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Weapon X

This Isn't America, Bud (Selig)

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from my paper:


Garth Woolsey



By all means, God bless America. God bless Canada, too. While He (or She) is at it, God bless Great Britain, and Argentina and Sri Lanka. Both Koreas. And, France. God bless Iraq.


God bless everyone.


As for the song, by all means sing "God Bless America" at ballparks in America, if that's what major league baseball wants and that's what America wants, maybe even needs. The United States of America is at war, so there's hardly anything controversial about invoking the powers of that most patriotically moving, for Americans, of songs.


But in Canada, in Toronto, during the seventh-inning stretch of the Blue Jays first game of the season? In a "foreign" country, one that has decided to not officially back the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq? Why?


Because, apparently, Bud Selig and the decision-makers in New York view Toronto — and Montreal — as members of the all-American lodge, no different than Los Angeles or Milwaukee.


Or anywhere in the U.S., where the song has a totally understandable resonance, the way "O' Canada" or "The Maple Leaf Forever" rings true up here. Because, too, Paul Godfrey and the Jays apparently did not question the appropriateness of the Selig edict. Rather than asking "why?", the Jays apparently said: "Sure, why not?" Canada and a great many Canadians may have reservations about backing the U.S. in the war in Iraq, the Jays seem to be saying by extension, but we certainly do not.


Anthems are one thing. Playing both the U.S. and Canadian versions prior to games involving teams from both countries is traditional. We're brother nations, partners, after all, about as close as you can get. But booing them is also, sadly, not an original form of registering displeasure with broader issues, as we've been reminded lately. Playing "God Bless America," along with "OK, Blue Jays," as was the case last night, is an entirely separate matter. The Jays managed to diffuse the situation by having former Lieutenant-Governor Lincoln Alexander introduce the song, saying pointedly: "We stand on guard for Canada." The crowd acted respectfully as possibly could have been hoped. Good on you, Toronto.


When it was played at ballparks in the U.S. and Canada following the events of Sept. 11, 2001, there was no controversy whatsoever, of course. The song is a hymn, perfect for a nation, and a world, in shock and grief and in need of healing. Currently, it has elements of all that but takes on the additional connotation of a rallying cry for war.


For the record, here are the words to the song that were played at the SkyDome last night, in the form of a taped version by Canada's Celine Dion, who performed it at the Super Bowl earlier this year: God Bless America./ Land that I love/ Stand beside her, and guide her/ Thru the night with a light from above./ From the mountains, to the prairies,/ To the oceans, white with foam/ God bless America/ My home sweet home.


Selig has decreed that it be sung at all openers plus Sundays and "national" holidays. Will it be sung at ballparks across the U.S. on July 1, Canada Day?


Godfrey has said it is "always appropriate to be respectful" and "it's one of those no-win situations. You have to ask yourself how you would be viewed if you don't play it."


You have to ask yourself, too, how you'll be viewed if you do. In this larger game, symbolism and emotion could easily have been kept at arm's length by quietly, respectfully and appropriately telling MLB, "No, we're not playing `God Bless America.'"


Who are the Jays speaking for here? And, why? Who are they aiming to speak to — Americans, Canadians (all Canadians, or only those of a certain conviction), the world?


On these matters the Blue Jays most assuredly represent more than their club president and his personal views, more than the franchise's corporate ownership and more than the U.S.-dominated league to which they belong. They may be "only" a sports team but they represent their city, province and country and all their citizens.


The anthems are enough. "God Bless America" is too much.

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Guest Carl Carlson

who cares. blue jays and expos aren't even real teams.

you'll lose them in a few years anyways.

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