This column didn’t start out well. I wanted to talk about things I hadn’t got around to in previous weeks because of our last president. I dug up my notes to myself from previous weeks to see what I was thinking. The first note I came across was “Need butter, garlic, some random meat, bread, TP and paper towels. Grapes?”
The next note I found was “They take a back seat in the ’39 Studebaker of their consciousness.” They who? I’ll never remember! Who’s driving? Is this all a metaphor I don’t want to understand? If so, why did I write it?
And “Sound Transit will open the light rail station at Northgate this September. Go see if there are any stores left.” I am determined to do this.
There was a note to myself about Lindsey Graham’s questioning of Antony Blinken — Biden’s nominee to head the State Department and man named after one of Santa’s reindeers. Graham had asked whether Blinken agreed with outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when Pompeo said China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority was genocide; Blinken said he did, and Graham then, in my notes, “acted like a 3-year-old who just got to taste ice cream for the first time in their life.”
[That was in part inspired by my memory of my first ice cream, age going on three, at a birthday party I was forced to attend. The Neapolitan ice cream made up somewhat for the coercion.]
I had never heard of the Uyghur people until around 1987, when I found a 25-cent cassette tape featuring a compilation of regional Chinese music, and two of the tracks I liked best were labeled as traditional Uyghur music from Xinjiang Autonomous Region.
I hit the library with that information. A huge clue to what I would later learn was that Xinjiang meant something like “Frontier” or “Indian Country.”
It was sometime later that I discovered YouTube and next discovered I could find more Uyghur music and dance on YouTube, and for maybe two years, all was good and I was happy. Then, something ominous occurred.
I think it was 2009 when I noticed that in every new video on YouTube purporting to be a video of traditional Uyghur music performances, the performers weren’t Uyghurs. It was jarring. It was an unexpected level of mass cultural appropriation. It was a harbinger of other forms of cultural oppression. And soon, there were more signs.
It was like the Chinese government agreed with my taste in music. The music could stay, but the people had to go. Maybe they were sitting on valuable mineral deposits. I don’t know yet. But I’m sure there’s a genocide going on and Pompeo was right for once.
Another note to myself was a Malcolm X paraphrase I wrote down. I looked up the original, which was “If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out, that’s not progress. The progress is healing the wound that the blow made. And they won’t even admit the knife is there.”
A note to myself on Jan. 7 was “Best Epiphany ever!” My immediate reaction to the insurrection at the Capitol building the day before was mostly positive. It was an ugly event, costing lives. But it was also a great national lesson pertaining to the dangers of inciting mob violence. I have always believed in the value of learning from other people’s mistakes before having to learn from my own. That’s what history is for, ideally. This is why I watch you all so closely.
I wrote to myself: “Ella Emhoff, Kamala Harris’ stepdaughter, enchanted people at the inauguration by her eye-brow dancing.” It would be so good if people would stop complaining about having to wear masks and start seeing it as a positive opportunity to learn to dance with other parts of their faces besides their mouths and nostrils. If we could all eyebrow dance, we could save the world from, I don’t know, global warming, or heartburn.
Random question: What would an eyebrow moonwalk look like? Can you do the Twist? Can your eyebrows close dance with each other?
Speaking of dance, can you dance to executive orders if they come fast enough?
What’s the sound of one eyebrow clapping?
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. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Read more in the Jan. 27 - Feb. 2, 2021 issue.