November 15, 2007

A Bid for Dissent and Patriotism

Bridge, Bush and American Values

Did you catch the story about the American bridge player team which is in hot water for an off-the-cuff moment of political dissent at an awards ceremony?

In response to a lack of the usual warmth at international bridge events, and pointed questions about Iraq policy, Bush and torture, Ms. Gail Greenberg held up a sign stating “We did not vote for Bush.”

It was meant to be a moment of levity, a sign to her international friends that Americans are still independent thinkers, and patriotically question their government’s actions.

Ms. Rosenberg said the team members intended the sign as a personal statement that demonstrated American values and noted that it was held up at the same time some team members were singing along to “The Star-Spangled Banner” and waving small American flags.

The backlash against her is a demonstration of the new American values of the Bush Administration: patriotism means supporting the party. Dissent is sedition.

Judging by arguments gone by, some will say that the bridge organization to which they belong has every right to impose sanctions against these women — that “protected speech” doesn’t actually mean they are protected from consequences.

My first answer to that is that America stands for certain freedoms which are more important than the exaltation of the leader of one political party, and more important than any president. Whether or not those freedoms are protected under the law in every circumstance, (for instance, by prohibiting sanctions for political speech) those who claim they are Americans should show respect for that speech, especially abroad. This is how we effectively export our values: with demonstrations of our freedoms, not with bombs.

My second answer is to repeat what Danny Kleinman had to say on the subject (in the above article):

Not so, said Danny Kleinman, a professional bridge player, teacher and columnist. “If the U.S.B.F. wants to impose conditions of membership that involve curtailment of free speech, then it cannot claim to represent our country in international competition,” he said by e-mail.

If the USBF wants to speak of consequences, and shows that its priorities are not with the freedoms we Americans hold dear and essential, then perhaps they shouldn’t represent America in international competition. That’s if we want to follow through on the idea of consequences.

The bottom line is this. I can understand the USBF not wanting political messages to overshadow their activities. But this one off-the-cuff expression at an international awards event is hardly worthy of their gross overreaction. Such an overreaction is much more of a distraction, and even a stain, than one person’s admission about how she spent her vote.

Posted by James at November 15, 2007 10:36 AM
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If they don't want political statements, they need to be consistent and up front about it. Otherwise, they get what they get. I'm sure the organization wouldn't have objected to a "God Bless Bush" message, so. well, they have no right to object to this one.

Posted by: Barry Leiba at November 15, 2007 4:52 PM

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