Finneran's Wake -Ep. #3
ITEM #1: JOE BIDEN’S INAUGURATION
On the afternoon of the twentieth of January, two thousand and twenty-one long years after the birth of God’s Semitic son, Joseph R. Biden Jr.—the long-time senator from the state of Delaware and, more recently, the two-term understudy to Barack Obama—became the forty-sixth president of the United States of America.
In the process of receiving so exalted a title, he was asked to repeat the simple, solemn oath by which, ever since the earliest dawn of our republic, when the glow of uncertainty suffused the vast horizon toward which our young forebears gazed, and anxiety coursed through the veins of a people for whom independence, now finally theirs to keep, was both an unfamiliar pleasure, and a frightening prospect, every president has been sworn into office.
The inauguration of this, the forty-sixth president, was unlike any of the nearly half-hundred by which it was preceded. For one, the spurned incumbent over whom Mr. Biden claimed an electoral victory last fall, the man stripped of the second term of which he felt himself not only fully deserving, but legally entitled, was not present for the affair.
President Trump, wounded by the shame of an inconceivable loss, and, worse, convinced of the chicanery by which so extraordinary an outcome must’ve been effectuated, was absent from the ceremony. This, mind you, is a ceremony—delightfully unique to the conduct of politics in the Western world—during which great powers are transferred, and immortal honors bestowed. With peace, amiability, grace, and—at the very least—a persuasive pretext of good-humor and will, he who’s departure is imminent is expected to welcome a successor to come.
Decorum being to him a sort of distant language in which no fluency’s to be gained, and self-effacement, likewise, a trap of modesty into which he’d never be so incautious as to let himself fall, President Trump avoided the day altogether. After issuing to the nation a refreshingly sober “Farewell Address”, a twenty-minute speech on which, failing a revival of his political aspirations in the year 2024, his official activities as president will end, Mr. Trump left the frigid air of the Federal City, for the balmy breeze of Florida’s east coast.
The Inauguration was unusual in other ways, as well. There was no massive crowd, at least no physical one, before whom Mr. Biden’s great oath was taken. There was no large audience, bundled but buzzing, to whom his remarks would be addressed. He spoke, instead, to a pit of “socially-distanced” friends and a sea of hundreds of thousands of flags—the former, a reminder of the threat of an injudicious touch or a careless embrace and the peril of an intimacy unwisely indulged; the latter, a symbol of the near half-million Americans claimed by the virulence of a foreign disease.
Perhaps strangest of all, the Inauguration—taking place at the Capitol Building, a location upon which, but two weeks ago, a rabble of malcontents unleashed a scene of terrible violence—required the presence of and protection by the American military. Twenty-thousand armed troops, more or less, were instructed to occupy a city in which the heart of liberty is thought to beat. To the viewer at home, through whose fixed television screen or computer monitor, this vaunted ceremony was streamed, their presence went unnoticed. Merit, however, to he who mentions the regrettable truth that the peaceful transfer of power occasionally demands the threat of a rather different type of power.
ITEM #2: CHINA’S GENOCIDE
On Tuesday, the nineteenth of January, as the final credits of the Trump Administration began to overtake the screen, and the President busied himself with a lengthy list of pardons and a Farewell Address with which to formalize his pending departure, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a startling proclamation.
In a release delivered from the State Department, that appendage of the Executive Branch over which he so diligently presided, Pompeo stated that “the People’s Republic of China, under the direction and control of the Chinese Communist Party, has committed crimes against humanity against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjinag”. He continued to say, with neither the reticence nor the doubt by which so grave a statement can often be spoiled, that “we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state”.
Among the methods of that “systematic attempt” of which the Chinese Communist Party is now officially accused, is the arbitrary imprisonment of over one million people, an immense number upon whom, according to testimony, every type of modern torture has been inflicted; the forced sterilization of both women and men, by which the propagation of their unwanted race will be at first retarded, and then completely stopped. The coercion to perform hard labor, to attend mandatory “re-education” classes, and to be killed in an extra-judicial manner complete the list of so many crimes.
In other words, that to which we’ve all borne witness, to which it would behoove us as a moral nation to respond, is a genocide in the far East. What we’re watching, as Pompeo made clear, is not some kind of ugly but forgivable prejudice, an unwholesome but natural bias, being exercised on a strange and alien race, an eccentric minority with whom a traditional, homogeneous country hasn’t yet quite learned to live. In the opinion of Pompeo, to which, with any luck, that of the rest of the world will soon conform, we’re seeing something far worse: the deliberate persecution and intended demise of a distinctive and religious people, because they’re a religious people, by a state unencumbered by the moral weight and authority of a supervising god.
This, I fear, is no great revelation to those not entirely unacquainted with the story. It feels as though it were but an articulation in words that which we’ve come quietly to sense. Still, it’s an uncomfortable reality from which Western eyes have for too long averted their gaze. No more shall we pretend ourselves blind to the striking clarity of the Chinese Communist Party’s depravity, and no longer shall we excuse our lethargy with faint claims of inadequate knowledge.
The poor, forgotten Uyghur Muslims, an abused and wretched race on whom, by the devilish edicts of the Chinese Communist state, unspeakable crimes have been and continue to be carried out, deserve our attention. Mike Pompeo, in a valiant and commendable act, the last for which he’ll likely be remembered, has invited us to let fall the scales from our eyes and recognize the Uyghur’s plight.
ITEM #3: NAVALNY DETAINED IN RUSSIA
Alexei Navalny, a name by which the most unflinching of apparatchiks is scandalized and the least optimistic of liberals inspired, was detained upon his return to the city outside which he was born.
A political dissident in a country intolerant of dissent, Navalny returned to the city of Moscow after a five-month sojourn in Germany. As might be expected, his time spent away from that ancient capital of Russia, that peculiar, impenetrable city in which his anti-corruption political organization is based, was somewhat involuntary.
In August of 2020, while on a flight to Moscow from the distant city of Tomsk, he was poisoned by a nerve agent, a method of assassination—at once idiosyncratic and silent—of which the Russians make habitual, shameless, and occasionally deadly use. With the knowledge that one of its passengers lay in so precarious a state, the flight was diverted. Days later, Navalny was medically evacuated to Berlin, far away from the state by whose hands he was nearly killed. There, in the sanctuary of a foreign hospital, into which not even the brazen Kremlin dare reach, he was treated by doctors sympathetic to his suffering, and given the opportunity to convalesce.
Five months later, the physical strength of which he was deprived seems to have been restored, and the flame by which his political ambition was once propelled appears to have been re-ignited. Sensing no perfect time to mount his re-entry into Russia, Navalny decided to do so last weekend. Immediately upon landing at Moscow, he was detained by the Russian police, by whom—if the past is any forecast of the future—he’s very unlikely to be gently treated.