“The official sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s world-televised memorial in South Africa yesterday was a hand-flapping phony, who made up motions as he went along – and couldn’t even muster up one real word, sign language experts say.“
Ahem. I direct the reader’s attention to this blogger’s 2006 opus, Greenwich Mean Time, which tells the story of a band of fake Indians who claim to be Siwanoys and invade Tod’s Point to build a casino. This scene is from their first news conference at the beach, held on the meadow atop the Memorial Rock:
A towering black man dressed largely in a shaved head, loincloth and gold hoop earring joined the lawyer [Daniel Worthy] and Watkins on the rock. Worthy attempted to explain the day’s legal actions but as soon as he started speaking the large man began to pantomime for the deaf in the audience, wriggling his fingers, waving his arms, wringing his hands and rolling his eyes, all to Worthy’s complete distraction. He struggled through his prepared remarks and then shouted at the man, telling him to cease and desist. This proved a mistake, for the man attempted to translate the emotion behind the command by flinging wide his huge, muscular arms and knocked both Worthy and Lanny from the rock.
….. [back on the rock] The large man paused for a moment, evidently considering how to translate Vespucci. He settled for forming a “V” with his two arms and hopping up and down on one foot.
Later, Jerry Yudain, intrepid Greenwich Time reporter, confronts Sweetwater:
“Hey – that big guy doing the beadwork – Billy? The one who signed for Watkins yesterday? I checked with a deaf friend of mine and he says it was all gibberish. Is there anything real about you guys? Anything genuine?”
“It’s symbolism,” Sweetwater said. “How many deaf reporters were there? None, right? How many deaf people watching on TV have any influence on what’s going on here? Same answer: none. You call it a shuck; Lanny calls it symbolism.”
“Symbolic of what?”
Sweetwater recited from memory. ”Of our acceptance of all people, our solidarity with the handicapped and, by extension, with oppressed people of all types.”
“So a seven-foot NBA refugee flopping around on a rock is supposed to mean that you support the Palestinians’ right of return?”
The Indian grinned. “Something like that.”