Friday, November 16, 2007

Kibbitzing at the bridge table

I imagined that the affair with the US Bridge League's winning team, their hand-lettered sign reading "We didn't vote for Bush," and the USBL president who clearly knows her Charles Goren better than her James Madison, posted about on Wednesday would have had the life span of any other silly-season tempest in a teapot.

Arguably, I’m still right, for, although it reaped another headline yesterday, it was a headline packing about as much wallop as, say, "French Chefs in Toledo Announce Support of Kucinich."

(Tip of the hat to longtime p3 correspondent Michael, who forwarded this item to me with those four words you never want to hear in a story like this: "It just got dumber.")

By way of background:

Project 21 is an offshoot of The National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think-tank funded by many of the usual conservative movement suspects, and whose achievements over the last 25 years have included opposition to the Kyoto environmental summit, using the September 11th attacks to justify attacking the environmental movement, supporting Reagan's Central America policy.

Project 21 is the face of the outreach effort of the NCPRR toward African-Americans and Hispanics in the area of civil rights, such as supporting the Supreme Court nomination of noted civil libertarian and minority-rights champion John Roberts. In sum, Project 21 personnel (who do not wear yellow blazers or sell real estate) have the unenviable job of getting trotted out whenever the conservative movement needs to prove that 9 percent is really 90 percent

People For The American Way offers this partial list of Project 21's accomplishments:
Project 21, the NCPPR's effort to create a “new leadership for Black America,” seems little more than African American spokespeople with extremist views that are at odds with what the majority of African Americans care about and believe. Yet it incredibly claims to be “a leading voice in the African-American community since 1992.”

The “new leadership for Black America” that Project 21 says it is “creating” has, in recent years, attempted to manufacture the appearance of African American support for right-wing appellate court nominee Janice Rogers Brown in the face of almost overwhelming opposition by credible voices in the mainstream civil rights community. “Project 21” also supported the nomination of Priscilla Owen (mistakenly and repeatedly referred to her in their own press release as “Patricia” Owen), as well as voiced its support for the Bush administration's efforts to privatize Social Security, applauded the replacement of Mary Frances Berry on the Civil Rights Commission, dismissed a highly regarded NAACP/ PFAW report documenting efforts to intimidate minority voters at the polls, has repeatedly attacked the NAACP - and even opposed Earth Day!

Recently, when the Senate overwhelmingly passed a resolution apologizing for its historic failure to pass anti-lynching legislation, Project 21, apparently thinking no apology was necessary, issued this statement: “The lynchings of the past, while a sad place in history to recount, is exactly that - history. The best way to avenge this shameful history and make it relevant to us today is not to wallow in the apologies and regrets offered by senators who couldn't be in any way responsible for what occurred, but to supply our own closure by forgiving those who trespassed against us and moving on.”

It's not entirely clear why Project 21 would feel that the application of even their brand of new leadership for Black America would be relevant in the case of four white bridge-playing women who announced in Shanghai China that they hadn't voted for George Bush, but they boldly shouldered ahead just the same (I'm quoting at length because their press release, dated yesterday, is not up on the Project 21 web site yet):
Group Backs Punishment for Bush-Bashing Bridge Players

"Card Table Dixie Chicks" Deserve Sanctions for Unsportsmanlike Behavior, Say Project 21 Activists

Washington, D.C. - Activists affiliated with the Project 21 black leadership network support proposed sanctions for the unrepentant members of a women's bridge team who disparaged President George W. Bush while representing the United States in international competition. Project 21 activists say team members betrayed their responsibility to remove their personal politics from their professional responsibilities.

"Any team representing the United States that diminishes the presidency and embarrasses the American people should have been immediately sent home, and remorseless members now deserve the punishment their sanctioning organization deems appropriate," said Project 21 member Joe R. Hicks. "We already endure near-treasonous and often child-like antics from Hollywood celebrities and musicians that demean our nation. It is sad that our official women's bridge team can now be included among this crowd." […]

"This team was supposed to be representing our nation and its people, but its members acted in a disrespectful manner by holding up an anti-Bush sign. It was crude partisan political theatre," added Project 21's Hicks. "As a neophyte in the then-burgeoning Black Power movement, I remember when several black members of the U.S. track team engaged in a 'black power' salute while on the victory stand at the 1964 Olympics in Mexico City. They were summarily hustled home. I think it was completely proper for the U.S. Olympic Committee to do what they did. There was a great deal of discrimination against blacks at that time, but those men should have understood they were representing all of America and not just black Americans. Similarly, these women today were representing our nation and not just Bush-hating leftists. It was stupid, immature and frankly anti-American behavior. I'm sure the Dixie Chicks were proud of these women. If there is no punishment for this current unsportsmanlike behavior, seditious, partisan and juvenile behavior will have been rewarded."

Okay, let's get the exasperated-outburst part out of the way first: For pity's sake, people, this is a hand-written sign at a bridge tournament. Get a grip.

Now, to the thoughtful-analysis part:

"Frankly anti-American behavior?" The punishing irony here is that their display of cheerfully dissenting speech occurred in China, where any of its own citizens would be arrested immediately for such behavior (and most of whose citizens probably weren't allowed to see the offending sign in the first place since, for example, it appears not to be available on The act of holding up that little sign, in short, was American as hell.

Was it "unsportsmanlike"? I'm inclined to say no, but opinions can vary. "Juvenile"? Maybe, I suppose. "Partisan"? Well, duh. But to call such an act "seditious" is to display self-loathing for one's own citizenship and birthright as an American.

Certainly the sign could be called "Anti-Bush," although that does little more than say "in line with the opinion of around 60 percent of all Americans." But as for the sad, authoritarian delusion that "Anti-Bush" and "Anti-American" are interchangeable terms, Tbogg offers this quick multimedia tutorial.

As you'll see, it's really not that complicated.

(Image via Henrik in Seattle.)

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