The U.S. can't help all oppressed people
But America is
the hope to many,
Uyghurs included

By Dave Payton

Monday August 07, 2006

A few weeks ago, I had never heard of the Uyghur culture. Today I wonder how many other folks in the world, besides the Uyghurs, want America to save them.

Last week, I wrote about St. Albans native Bob Rogers, a "new bohemian" who travels the world on a tandem bicycle named Zippy with Claire, his wife.

Since then I have spent considerable time reading his journals on his Web site at

But by far the most intriguing entry in his journal is of a meeting he had with a Uyghur man in western China in 2005.

The Uyghur people are not Chinese, who are primarily of the Han culture.

The Uyghurs belong to one of those cultures that the Chinese have overwhelmed and subjugated in the same way they took control of Tibet.

The Uyghur man Bob wrote of in his journal was 47.

"He says he was a boxer and a basketball player. He is fat now in a successful businessman sort of way. Proof of prosperity.

He orders his Han staff around like a stereotypical Ugly American, though he is a Chinese citizen. However, he is not Han."

The man was rankled by the fact that his neck of the woods had lost its autonomy at the hands of both the Chinese and Russians.

Bob said it was clear the man believes America is the answer to all his problems.

"He raises both hands high into the air, lifting up an imaginary something to great heights. ‘America,' he sighs. ‘America.'

"Then his beatific smile turns into a snarl. ‘China!'

"He turns up a little finger and spits on it, an ultimate insult. ‘China bad.' Spit. " ‘America!' his voice softens again."

"Then the man snarls at the thought of Saddam Hussein. In doing so, he shows solidarity with another small ethnic minority, the Kurds of northern Iraq."

Eventually, the man raises his glass of beer to President George Bush. That's when it becomes clear to Bob that "He really thinks (he is not alone among Uyghurs) that America will someday restore the Uyghur homeland of western China to them."

His reaction, of course, begs the question: Just how many oppressed cultural minorities in the world hope and fervently believe that America as the "policeman to the world," will liberate them? And how many of those ethnic groups will become embittered when it doesn't happen?

"Poor man," Bob wrote. "Even an ego as big as George W. Bush's would not consider attacking China.

"The commercial dragon is awakening and that is generally good for the world economy.

"The sleeping dragon of the Chinese military might is not something to be awakened, not for a few million Uyghurs-sheepherders, horse and camel wanderers of the steppes and deserts of China.

"No, the Uyghurs will be free when they free themselves and the Han will probably never allow that. They will dominate and eventually overwhelm with sheer population numbers as they have done to the Tibetans.

"The dragon sleeps, but is still a dragon nonetheless."

Peyton may be reached by e-mail at