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I'd been meaning to write about this since last week, but hadn't had the chance.  Last Wednesday, the New York Times published an article about the American representatives at the World Bridge Championships who held up a small sign at the awards dinner that read, "We did not vote for Bush." The photograph of the woman holding up the sign, along with her teammates, all smiling broadly, brought out the typical hysterical overreaction from the right, with accusations of "treason" and "sedition."  And while that overreaction might be worth a blog post in and of itself (which I don't expect to write), what I wanted to focus on was the issue of public diplomacy among citizens overseas.

As an expatriate who's lived in Asia for a long time now (six years and counting), this is an issue that I'm rather familiar with.  Now, these women at the Bridge tournament were not expatriates, but they were overseas, representing our country.  Regardless of whether we think of ourselves as "ambassadors" for our country when we travel abroad, we in fact are.

Now, as an unofficial "ambassador" for their country, holding up that sign was in poor taste, even though the team's captain, Gail Greenberg, said in the NYT article that the sign was "...a spontaneous gesture, 'a moment of levity...'"  I've no doubt that it was.  I can also sympathize with the women.  In situations like this, when you're overseas and your government isn't behaving normally, it's quite common for others to ask for your opinion.  "What's going on over there?"  Been there, done that...lots of times.  And in private, I'll be very blunt with my criticisms about the U.S.  (Ask Milady. ;) )  Those of us who lived in Arizona during the turmoil of the Evan Mecham administration (January 1987 - April 1988) know all too well what it's like to have a daft, unpopular government embarrassing the rest of the populace.  Stories abounded in the newspapers at the time of Arizonans going out of state and having people ask them, "Just what the f*** is going on in Arizona?"  It's the same situation now with the Bush administration.  As the NYT wrote,

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."

...

"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..."

I've no problem with that; as far as I'm concerned, let people around the world know that you're unhappy with the way the United States is being governed at this time.  In a country that prides itself on free speech, that's neither treason nor sedition.  As an "ambassador" for your country, people will trust you and your opinions more for being truly "fair and balanced," instead of toeing the line like some party apparatchik.  People around the world can see through the BS just as well as anyone else. But do everyone a favor and leave the signs at home.

By the way, I didn't vote for Bush (or Mecham) either.

Originally posted to JDsg on Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 01:31 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This is about as far as my criticism goes... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ogre, Alice Venturi, Chuckie
    ...by making public comments on the Internet.  But I do support your right to protest at political events.
    •  Actually, I'd observe that they (0+ / 0-)

      represented the country quite well.  A vast majority--a supermajority--disapproves of Bush rather strongly.  

      Bush is NOT the government.  He's just a part of it.  And he's CERTAINLY not the country.

      "I desire what is good. Therefore, everyone who does not agree with me is a traitor." King George III

      by ogre on Wed Nov 21, 2007 at 12:10:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  They Represented Their Country Very Poorly Indeed (8+ / 0-)

    They did however represent the little human beings their country graciously permits to inhabit it.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 02:05:45 AM PST

  •  I couldn't disagree more. (15+ / 0-)

    They had a moment on the world stage, and they used it to express their disapproval of the Bush administration.  More power to them.

  •  This reminds me of Charlie Rangel (7+ / 0-)

     telling Hugo Chavez "Don't bash Bush". Sorry, not buying it.
    Bush has made it difficult for Americans to travel abroad. Even Donald Trump, of all people, has even complained about that. If I were forced to travel overseas, I would wear a "I didn't vote for Bush" T-shirt, just to keep from hearing all of expressions of hate against Bush.
    America is supposed to be a government of the people. To be a true American "ambassador", one would represent the views of the American people, not necessarily the current administration. It's not a dictatorship yet.
    But if I disagree that's no real concern, because the last thing I want to do is travel overseas while Bush is still president.

  •  Hell - they performed a National Service! (9+ / 0-)

    More of the same from the right wing - anyone expresses disapproval of their supreme ruler, and they must be beat down.

    This reminds me of the Sorry Everybody campaign after the 2004 election.  In a time of real evil embedded in our administration, it's useful to tell the rest of the world that we're not all a bunch of wahoos who beg our government to torture to protect us, who cheer Blackwater murdering civilians on our nickel, and who bluster and threaten to drop nukes on any country that crosses us.

    Some day soon it will be very valuable to us that the rest of the world doesn't view us all as "Good Americans" in the way that the Third Reich was inhabited by "Good Germans".

  •  Rec it up, guys! They're being Dixie-Chicked (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ogre, Alice Venturi

    This is ridiculous.  I hope this team takes these prissy little Bushies to court.  It seems to me that the ones who are objecting are just as guilty of making political statements and at THIS point in time, most Americans will be supporting the team, not the American federation of Bridge players.

    -3.63, -4.46 "Choose something like a star to stay your mind on- and be staid"

    by goldberry on Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 03:32:26 AM PST

  •  I've been overseas when bush has (8+ / 0-)

    done really stupid things.

     Try being in the Caribbean when bush decides to wage a coup on Chevez of Venezuela. First thing I said -- "I did NOT vote for bush!" That calmed the people down.

     Then there was the invasion of Iraq -- and other dumb stunts by bush.

     Those women had every right to make it clear that they did NOT vote for bush -- and that is what a DEMOCRACY is all about! In dictatorships -- you cannot express in public anything other than the "official" approved line.

     Also when you are overseas -- bush is a prime target for the local comedians -- and it isn't unusual for the locals to make fun of George. Some stupid Americans will get up and walk out -- while I roar in laughter, at the comedy skit.

     Devil talking on phone to workmen in hell -- "get George's room ready -- make sure the flames are red, white and blue". This was from an AIDS skit by local Caribbean talent.

     My user name -- Carib -- Caribbean beer, Caribbean. Ting -- a grapefruit drink -- made in the Caribbean.

  •  Every American should be holding up a sign (9+ / 0-)

    I say Kudos to these ladies that took the time and had the courage to hold up these signs. I think these bridge officials are more out of line with their reaction than the sign holders were with their actions. In my opinion the entire nation and Americans overseas should be holding up signs letting the world know that Bushey/Cheney/Rovie/Gonzo/CondoRice and the rest of the gang in no way represent the vast majority of America.

    Steve Everett
    http://www.JustAThoughtThatsAll.com

  •  give me a fucking... (7+ / 0-)

    break. these women have shown more attitude and courage than the us congress has. and they are free to say and do what they like here or abroad (in most cases). and as you say people can see through the bs, well i don't know if the rest of the world knows that we here in the us can too, and that this administration doesn't speak for us. without dissent like this the us population looks complicit with bushco's policies.
    tung sol

    'cause you're the green manalishi with the two prong crown--Peter Green, Green Manalishi

    by tung sol on Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 04:30:23 AM PST

  •  Poor taste? (9+ / 0-)

    Fuck poor taste!  Free speech and a simple sense of shame is all the explanation that's required of that sign.

    I am ASHAMED of George W. Bush.  I am disgusted that he has been permitted to remain as President for as long as he has, by a compliant and spineless Congress, that he has been permitted to continue his damaging activities as long as he has, that he has been unchecked by any branch of government, that the public has spent six years giving him the benefit of the doubt.  It's been sad, sick, and pathetic.  We now have a reputation of being a lawless nation that arrests people, detains them without trial, tortures them, wages unjustified and illegal wars against resource-rich nations, selectively supporting "good" dictators over "bad" dictators . . . it will be years before the US regains a tolerable reputation in the world, and our status as the leader of the free world is SHIT, people.  It is so over.  The leading indicators are all there that we are now in the twilight of our short-lived imperial era.  So Bush can put that on his historical resume too.  

    Poor taste!  What a joke.

  •  Don't leave the signs at home (10+ / 0-)

    Ever.  America has always claimed to be beaon of hope around the world.  If we are supposed to just keep our anti-Bush sentiments to ourselves, why not go live in a dicatorship? Now, more than ever, we need to let the world know that we do not like what he has done, we are not proud of him, and he does not act on behalf of the citizens of the United States.

    The world needs to know that we are not behind him and we do not agree with him, and we will elect a leader that will undo all that he has done in our names.

  •  Maybe it didn't work out so well for the (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ogre, beemerr90s, Alice Venturi

    players in this event, but how many people would know about these "treasonous" people had the "club" decided to ignore them?


    The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

    by nupstateny on Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 05:40:33 AM PST

    •  So what... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ogre, Idaho Guy, Alice Venturi, neroden

      So what, misguided confused people are calling them traitors.  I'm sure history will look back on this little event as a moment of hope for America.  I'll repeat, these women are heroes!  You should care less about yourself and more about your nation, nupstateny.

      •  Excuse me??? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ogre, Alice Venturi

        What the hell did I say that set you off on that attack?

        If that Bridge Club had decided to ignore that little sign, none of us would know how courageous those ladies are.

        That's caring more about myself than the event?

        Gheezus, lighten up.


        The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

        by nupstateny on Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 08:02:48 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  It seems like you believe the following (6+ / 0-)

    equation to be true:

    The United States of America = George W. Bush

    To those of us who feel differently, a true ambassador sticks up for the country, not the monkeyboy who somehow got to play president  .  .  .

  •  I disagree... (6+ / 0-)

    These women are heroes for speaking out.  We need more patriotic citizens like these fine ladies who will take any and every chance to fight back against this evil administration.  The Neo-Cons have a complete monopoly on our media, so we American citizens need to take every chance we get to speak out against our corrupt government.  It's war, The American People vs. All-Powerful Corporate-Ran Government!

  •  I don't recall (6+ / 0-)

      Any liberal getting upset about overseas conservatives badmouthing Clinton.  

      Was it because conservatives are such good little boys and girls that they never criticize the government when Beyond The Seas?

      Nope.

      Was it because conservatives don't make signs (but instead get their criticisms published in the foreign press)?

      Nope.

      Was it because liberals believe that there's an indefeasible right to criticize the government, which applies to all Americans, in or out of the country, from the left, from the right, or from the center?

      I do think you might be getting it.

  •  I think the signs are just fine. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ogre, Alice Venturi, Democrat

    Sorry, can't rec because I don't see why you're criticising them.  "Poor taste" is not an answer.  ("BUCK FUSH" is poor taste; I don't see any reason why these signs are.)

    At this point it's like wearing a black armband.  It's a political statement of dissidence, which is necessary because (unfortunately) silence is assumed to be complicity.

    -5.63, -8.10 | Impeach, Convict, Remove & Bar from Office, Arrest, Indict, Convict, Imprison!

    by neroden on Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 06:40:32 AM PST

  •  By this logic the African American athletes (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ogre, Alice Venturi, Democrat

    who gave the clenched fist sign at the Olympics were "poor representatives of their country," too?

    Not buying it.  I'm backing those bridge ladies 100%, even if they do open a four card major.

  •  What are you talking about? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ogre, beemerr90s, Alice Venturi

    They did exactly what every American that is against this administration should do. There is nothing wrong with saying that you are against this administration and getting yourself in the NYTimes. I wish more Americans would do the same thing.

  •  Leave the signs at home? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ogre

    Certainly.
    I'll hire local skywriters instead.
    As to what they did.
    Americans have the right to speak their piece. The reactions by this organization has been nothing short of scandalous and frankly foolish. Condemn them, not the Americans who voiced an opinion.
    As for the ambassadorial part.
    Given what the state of the world is at this point, pray tell, where are our ambassadors now and why have they worked so hard to put us in the position we are in at this point?

    A pity we don't have the votes to defend the Constitution.-me

    by RElland on Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 10:48:57 PM PST

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