I was at a Yankees game earlier this year, just minding my own business, when the 7th inning stretch began and everyone in the crowd was asked to rise, remove their caps, and sing God Bless America. I object to this practice, so I didn’t bother. Lo and behold, a man sitting in the row behind me, several seats to my left, walked over after the song and started yelling at me. He told me to not be surprised if I just happen to get the shit kicked out of me one day, among other things. Nice, I thought, this is actually happening.
Funny enough, the US Army solider sitting a couple seats over in the row in front of me was giving this crazed man a quizzical look while this was going down. After I told the man several times to get away from me, enduring his shouts directly into my ear, he returned to his embarrassed wife still muttering. All I could do is shake my head at this point and utter a phrase that most conservatives like to cling to: It’s a free country; I can do what I want.
Patriotism is such a bizarre concept to me. As international society progresses further from tribalism, the very concept of being so proud to have been born in a particular country is as archaic as thinking that blonde hair and blue eyes make you the übermensch. Add on top of that the whole delusion that the imaginary all-powerful creator of the universe would see fit to bless this hunk of rock jutting from the ocean on a random planet in a nondescript corner of a relatively small galaxy (one of hundreds of billions), and you’ve got yourself one ridiculous idea.
But let’s assume that being a patriot is a worthwhile thing. Would refusing to sing a song disqualify me from being one? I suppose that if the Constitution had such a clause, I would be striking out, but I seem to recall a certain amendment that guaranteed my right to express myself, or something. I think it would be possible to hold a deep respect and maybe even some rightfully deserved pride (like, yeah, we are the kind of country that can elect a black man President!) while also criticizing various aspects such as alienating customs that involve declaring that a god I don’t believe exists actually blessed the land between our borders. Not to mention thoroughly exercising my right to express that opinion.
My own take on patriotism: true citizens love their culture enough to say something when things are not right. A bully just uses the guise of patriotism to shut those people up.
Is it even disrespectful to keep my mouth shut when asked to sing? If I were actively disrupting the ceremony in any way, that would definitely be disrespectful. But I believe that, in this supposedly free country, we should have the option of quietly excusing ourselves from participating in group activities that do not fit our beliefs. I looked on my ticket and nowhere on it did it say that I was required to sing. Let me put it in American terms; if I had gotten kicked out of the stadium for not rising, I could have sued.
Let’s also not forget the origin of this whole God Bless America bullshit. Nobody did it before 9/11. It was instituted around the League as a hyper-patriotic knee-jerk reaction to terrorists attacking us “for our freedom.” It was a concession for pushing on with the American Past-time in the face of intimidation. That was 11 years ago. Most ballparks have since dropped it from their routine. It’s time to come back down to Earth and treat a day at the ballpark for what it is; amusement.