Bridge To No Where!

I will be writing more along the subject of the Kiowa War Mothers, the WWII Code Talkers, my trips to Normandy, France and Luxembourg. Because of the impact these things have had on me, the recent issue of the bridge players’ making a political statement at an international non-political event caught my attention. I have a major problem with those who speak ill of our nation on foreign soil (which includes their written comment against the “Office of the Presidency”). On one of my trips to France, several artists were interviewed by a French reporter in Renne. It was an eye-opening experience. One I will never forget. We had just visited Normandy, the sacred “American” ground where so many gave their lives so the French could live in freedom (FYI: the French gave us this land to bury our fallen warriors. We hire them to cut the grass. American troops paid for that land with their blood and we pay to maintain it.). I had viewed the markers… endless rows of heroes (so many just boys) who never came home. They were someone’s son, daughter, husband, wife, father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, cousin, niece, nephew, grandparent or friend. I have since revisited Normandy two additional times, and have also visited the American Cemetery in Luxembourg where all the fallen warriors are buried facing their commander, Gen. George Patton. Because of the sacrifices of so many, I find the bridge players’ act heartbreaking. Say what you wish here at home. That is what our heroes lay their lives on the line for. Regardless of your views on the war, our government & its’ leaders… degrading the Office of the Presidency (regardless of who is in that position), or degrading our military… or degrading our country in general “ON FOREIGN SOIL” is a reckless & disrespectful act. Without the Freedom of Speech, I would not be able to have this Art Blog. I respect any citizen’s right to speak out and voice their opinions on any issue. Say what you want on American soil, BUT please don’t say it on foreign soil, in public or to foreign press. It is cowardice to take one’s political views overseas as opposed to speaking out at home.  It is a disgraceful act in my opinion… considering the enormous price that has been paid for our freedom. I don’t want to use my art blog as a political soapbox. But when I saw this in the news, I had to post an opinion on this issue. This is not about their political views. I do not care what their views are. If they had made that statement upon their return from Shanghai, that would have been their right to do so. The problem I have with what they did? It was not the time or place for them to make ANY political statements. The contract they signed forbid it. They were there on someone else’s nickle. My big issue with what they did was that if they wanted to make a political statement, they should have made it at home. Save your negative comments for when you are standing onour soil please! Negative comments have a far greater effect when made overseas and the extent of the damage it does, we may never know. Why would anyone want to contribute “to any degree” to the possible demise of their own country? You have to ask yourself for what purpose was their statement made. They said they wanted these foreigners (who most likely could care less about them or us…) to know that they sympathized with them in some way for all the things America has done or is now doing… (something along those lines). So, they plead, “Like me, please, please…even though I am American?”  What benefit would it be to have Shanghai’s “stamp of approval” on our politics in that setting?” I thought it was “about bridge” – NOT POLITICS. Who appointed these ladies to represent us as a country politically? Who asked them to apologize for anything? They do not represent me!  Such an act dishonors our people who have laid down their lives for us our troops, veterans “like our code-talkers,”  …all our fallen heroes.   Does it not desecrate the honor of our brave warriors?  These ladies were representing the Federation and the Federation is not a political organization. They signed an agreement with the Federation which outlined the guidelines and by signing it, agreed to comply with those guidelines. The actions of Jill Levin, Jill Meyers, Debbie Rosenberg & Irina Levitina of the Venice Cup championship team were extremely inappropriate and shameful, in my opinion.

PLEASE, if you don’t like this country or appreciate the abundant blessings we have here… there is a simple solution… you are free to move elsewhere (that’s free, as in freedom, bought with the blood of our troops)!  Hey, pick a country. I will commit to pay for the one-way ticket (…when you send me your passport, so you can’t come back after you realize your mistake & become homesick).  I know our country and its people are far from perfect.  Please show me a perfect country or government.  But if you don’t like something… work to change it. Speak out AT HOME! Vote who you don’t like out of office, go protest, petition or better yet, quit playing cards and run for office yourself!   But let’s please keep it IN-HOUSEladies, ok?

Below is source of article and article on the bridge players in question, accused of treason and sedition:
Progressive News Daily
By e-mail, angry bridge players have accused the women of “treason” and “sedition.”
Technorati Tags: anti-Bush statement, world bridge championships,
progressivenewsdaily.com/

Anti-Bush Sign Has Bridge World in an Uproar

L to R: Jill Levin, Jill Meyers, Debbie Rosenberg & Irina Levitina of the Venice Cup championship team in Shanghai – By STEPHANIE STROM – Published: November 14, 2007

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/14/arts/14brid.html?_r=1&8dpc&oref=slogin

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.”

“This isn’t a free-speech issue,” said Jan Martel, president of the United States Bridge Federation, the nonprofit group that selects teams for international tournaments. “There isn’t any question that private organizations 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 international competition,” he said by e-mail.

Ms. Martel said the action by the team, which had won the Venice Cup, the women’s title, at the Shanghai event, could cost the federation corporate sponsors. The players have been stunned by the reaction to what they saw as a spontaneous gesture, “a moment of levity,” said Gail Greenberg, the team’s nonplaying captain and winner of 11 world championships.

“What we were trying to say, not to Americans but to our friends from other countries, was that we understand that they are questioning and critical of what our country is doing these days, and we want you to know that we, too, are critical,” Ms. Greenberg said, stressing that she was speaking for herself and not her six teammates. The controversy has gone global, with the French team offering support for its American counterparts.

“By trying to address these issues in a nonviolent, nonthreatening 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.” The proposed sanctions would hurt the team’s playing members financially. “I earn my living from bridge, and a substantial part of that from being hired to compete in high-level competitions,” Debbie Rosenberg, a team member, said. “So being barred would directly affect much of my ability to earn a living.”

A hearing is scheduled this month in San Francisco, where thousands of players will be gathered for the Fall North American Bridge Championships. It will determine whether displaying the sign constitutes conduct unbecoming a federation member.

Three players— Hansa Narasimhan, JoAnna Stansby and Jill Meyers — have expressed regret that the action offended some people. The federation has proposed a settlement to Ms. Greenberg and the three other players, Jill Levin, Irina Levitina and Ms. Rosenberg, who have not made any mollifying statements.

It calls for a one-year suspension from federation events, including the World Bridge Olympiad next year in Beijing; a one-year probation after that suspension; 200 hours of community service “that furthers the interests of organized bridge”; and an apology drafted by the federation’s lawyer. It would also require them to write a statement telling “who broached the idea of displaying the sign, when the idea was adopted, etc.”

Alan Falk, a lawyer for the federation, wrote the four team members on Nov. 6, “I am instructed to press for greater sanction against anyone who rejects this compromise offer.” Ms. Greenberg 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. (…that is supposed to make it OK? GEEZ! What a weak person she revealed herself to be.)

“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.” Through a spokesman, the other team members declined to discuss the matter. Ms. Narasimhan, Ms. Stansby and Ms. Meyers have been offered a different settlement agreement, but Ms. Martel declined to discuss it in detail.

Many of those offended by the sign do not consider the expressions of regret sufficient. “I think an apology is kind of specious,” said Jim Kirkham, who has played in several bridge championships. “It’s not that I don’t forgive them, but I still think they should be punished.” Mr. Kirkham sits on the board of the American Contract Bridge League, which accounts for a substantial portion of the federation’s financing, Ms. Martel said, and has submitted a proposal that would cut the league’s support for the federation, one of two such proposals pending.

Robert S. Wolff, one of the country’s pre-eminent bridge players, who has served as an executive and board member of several bridge organizations, said that he understood that the women might have had a legal right to do what they did but that they had offended many people. “While I believe in the right to free speech, to me that doesn’t give anyone the right to criticize one’s leader at a foreign venue (the KEY to the whole outrage…) in a totally nonpolitical event,” he wrote by e-mail.

David L. Anderson, a bridge player who supports the team, said it was common to see players at international tournaments sporting buttons bearing the date “1-20-09,” when George W. Bush will hand off to a new president, as well as buttons reading “Support Our Troops.” “They don’t go after those people,” Mr. Anderson said.

END OF ARTICLE

Published in: on November 14, 2007 at 8:32 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Man, you Yanks have GOT to stop taking yourselves so seriously. I mean, you scream all over the world that you’re the bastions of freedom, but let one team of bridge players (or a trio of country singers) express their freedom of choice and you treat them like criminals. Get it together and figure it out — do you have freedom of speech in the US of A or don’t you?

  2. Julie missed my point. Their actions were on FOREIGN soil. I completely support them being able to say whatever they want at home. Additionally, they were under contract NOT to get political while representing a non-political organization. If home isn’t good enough for them and they don’t want to work to change what they don’t like (the right way)… they can MOVE. I’ll gladly buy them the one-way ticket if they will send me their passports when they get where they’re going!

    Yes Julie… we DO have freedom of speech in the good ole US of A. I am exercising it! Thank God for all the men and women who have served and sacrificed so that we can all enjoy that freedom. I salute them all and stick by my opinion on this matter.

    Thanks for writing Julie. Peace. Cheryl


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