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Burning a Bridge Too Far

How sad has our state of the union become that a comparatively mild protest during a game normally associated with little old ladies would turn into an international incident?
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 championships 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.”

By e-mail, angry bridge players have accused the women of “treason” and “sedition.”

I guess that would make the vast majority of Americans who didn't vote for Bush guilty as well. But part of me wonders if what has many, particularly the righties, so incensed by this was the reason for the improvised protest.
Ms. Greenberg [the US team's nonplaying captain] said she decided to put up the sign in response to questions from players from other countries about American interrogation techniques, the war in Iraq and other foreign policy issues.

“There was a lot of anti-Bush feeling, questioning of our Iraq policy and about torture,” Ms. Greenberg said. “I can’t tell you it was an overwhelming amount, but there were several specific comments, and there wasn’t the same warmth you usually feel at these events.”

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.

“Freedom to express dissent against our leaders has traditionally been a core American value,” she wrote by e-mail. “Unfortunately, the Bush brand of patriotism, where criticizing Bush means you are a traitor, seems to have penetrated a significant minority of U.S. bridge players.”

While it would be preferable that politics stay in the realm of politicians, the fact that the Bush administration has for so long sought to divide not only Americans but also the world at large into an "us vs. them" dynamic, it is not surprising the US team would seek to show some solidarity with their international colleagues. That they could be penalized for it makes this "ginned" up controversy all the more appalling.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)

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