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.