Friday, May 11, 2007

The Chains Of Freedom

I thought I knew everything about Yankee Stadium. I haven’t missed a game in years and can almost walk to my seat blindfolded – sorry about that soda, sir – but I learned something yesterday.

The New York Times ran a story called “Patriotism, Defined and Enforced.”

This is what it taught me:

“Seconds before ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ and ‘God Bless America’ are played, police officers, security guards and ushers turn their backs to the American flag in center field, stare at fans moving through the stands and ask them to stop. Across the stadium’s lower section, ushers stand every 20 feet to block the main aisle with chains.”

I sit in the Tier – which is “chain free” – and I don’t get up during the game because, well, I’m watching the game.

I also don’t stand for “God Bless America.” I haven't stood since reading about Carlos Delgado’s principled idea to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the years my decision to sit has developed into a personal statement for peace and justice.

I believe George Steinbrenner’s intentions are good. He has done so many fine things like providing free tickets to soldiers and inviting cadets from West Point to attend games.

But standing for a song has nothing to do with honoring soldiers or the “way of life” they are supposed to be defending. Plenty of those who stand and thump their chests as patriotic, drive to the Bronx in SUVs that have more armor than the vehicles we force our soldiers to ride and die in. If we want to honor our soldiers we should start by providing them with proper equipment and decent healthcare and adequate pay.

To me, standing for “God Bless America” is supporting wars that have sent too many kids back to the Bronx in body bags. It is a symbol of New Yorkers without arms and legs who will never be able to live normal lives because of the horrors we have put them through. It stands for racial profiling and extraordinary rendition and Guantánamo Bay and every other mistake this country has made since September 11, 2001.

The treatment of our soldiers and our citizens and people around the world is shameful. Songs and chains can’t change that and Americans shouldn’t stand for it anymore.

Maybe that starts with keeping your seat in silent protest.


Ben said...

Todd, thank you for writing this. I have no objection to the Yankees playing "God Bless America" at every home game. Unlike public school students, Yankee fans aren't required by law to attend games. But it's absolutely outrageous that fans might be required to sit or stand in their seats out of respect for someone else's political views. I have no problem with the song, though I share your view of the war. But if anyone ever tried to chain me in my seat, I'd raise hell. I hope others will, too.

Lamont said...

Hasn't the almighty Met's dollar given cause for Delgado to now stand during the song? I bet that if you were given enough money you would chuck your protest out the window. It isn't about you, it's about them.

Todd Drew said...

Yes, Lamont it is about them. All “them” that can’t stand anymore because they don’t have legs and can’t throw a baseball anymore because they don’t have arms and many who can’t do anything anymore because they are dead. They are Americans and Iraqis and Afghans. They are from neighborhoods like the South Bronx and they gave everything. This country gives them nothing. Outdated equipment that isn’t safe to drive on a US highway and hospitals that are rat-infested dumps. Standing for that is a disgrace.

Todd Drew said...

Incidentally, anyone who thinks I would do something for any amount of money doesn’t know anything about me.

Ben said...

Todd, the best way for readers to get to know you is for you to write more posts like this one. Keep it up.

carey said...


A principled stance against unprincipled stands, And boys coming home without any hands,
Flags, bunting, Kate Smith, and marching bands.
It's a shame, but I don't think Lamont understands.

Thanks, Dude.

Ben said...

A piece of parchment two centuries old,
A promise of freedom, or so we're told,
A shallow conformity taking hold,
A blogger who can't be bought or sold . . . .