dimanche 9 octobre 2011

Why not thank Irving Berlin? Or was he too Jewish?

Sorry for no posting for a few days, but I was out of town visiting family, and couldn't connect to the intartoobz for a few days despite having two laptops with me. Besides, I've kind of been in a funk for a few days about the death of Steve Jobs. Not quite sure why, other than the obvious narcissistic ones about the Apple stock in my IRA and the fact that Jobs was only four months older than I am, and how it kind of feels like the end of an era -- sort of the way it did when George Harrison died. But I'm back now, and while I'm too tired to muster up too much righteous outrage, this tidbit made my head explode:
Bryan Fischer of the conservative Christian group the American Family Association floated an interesting theory about why there hasn't been a "Muslim attack" since Sept. 11 during his speech before the Values Voter Summit on Saturday.

"By God's blessing, we have not been hit by a Muslim attack since 9/11," Fischer said. "I suggest that in part, we have Major League Baseball to thank. You remember that the week after 9/11 Major League Baseball converted the seventh inning stretch from the singing of 'Take Me Out To The Ballgame' to the singing of 'God Bless America.'"

"Now 'God Bless America' is not just a song, it is a prayer. When we sing that we are inviting God to bless America, to stand beside her and to guide her through the night with a light from above," Fischer said.

"So for one brief, shining moment every night, Major League Baseball has converted our stadiums into cathedrals in which tens of thousands of ordinary Americans lift their hearts and voices as one and ask God to watch over and protect the United States," Fischer said.

"Ladies and gentleman, I think that those prayers have been heard and they have been answered," Fischer said.

For some strange reason, Talking Points Memo chose to accompany this insane raving of a lunatic with a photograph of Mr. Met, of all mascots. I'm not sure if this is some kind of Jew Jew Jew code, given that the Mets are owned by the Wilpon family who are embroiled in the Bernie Madoff mess. But please forgive me for echoing that scene in Annie Hall where Woody Allen says to Tony Roberts that even the waitress asking "'d'you eat?" was really saying "Jew eat?" as some kind of anti-Semitic slur; I'm sure I'm looking for hidden meanings where there are none.

But while I've gotten used to the Christofascist Zombie Brigade insisting that their Great White Alpha Male Punitive Father Figure In The Sky thinks they are so important that He has nothing better to do than listen to these ignoramusus mutsche him all day long, when you start bringing the game of baseball into your insane ravings, and at the risk of going all Annie Savoy on you, that's cause to take these people to the woodshed.

Fred Wilpon didn't write God Bless America, and neither did the Yawkey family, nor the Steinbrenners, nor (Goddess forbid) the Bush family. None of those infuriating baseball players (I'm talking to YOU, Mr. Reyes) who think God hit their home run for them wrote the song. It was written by a guy whose history is similar to that of my own grandparents and to so many Jews who came to this country from Russia and Poland in the early years of the 20th century to escape the pogroms in their home countries.

Irving Berlin wrote God Bless America in 1918 after being drafted into the Army specifically to write patriotic songs and songs of Army life that were performed in all-soldier revues such as "Yip Yip Yaphank". Like most Tin Pan Alley songwriters, he had cranked out an astonishing amount of material before the war, and "God Bless America" was just another throwaway tune that he'd written and put away until Kate Smith's manager asked him twenty years later if he had a song put away somewhere that she could sing. There's tons of material on Irving Berlin at Wikipedia and elsewhere, so I needn't do a full biography here.

Irving Berlin, like the mother from whom he'd originally heard the phrase "God bless America", loved his country for the opportunities it had given him and his family -- opportunities for which the people Bryan Fischer would like to see running government would deprive future generations of immigrants, as well as those who see their status in the middle class fleeing from them more every day. Irving Berlin was a man whose family fled religious persecution to come here to the very same country in which people like Bryan Fischer and the Republican candidates seeking his favor would deprive people like him, and other non-Christians, of their own ability to worship as they please -- or not to worship at all.

But why let things like the history of the song that religious bigots like Bryan Jeffers want to co-opt get in the way of feeding their own religious chauvinism? It's so much easier, and more comforting, for them to forget that their favorite song was written by a Jew whose family came here after watching their village burned to the ground and instead to believe that like the King James Bible, which they seem to think was written by God in English, that it somehow belongs to them and then alone.

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