What human era do we live in? The year on my calendar is 2019.
It has been a full 73 years since Auschwitz-Birkenau was decommissioned, 40 years since Pol Pot’s killing fields, 24 years since the Srebrenica genocide. The genocide of the Rohingya is ongoing. And we can now follow the bouncing ball, or bludgeon if you will, to northwest China.
Why bother to even mention what year it is? Each whirl around the sun seems another decoy leading us to believe that the Age of Aquarius is but a spin away; harmony and understanding – lyrics I suppose that were intended to arouse our better nature.
There is nothing more convincing, though, to dispel the myth of progress – “The Better Angels of Our Nature” as Steven Pinker would reference – than the Orwellian landscape taking shape in Xinjiang, China, an area four times the size of Germany. That Sen. Marco Rubio called what is unfolding there “science fiction” and that Sen. Elizabeth Warren agrees with that assessment belies that depth and scale of this developing tragedy.
Eleven million Chinese citizens of this region are Uyghur, an ethnically Turkic minority. They are facing a genocide, and not just the cultural version. They are Sunni Moslem by faith and have the grave misfortune of inhabiting lands claimed by the atheistic Chinese Communist Party (CCP) – a party that prohibits its members from holding religious beliefs.
The Uyghurs are within arm’s length of Xi Jinping, CCP’s general secretary. He rules with an iron fist and notions of the racial superiority of the Han Chinese.
The Uyghurs unfolding nightmare is hardly a new page from China’s playbook of intolerance – we flinch thinking of the plight of the Tibetans. And there is no new page from the bystander’s playbook, the world at large, who blithely looks on and compiles testimonies of torture, family separations, forced indoctrination. We get an occasional tweet pleading that something be done. (Yes, an occasional op-ed piece.)
Estimates of the number of Uyghurs forcibly detained in China’s “political re-education” centers range between 800,000 and 1 million. Columnist Gordon G. Chang dispenses with the varnish calling them concentration camps, saying “there is a new Third Reich.” The CCP intends to root out the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism and religious extremism.
Not idle chatter: their domestic policing budget now exceeds what they spend on their military.
The political advantage of the CCP, if you can call it that, is that once evil has been identified there are no cocktail parties for elites to politely argue for their moral concerns. The errant whispers get muzzled. No tiresome filibusters, balancing of opinions to bother with.
The bastards aren’t like us, they smell bad and need to get with the program – or else. Any objections? Dandy.
And while China can act decisively to create a “the perfect police-state” according to the Economist, to build and operate hundreds of camps, prohibit worship, the bystanders carry on fiddling while our latest Rome burns.
And in this impotence lies the greater tragedy: our technologies allow us to catalog the atrocities with such precision. Google Earth shows us the location and size of each prison, each bulldozed mosque, each additional police outpost. We know the CCP requires every Uyghur with a mobile device to have a spyware app installed that records all communications. Their newly issued identity cards contain blood type, DNA and other biometric information.
We can’t feign ignorance as we did with Stalin’s gulags and Hitler’s camps.
The real horror is that we must somehow muster a collective forgiveness, because our governments cannot sidestep the guilt. China will go about “eradicating tumors” as they see fit to “Sinicize” Islam and make it “compatible with socialism.”
Aside from Turkey’s condemnation that the camps were a “shame to humanity,” not a peep from other Moslem nations. Curious, huh?
Although no nation can lay claim to an unblemished moral high ground, more insidious are the overarching economic concerns. Because while the CCP swings its bludgeons at the Uyghurs, it swings open its vault doors to the outraised arms of those in need of investment dollars.
We all have a price – don’t we?
After years of globetrotting, Todd J. Broadman finds himself writing from his perch on the Palouse and loving the view. [email protected]