No wedding should cost more than $50.
Anitra and I celebrated 21 years together last month. Our relationship can now legally drink in this state. But this is the week we celebrate actually getting married.
I’ve been thinking back on that wedding, which represents one of my best ideas ever.
You see, we have all kinds of friends with all kinds of religions and cultures, so I didn’t want to be married in one church or another.
Also, we were (and are) really poor, so there’s that, and the license was already a big hit to the budget. And I like hamburgers and hot dogs much more than hors d’oeuvres, anyway.
So I came up with a crowd-sourcing approach. For the post-ceremony reception, we would rent a portion of Madrona Park and have a potluck. And the really good idea I had was to invite all our diverse friends to contribute blessings of any sort, in any way, according to any tradition or whatever.
We called the Parks Department to rent space for about 50 people and they quoted a rental fee of $50. We were elated that it was so affordable — and then we let slip that it was for a wedding.
“Oh, in that case it’s $250,” the official told us. When Anitra asked why the extra, we were told there was more to clean up. You know, all the rice.
Who assumes that all weddings have rice?
Anitra was quick, though, immediately explaining that no, we didn’t mean the wedding would be in the park. The park is just for the reception afterward.
So we got the $50 price and paid it. And when the guests showed up on the day of, and the ceremony was ready to start, Anitra and I stood 2 feet outside the park so it was all legal. The deed was done outside the park just like we promised it would be. And there was no rice, either.
The ceremony itself was amazingly multicultural. I don’t have space to detail all of it, but we’re talking Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Polish Pagan, Church of Elvis, Yoruba, Atheist, prayers, blessings, songs and poems.
Speaking of diversity, I am getting concerned about news from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China.
One of the other consequences of being poor back in the day was that, for entertainment, I had to be creative. I shopped for music cassette tapes in the 25-cent bins at bargain stores. To be sure I got my 25-cents’ worth, I only bought tapes where the song titles were in languages I didn’t know, so even if the music wasn’t good, it would be a novel experience.
Once, I snatched up a tape of Chinese regional music. One or two of the tunes were Uyghur tunes, and I liked them and so I went to the UW library to figure out who I was listening to.
I found out I was listening to music from a mostly Muslim Turkic ethnic group that is concentrated within China mainly in the Southeastern portion of the aforementioned province. I also learned that Xinjiang is Chinese for “New Frontier” and that the Uyghur people might actually suffer the same fate as the natives of our own Western Frontier, given that the Chinese saw their land as so inviting as to call it that.
That was around 1995. This spring, the Associated Press reported that Uyghurs are being sent to “re-education camps.” Business Insider says perhaps as many as 1 million have been sent to camps, but certainly hundreds of thousands. It also reports intense surveillance using facial recognition technology, DNA, fingerprints, iris scans and voice recordings.
Voice samples have been collected so that people speaking on phones can be identified. There have been reports that traditional practices are being suppressed, including dress, beards and even the observance of Ramadan.
Chinese officials claim that there is no ethnic cleansing going on, it’s all about rooting out terrorists. Doesn’t that sound familiar?
I said seven and a half years ago that facial recognition was going to have a major downside. The Chinese government is pioneering the very techniques I was fretting about. It’s clear that these methods aren’t going to go away. Don’t expect them to be outlawed internationally.
Our own government is watching all this and taking notes.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd.
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