We were a Sunday night “The Ed Sullivan Show” family. And when Kate Smith appeared, my folks would mutter something about her being an anti-Semite who supported pre-World War II American Nazism.
That was as confusing as it was perplexing. Her signature song, “God Bless America,” was written by a Russian-Jewish immigrant, Israel Beilin, later cherished as Irving Berlin, the patriotic lyricist who also wrote “White Christmas.”
Why would Smith then help immortalize a Jew?
My mother explained it as, “sometimes the song is more important than its singer.”
I’ve never been able to ascertain whether Smith was an anti-Jewish bigot. But I did read that in the 1930s, the Ku Klux Klan put her on equal-hatred footing with Jews and Catholics as threats to subvert “Americanism” by co-opting “their” God.
Now, nearly 90 years after she sang “That’s Why Darkies Were Born,” she has become a sudden symbol, an overnight sensation of anti-black hatred. That song, also sung by the famous black actor, singer, social activist and Rutgers football star Paul Robeson, has been explained as “period satire.” As modern satire, it’s not the least bit funny.
So last week, the Yankees and Flyers decided to establish a precedent for themselves they’re unlikely to meet. Despite Smith’s tireless WWII fundraising, both teams rid their premises of her recording of “God Bless America.” The statue of Smith that for 32 years served as the Flyers’ arena-entrance talisman also was hauled away.So now what? Delete the name Paul Robeson from Rutgers’ Paul Robeson Library? Why, in pursuit of posthumous retroactive racial equality, not?
The Yankees, sudden crusaders, were among the last to integrate, Elston Howard first appearing in 1955, eight years after Jackie Robinson became a Brooklyn Dodger.
As several readers have asked, will the Yanks now no longer accept $1, $10 and $20 bills, seeing that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson were slave owners?
Will the Yanks no longer play rappers’ music — Jay-Z, Meek Mill, et al. — as in-house entertainment and player-selected walk-up music given that their lyrics are vulgar, women-degrading and loaded with references to black men, in the 21st Century, not 1931, as “n—as”?
How can the fair-minded miss or ignore that? So no more N-wording rapper recordings or concerts in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Arena?
Or is Kate Smith’s removal just another case of highly selective, time-capsuled justice?
If all’s fair and justice is blind in New York and Philly, where is the Phillies’ apology for signing Delmon Young, a black man, after he was arrested and convicted for assaulting a man he mistook for a Jew?We have tons of work to do. America’s unofficial poet laureate of pre-Civil War America, Walt Whitman, was a virulent anti-Catholic, warning of an invasion of Irish and Italian Catholics plotting to have the Vatican rule America via “Popery.”
What do we now do with the Walt Whitman Bridge connecting New Jersey with Philly?
Next to go? How about American aviation hero Charles Lindbergh, who in the 1930s had a mutual love affair with Adolph Hitler’s Germany, so much so he supported Nazi master-race genetics.
I recently ran into Lindbergh on a 32-cent U.S. postage stamp.
And why did folk singer and civil rights activist Joan Baez sing a lament (first recorded by The Band) for fictional Confederate solider Virgil Caine, who “was just 18, proud and brave, but a Yankee laid him in his grave”? Was she pro-slavery?
Was Kate Smith a racist 90 years ago? Maybe. I don’t know. But in 2019, this sudden move against her seems another shopping-list hit job among selective social salvation workers, the kind that alienates the vastly underrepresented, those with common sense. As Mom explained, “Sometimes the song is more important than its singer.”
Allowing nonsense to prevail unchecked
From the desk of the eminent professor of baseball analytics, Dr. Dooley Noted:
We get it. They’re the teams’ TV and radio announcers. But aren’t they occasionally moved to holler, “Why?” Just once join us in our homes or cars to minimally reflect our incredulity?
The Yankees, up 5-0 on the Royals after seven innings Sunday, had a game Aaron Boone should have placed on autopilot, then done the crossword puzzle.
Starter James Paxton was terrific, striking out 12, walking one, allowing just three hits. But after 104 pitches and walking the first man in the seventh, he was reasonably pulled, exchanging salutes with an appreciative Yankee Stadium audience.
Tommy Kahnle entered and made-all-gone on 17 pitches, two Ks.
Now, with the Yanks’ pitching staff depleted, a DH rule to prevent worry about pitchers batting, a 5-0 lead and a fresh effective reliever, surely, if good old fashioned, indisputable common sense were applied; Kahnle would start the eighth.
But back from commercials, on the mound stood Chad Green. Why? Why!
On YES, Michael Kay and David Cone spoke not a word of curiosity, as if it’s just modern baseball as usual, which it was. “Chad Green will come on,” Kay flatly said, “He’s trying to find it.” Kay noted his 8.59 ERA.
Cone said nothing, as if supportive of (or surrendered to) Boone’s latest senseless, needless spin of his bullpen roulette wheel, as if he were conducting tryouts.
Green, then Adam Ottavino, made a mess and the Yanks, for no reasonable reason, trailed, 6-5.
But Boone, as we’ve frequently witnessed of most modern managers, did it again … then again and again. “The game has changed,” that incomplete explanation that ends with “to make no sense.”
The Yanks won, 7-6, in 10, in large part because backup catcher Austin Romine played instead of home run-or-strikeout artist and defense-delinquent Gary Sanchez.
Romine had three hits, including the game-ender, and three RBIs. Get this: He did so by successfully trying to hit the ball (“impact the baseball” as Boone says as if still under ESPN’s spell), rather than swing like a wild man trying to hit home runs.
And among the game’s 29 strikeouts (29 strikeouts!) against 11 pitchers, Romine, in five at-bats, accounted for none of them.
Hitting it where they ain’t
When I nod my head, you hit it: Tuesday against the Phillies, Mets backup shortstop Luis Guillorme (left), career .190 hitter, batted as Keith Hernandez read the graphic: This season, Guillorme is 1-for-13.
On a 3-2 count, Guillorme, batting lefty, hit what SNY recorded as a 95-mph pitch past third for a hit. Gary Cohen: “Nice job going the other way.”
Really? If Guillorme could hit it where he wants why is he a .190 batter? Was this a “nice job” or a case of a hitting a fastball wherever and however he could, which stood to reason would be “the other way?”