This was originally posted on a horrible site called Myspace. When Myspace underwent a redesign in Fall 2010, hundreds of insightful reader comments that had been left over the years were lost. I have since deleted my account there.
I find it incredible that more than nine years after 9/11, Major League Baseball teams still have to perform "God Bless America" during the 7th-inning stretch of all postseason games, as well as certain other games. Fans are asked to please stand and remove their caps for the song, just like the National Anthem. (Even though GBA isn't the National Anthem.) And prior to a civil-liberties lawsuit a couple of years ago, the New York Yankees' security guards famously kept fans from leaving their seats during the singing of said song. No, this isn't North Korea. Yet.
Here's my beef with "God Bless America." First of all, it is without question a patently religious song. Consider the introduction, rarely sung today except sometimes at Yankee Stadium:
While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.
"God Bless America" is intended to be sung as a prayer for the well-being of America. (Of course, not necessarily for anyone else in the world, even though a huge proportion of MLB players were not American-born.) People from other countries are amazed that the phrase "God bless America" is even a thing here in this country; I can't count the number of times a person from Europe or Asia has left a comment on a video of mine saying, "Why not God bless the world?" Yet this is the message we send out every time 50,000 baseball fans are asked to stand and sing.
Even worse, "God Bless America," since its resurgence after 9/11, has taken on a more sinister subtext: May God watch over America as we fight those godless Muslims overseas. It has a Crusade ring to it. I have to ask, given all of the other nonreligious, non-jingoistic, non-divisive, beautiful patriotic songs out there — "America the Beautiful" is my personal favorite — is GBA really the best choice, if only in the interests of not fomenting more terrorism?
To anyone who says get over it, it's just a patriotic song, one that celebrates our freedom — let us not forget the prophetic words attributed to Sinclair Lewis:
"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."