God Bless America

I may have mentioned this before, but seeing the Yankees season-opener yesterday reminded me of it so forgive me if I am being repetitive. It’s time to stir the controversy once again.

I am sick and tired of baseball games that play the god-awful song, “God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch, instead of the more traditional, and in every way superior song, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”. “God Bless America” used to just annoy me, but in the last five years, I’ve grown to hate it with a passion. It seems to me that the playing of “God Bless America” at baseball games began shortly after 9/11. Americans were frightened and the singing of a seemingly patriotic song made people feel somehow safer. Of course, the actual singing of a song makes no one safer but I will allow for it during times of grief. But the grief is long over and the fact that baseball games are still being played nearly six years after 9/11 should be a testimony to the ability of people to overcome their fears.

I don’t mean to sound unpatriotic. In fact, I love “The Star-Spangled Banner” which is our national anthem and which is infinitely more complex in both music and lyrics than “God Bless America”. The latter is, in my opinion, just terrible. Have you ever actually listened to the lyrics? They were written, I believe, by Irving Berlin, but they must represent a kind of low for him–the kind of thing he would stoop to today if he were trying to make it on American Idol I imagine. Whereas “The Star-Spangled Banner” can be emotionally moving, the only emotion that “God Bless America” stirs within me is nausea.

Why is this? It’s not even that the song is melodramatic. It’s just plain silly. It’s a song that presumes to tell God to bless our country (I don’t hear an appeal in there, just a statement). And what reason is given for deserving said blessing? As far as I can tell it’s because “it’s the land that I love.” God is also told to “stand beside her” and “guide her”. It seems to me that God is then truly insulted. He is supposed to be omnipotent and omniscient, and yet Berlin had to go and describe America to God just in case He was unable to recognize it Himself, or in case it had slipped His mind: “From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans, white with foam.” The funny thing is this is a terrible description and if God had forgotten exactly where America was, He was liable to accidentally bless Argentina, Australia, China, or some other country that has mountains, prairies, and oceans.

What annoys me most about the song is people’s reaction to it, especially at baseball games. Men remove their hats and put their hands over their hearts as if it is the national anthem, which it is not. I respect and enjoy “The Star Spangled Banner” but I grow annoyed when I hear “God Bless America” played during the 7th inning. If I happen to be at game, I will stand, but I spend that time doing what the 7th inning was actually designed for–stretching my legs–while at the same time, doing my level best to tune out the terrible song.