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Deciders vs. Declarers

Of all the anarchists I know, bridge players are my favorites. I know, I know, the world of bridge is not exactly the first thing that hops into mind when you think of revolutionar ies, and frankly, you’re right. Which, I must point out, is precisely the point. Americans who dislike the direction the Bush administrati on has taken our country are not few, fringe or French. It’s a huge cross-sectio n of the country, representing all the various jobs, strata and opinions. Lambasting Bush naysayers no longer passes under the radar; the cheering section has dwindled to a frothing few.

 In the genteel world of bridge, disputes are usually handled quietly and rarely involve issues of national policy. But in a fight reminiscent of the brouhaha over an anti-Bush statement by Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks in 2003, a team of women who represented the United States at the world bridge championship s in Shanghai last month is facing sanctions, including a yearlong ban from competition, for a spur-of-the- moment protest. At issue is a crudely lettered sign, scribbled on the back of a menu, that was held up at an awards dinner and read, “We did not vote for Bush.” – NY Times

Oh the humanity. Really, how dare Americans exercise free speech? What were they thinking? The women face punitive sanctions designed to cost them their livelihoods and financial stability, because they simply stated a fact. They didn’t write “Bush is an ass” (which may be their opinion), but rather that they did not vote for him, a simple truth. Is the psyche of the Republican base so out of whack they feel threatened by something as fundamental as this?

Apparently so.

By e-mail, angry bridge players have accused the women of “treason and “sedition. ” “This isn’t a free-speech issue,” said Jan Martel, president of the United States Bridge Federation, the nonprofit group that selects teams for internationa l tournaments. “There isn’t any question that private organization s can control the speech of people who represent them.” 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 internationa l competition, ” he said by e-mail. – NY Times

Treason? Is saying you did not vote for somebody a crime against America? Funny, I thought being active in your democracy was what America was about. Colluding with the anarchists are the French who sent this threatening missive to the US Bridge Federation:

“By trying to address these issues in a nonviolent, nonthreateni ng and lighthearted manner,” the French team wrote in by e-mail to the federation s board and others, “you were doing only what women of the world have always tried to do when opposing the folly of men who have lost their perspective of reality.” – NY Times

Insane I say! Silence all unofficial opinion! Off with their heads!

Or, perhaps, step back and take a look at the real issue here, pride. An organization that sees financial ruin as an appropriate punishment to maintain ideological control is not in line with the American ideal. Do you think, if the women held up a sign that said “George Bush Rules” we’d be having this discussion? Me either. The real “dummy” in this game is the Federation.

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