Chinese surveillance technology, frightening in most places, is particularly prevalent in Uyghur communities. Female scarves and other traditional Muslim outfits have been banned. The tradition of daytime fasting during Ramadan has been banned.
“Police stations,” an innocent-sounding government nickname for police-run gangpens, are popping up from village to village. These “stations” have watchtowers with numerous cameras to record anyone entering or leaving the village. Employees at these locations can inspect and inspect any resident’s digital devices at any time.
The screws are getting tighter and tighter. Over a million Uyghurs have reportedly been sent to “re-education camps” or detained against their will for “vocational training”.
Those with a strong stomach might read the first-person account in The Atlantic of a famous Uyghur poet who escaped and now drives for Uber in suburban Washington, DC. It is a deeply sad and heartbreaking thing.
In a country of 1.45 billion people, one can wonder about the alleged threat posed by less than 13 million Uyghurs. It is not even a rounding error in the total population of China.
But the region is rich in gold and uranium, valuable raw materials in a country far from finished with its rapid economic expansion. Located along the ancient Silk Road, Xinjiang now has strategic importance in the context of China’s ultra-ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.
If what happened to the Uyghurs at the hands of China is not a large-scale genocide, it is certainly a cultural massacre, carried out with the aim of erasing the traditions, security and autonomy of ‘an honorable people.
Also, let’s not forget that previous genocides had many introductory chapters, each one about the persecution and tightening up controls, before the large-scale bloodshed began.
The United States and our allies are clearly limited in what we can do. We are not about to go for a walk in the regional capital of Urumqi, let alone in Beijing. The inane and tragic scenes of last week in Kabul hardly scare the hardened hearts of our adversaries.
While it is true that we cannot do everything, it does not follow that we cannot do anything. We may not be able to save millions of Uyghurs, but we can exert diplomatic and economic pressure and speak with unequivocal clarity.
What if Apple decides to assemble its iPhones elsewhere? What if Boeing drastically reduced its aircraft sales to China? If Nike reconsiders its Chinese affections, its CEO having said embarrassingly this summer: “Nike is a brand that is from China and for China”?
Under the headline “Hope Gushes Eternal”, maybe LeBron James could go from soothing to savior by hosting a basketball camp in Xinjiang instead of obsessively bending with his lips implanted on the back. -train of the president of always Xi and his tyrants.
All too often, Americans have pushed genocide away from home into the back of our minds. What if this time was different by keeping Uyghurs front and center in our thinking and actions?
Eric Sondermann is a Colorado-based independent political commentator. He writes regularly for Colorado Politics and the Denver Gazette. Contact him at [email protected]; follow him on @EricSondermann