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Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Carlos Delgado

Every once in a while a story like this one comes along that gets me riled up:

Fervently anti-war, Carlos Delgado quietly carried out his personal protest this season, refusing to stand when God Bless America was played at ballparks across the majors.

Most fans never saw him disappearing up the dugout tunnel or staying in the dugout. And even teammates who disagreed with the Toronto slugger's political stance accepted his right to call the United States' invasion of Iraq "the stupidest war ever."

This week, though, a lot more people might notice.

The Blue Jays played at Yankee Stadium for the first time this year Wednesday night. It's the only park in the majors where God Bless America has been played every game since the Sept. 11 attacks, a fiercely patriotic place where active military members are still admitted free.

"I don't think that will be received too well," Yankees manager Joe Torre predicted Wednesday before the opener of the two-game series. "Just when Bob Sheppard starts announcing God Bless America, they start applauding. If you do call attention to that, it won't be popular."

It sure wasn't.

Delgado was greeted with scattered boos each time he batted -- no telling whether that was related to his off-the-field opinions, or his status as an opposing star.

But there were brief chants of "USA! USA!" when he lined out in the top of the seventh. During a moment of silence before Kate Smith's rendition of God Bless America was played during the seventh-inning stretch, derisive shouts were made in his direction.

Personally, I object to the national anthem, the flag, the pledge of allegiance and everything else that always makes me feel like I have to declare some sort of loyalty oath. It seems all vaguely totalitarian to me, though I usually just play along unenthusiastically. "God Bless America" is extra bad, in my view, since it sounds like we're stating our national superiority before God, which is what terrorists themselves do. God shouldn't be part of the equation. (I guess one could interpret the song as an appeal, as in "may God bless America," but I don't think we should be seeking a blessing either.)

I know I'm in a tiny minority here, but at the least someone with a dissenting view shouldn't be harrassed--again, shades of totalitarianism. It's sadly ironic that what is really great about America, the freedom to believe what you wish, is subverted in the course of professing our happiness about being Americans. The conflation of patiotism with support of war is also troubling.