US Bridge Federation doesn’t want to upset the Chinese dictators

You see, as the United States Bridge Federation (USBF) sees it, China is a country that doesn’t like political dissent. So American bridge players need to show respect for China’s dictatorship, and China’s need to enforce absolute rule in order to basically hold a billion-plus people prisoner, by making sure that our bridge players don’t showcase any of those nasty American values like “free speech” while traveling in China.

USBF meet Yahoo. Yahoo meet USBF.

In a nutshell, per one of my readers, “at the recent world championship held in Shanghai, the women’s team championship was won by a US team. At the victory banquet, some members of the team held up a sign saying ‘we didn’t vote for Bush.’ “

Can anyone say Dixie Chicks? (More from the NYT.)

Well, the USBF, which is responsible for selecting teams for international competition, threw a conniption fit. And I can understand why. Yes, having a player invoke George Bush, pro or con, at an international event would give a non-partisan organization agita. I get that. Though the fact that the outburst happened in China certainly makes it more interesting, with China’s record on free speech being, well, zilch. But even that strikes me as ancillary to this debate, or, it would have been ancillary to the debate until the USBF printed a statement on its Web site that basically says that the reason the outburst from the US team was bad is because China is a dictatorship and dictators don’t like free speech.

That’s seriously messed up.

Here’s a snippet from the USBF’s over-lawyerly statement about the incident:

Certain members of VCW [the US team that spoke out] have complained that the USBF apology to the WBF [World Bridge Federation] and the Chinese Contract Bridge Association for the VCW’s conduct was unwarranted. This reflects a complete disregard for the fact that the Chinese government, which does not exactly have a history of sympathetic views toward political dissent, provided the bulk of financial support for both the 2007 World Championship and the 2008 World Bridge Olympiad.

Woah, nelly! It’s one thing to say that as a non-partisan organization you really would prefer avoiding political protests, from the left or right, during international (or even national events). I’m not sure that’s okay, but I can understand the angst from the national organization. But invoking China’s history of suppressing political dissent as a reason why we too should stifle political dissent is absolutely sickening.

As an aside, I can understand why the American team made the point that they didn’t vote for Bush. Anyone who travels regularly abroad knows that wearing your anti-Bushism on your sleeve is the next best thing to Kevlar in terms of self-preservation. The world hates George Bush, they hate our government because of George Bush and the Republicans (and the war and Gitmo and more), and they’re not very happy with the fact that Americans voted twice for the idiot. (Once, they can understand – mistakes happen – but twice? Second time you own him.) I routinely let people know that I didn’t vote for Bush when I’m abroad. Why? Because the conversation routinely goes like this:

Them: You speak great [insert language here].

Me: Thank you.

Them: But you’re American?

Me: Yes.

Them: So where are you from in America?

Me: Washington, DC.

Them: [stone silence accompanied by cocked head and odd stare.]

Me: I didn’t vote for Bush.

Them: [Cold face melts to smile.] Ah… good! [Animated conversation continues, followed by new lifelong friendship.]

The thing is, I’m not kidding. That’s quite literally a conversation I’ve had repeatedly, verbatim, with lots and lots and lots of foreigners. I am sick and tired of getting disparaging silence every time I say I’m from DC. Foreigners just assume that we support this idiot, and they loathe him, and us by extension, if they assume we support him, us. No more. I get that politics stops at the border. I get that we’re supposed to rally around the flag when we’re abroad. But George Bush isn’t the flag. George Bush burns the flag every time he opens his mouth or lifts his pen. George Bush is an embarrassment to everything this country stands for, or stood for. So the notion that we should refrain from criticizing Bush when abroad, especially because it might upset dictators, is, well, something I have a hard time accepting.

So I get why the national team felt the need to speak out. It’s high time more of us did.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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