God Bless America:

You might have missed this, assuming that, unlike me, you don’t comb the NYT sports pages for odd little items like this. According to a report in Saturday’s paper, Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, a “a fixture at Yankee Stadium for years with his stirring rendition of God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch, was supposed to sing at Friday’s opening game of the ALCS but was disinvited by the Yankees because of some unfortunate comments he was reported to have made the day before. Apparently, a real estate agent was showing Tynan and apartment and, jokingly, referred to other inhabitants of the building by saying “Don’t worry — they’re not Red Sox fans,” at which point Tynan responded: “I don’t care about that — as long as they’re not Jewish.”

The quintessentially New York remark – combining the Irish, the Jews, the Yankees, the Red Sox — and real estate!!

The outcry was loud and predictable. But in all seriousness – what’s really so terrible about what Tynan said? I happen to be Jewish myself (and a New Yorker to boot), and I think my antennae for serious anti-Semitic remarks are pretty well-tuned. But Tynan doesn’t like Jews – what’s the big deal when he says so? Unless you deny that Jews have any distinguishing characteristics — and no Jews I know (especially no New York Jews, for goodness sake, would say such a thing) then one has to expect that some folks aren’t going to like those characteristics — we’re too intellectual, too noisy, too argumentative, too this or too that. Tynan doesn’t want to live around us – bully for him (though he’s going to have a helluva time finding an apartment in NYC!). I know lots of people who aren’t crazy about Italians, or Irish, or African-Americans – that too is part of the American stew, and I wish we were all a little less sensitive about the whole thing. I know that terrible, terrible things have happened in the name of anti-Jewish (and anti-Irish, and anti-black, etc.) sentiments – but we really have come a fair way from all that, and I wonder if we’re overdoing it a little with our sanctimony. Maybe we could all use a dose of good old-fashioned harmless prejudice – God Bless America!

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