It's Become an Exercise in Jingoism
While I was disappointed that the Detroit Tigers knocked the Oakland A’s out of this year’s major league baseball playoffs, there is one thing I am glad they did – or actually did not do – during their two home games in the American League Division Series: they did not have people sing “God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch.
This disgusting practice of political jingoism was introduced after the 9/11 attacks in what I saw as an attempt by the sports world and their media cohorts to make September 11th another Memorial Day. As time passed, performances of “God Bless America” at ballparks were generally reduced from everyday to Sundays, but the song is generally performed throughout the postseason. Now, you are likely to hear that it is an occasion to honor first responders or military members as much as you are likely to hear that it is to “honor America”. But whatever the excuse, this song is inappropriate at the ballpark on many counts:
1) We all know it refers to the Christian God. If a governmental entity, rather than a privately owned sports team, wanted everyone to stand up, remove their caps, and sing a hymn, a person or organization could properly go into a court for an injunction against the activity as a violation of the First Amendment. I am surprised no one has done this in California, where the state’s First Amendment analog explicitly applies to private entities. This song is thus an affront to all the fans who worship deities other than the Christian God—yours truly among them—or who are atheist or agnostic.
2) The song is an example of ugly American exceptionalism. Divine Essence should be called upon to bless all humanity and not just one country. American exceptionalism is a pernicious attitude that should be discouraged at every turn.
3) There have been stories, especially in New York when the late George Steinbrenner owned the Yankees, of people being harassed for not stopping everything to at least listen to the song, even if one needs to go to the bathroom while it is playing. The stadium experience can turn into a coercive atmosphere when stadium staff or fans turn on other fans for not wanting to participate in the patriotic display. It can even feel uncomfortable when no one says anything. I discovered that one day at a Giants game when I chose to sit quietly in my seat during both the national anthem and “God Bless America”, and a security staffer kept staring at me. (I wasn’t even wearing my “Nation of Sheep…Owned by Pigs…Ruled by Wolves T-shirt!) I’ve never felt uncomfortable when I’ve appeared at Giants games decked out in Arizona Diamondbacks gear with the Giants looking to make the D-backs chances to win a division title more difficult.
4) It is an affront to international people in the stands and on the field. Major League Baseball, which is the sport I watch most so it’s the one I am calling out here, prides itself on how international it has become. The Blue Jays of the American League are in Toronto, Canada. The Washington Nationals, of the National League, used to be the Montreal Expos.
More and more players are from overseas. Many teams have international scouts or directors of international player development. Several teams have academies, especially in the Dominican Republic, where young Latin American players are recruited, trained, signed (and some say exploited). There is even talk from time to time of having an international player draft.
MLB.com broadcasts internationally and its website can be read in Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. In recent years, the regular season has often opened with a series played outside of North America. The 2014 regular season will begin with the Los Angeles Dodgers facing the Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney, Australia.
Why should foreign visitors and players have to put up with a display of nationalistic narcissism to attend a sporting event?
5) Having thousands of people, some of whom are inebriated or headed in that direction, sing “God Bless America”, does nothing for the first responders and military people who are supposedly being honored. Giving first responders and the military a 25% discount on tickets anywhere in the stadium at all times of the season, including the postseason, would be doing something practical for the sports fans in the ranks.
6) The song is entirely out of context. You are at a baseball game that is more than two-thirds over and you suddenly stop to “honor America”. WTF? The 7th inning stretch began when President William Howard Taft wanted to stand up in the middle of the 7th inning of a game he was attending. When the President stands so does everyone else. The practice spread to other ballparks because it’s a good idea to get up and stretch, especially during one of those seemingly endless Yankees-Red Sox tussles. But that’s all it’s about. Let’s keep the politics out of sporting events. A trip to the ballpark should be an opportunity to enjoy a few hours away from the madness of world events.
We should not only drop “God Bless America”, we should also drop the national anthem – national anthems are more appropriate at exhibitions where nations compete against each other, such as the Olympics or the World Baseball Classic – and substitute “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”. The latter song is entirely misplaced in the middle of the 7th inning. A different, secular song, perhaps a team “fight” song, can be played during the 7th inning stretch to occupy the fans, especially during the lengthened commercial breaks of the postseason. Pop and rock songs are common at ballparks nowadays. For example, “When the Lights Go Down in the City”, which is about San Francisco, is played during S.F. Giants home games.
7) “God Bless America” is lazy, armchair patriotism, the kind people display when other people’s children go to war. What else are the singers doing to show their support for first responders, military members and veterans? Instead of singing at the ballpark, why don’t these “patriots” question the official story of 9/11, the event that has cost us so many lives, so much freedom and so much treasure? Why did Building 7 of the World Trade Center have to be “pulled” when nothing hit it? (Start with that question and then do some reading. Then ask more questions.)
Instead of singing “God Bless America” at the ballpark, why not question American military adventurism? On how many fronts are we going to fight in Southwest Asia? When is Dick Cheney’s “global generational war on terrorism” supposed to end? What if the answer is…never?
Instead of singing “God Bless America” at the ballpark, ask yourself if America is on the brink of becoming merely the military arm of a transnational corporate world government? This isn’t crazy conspiracy theory. In 1991, David Rockefeller, in addressing a Bilderberg meeting in Baden, Germany, purportedly said, “The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national autodetermination practiced in past centuries.” Although he denied favoring world government in an interview with Benjamin Fulford in 2007, the opinion Rockefeller allegedly uttered in Baden is becoming a fact. I dare you to enter TPP into your search engine, find out what you can about the TransPacific Partnership, and then tell me with a straight face that some powerful people are not thinking along those lines.
What does patriotism mean in a world in which corporations can sue a government in a corporate controlled “court” for loss of profits, if the government implements laws and programs to protect its people or environment from unbridled capitalist greed? If you think baseball players make too much money – and some of them do – consider the incomes of hedge fund managers. At least, if you are a baseball fan anyway, the ballplayers offer you entertainment. I doubt many people reading this article, or living in America in general, derive much benefit from hedge fund managers.
Those who believe in the God of “God Bless America” should remember something that often is said about Him: God helps those who help themselves. If you really believe that God should bless America, stop turning patriotism into a hollow display.