We spent a classic Fourth of July. For the first seven hours, I exercised my First Amendment right to publish a newspaper. Then I slept for a few hours, and slowly jogged myself awake by watching the Cubs play the Nationals and then watching an exercise in the best of America: an angry documentary called "Who Killed the Electric Car?" that blasted oil companies, car companies and the government in roughly equal measure.
Then we went to the baseball game, sitting near the top, just at the edge of the roof with enough shade and breeze to fend off the summer heat. It was a fine day and a good game, although the local boys didn't show much offense. We finished off the day by watching "1776," a favorite Fourth of July pleasure.
My only gripe was the decision at the ballgame to replace the usual seventh-inning stretch playing of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" with Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A."
People weren't sure how to act. Some treated it like the National Anthem, removing their hats and holding their hands over their hearts. I stood, of course, since it was the seventh-inning stretch, but, sorry, I'm not taking my hat off for Lee Greenwood.
It isn't that I don't much like songs that tell God what to do. I have pretty well gotten over my fundamentalist background, which preached that using God's name to promote secular purposes, even love of country, borders on blasphemy. And it isn't because Greenwood says "ain't." I'm no purist about such matters, but he doesn't sound like the sort of person who drops "ain't" in casual conversation. Why would he adopt it when he's aspiring to a certain grandeur of expression? Is he striving for the common touch, or does he just have a tin ear?
The only reason I really objected was that Greenwood replaced a song that already is one of America's finest patriotic works. Not only does it celebrate America's greatest game ("Take Me Out to the Ballgame") but it also pays homage to most of the best of America:
* Unity ("Take me out to the crowd"),
* Consumerism ("Buy me some"),
* American cuisine ("peanuts and crackerjack"),
* Liberty ("I don't care if I never get back"),
* Freedom of speech ("Let me root, root, root")
* Loyalty ("for the home team")
* Empathy ("If they don't win it's a shame"),
* Pragmatism ("For it's one, two, three strikes you're out") and
* Respect for tradition ("at the old ball game").
Don't tell me that "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" isn't patriotic enough for the Fourth of July. No song describes America better.