"I am again appalled that you have decided to sell children on the concept of war-through-baseball. "Dog Tags for Kids" on military opening day? You do realize, I'm sure, that Dog Tags are used to identify the corpses of dead soldiers. Why would you give away these items to children? ... [W]hy do you associate the enjoyable afternoon past-time of baseball with the gruesome world of dead soldiers and camo jerseys?Fulton has posted a petition asking the Padres to stop associating baseball with war.
"OK, so you want to honor veterans — no issue there. How about starting with the homeless vets that are herded out of eyeshot from Petco Park? Shouldn't we take care of those men and women before recruiting new eight-year-olds to serve as cannon fodder?"
Here are seven of the promotions the team with a religious friar as part of their logo will have in 2011:
April 10 – Military Opening DayLast June, I posted my opinions about the Red Sox's association with various military causes and promotions, so I won't repeat them here.
May 22 - US Navy Recognition Day
June 12 - US Army Recognition Day
June 26 - US Marine Corps Recognition Day
July 31 - US Coast Guard Recognition Day
August 21 - National Guard Recognition Day
September 18 - US Air Force Recognition Day
San Diego is very connected to the US military. The area contains numerous Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard bases and stations, and its harbour contains one of the world's largest naval fleets. Approximately one-fourth of all jobs in the San Diego area are connected to the military, and the county is home to the largest number of military retirees anywhere in the United States.
The Padres proudly call themselves the "Team of the Military" and boast that they "provide more programs and support for the military than any ... professional sports franchise in the country". In 1996, the Padres became the first national sports team to have an annual military appreciation event. When large groups from the nearby Marine Corps Recruit Depot attend games, the Marine Hymn is played during a special Fourth Inning Stretch. The team now wears camouflage uniforms for every Sunday home game. All of the 2011 military promotions mentioned above are on Sundays, when families are more likely to take kids to the ball park.
The US Department of Defense spends more than $2.6 billion each year on recruitment, much of it targeting teenagers. Under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, every US high school was required to give students' names, addresses and phone numbers to the military or face the loss of all federal aid. Since most schools need those funds to survive, military recruiters are now in 95% of US high schools. (See also this November 2004 Globe article) The Army's "School Recruiting Program Handbook" offers suggestions to maximize enlistment, such as:
Be so helpful and so much a part of the school scene that you are in constant demand.For the past five years, the Defense Department has been compiling a comprehensive database of personal and private information about every American between the ages of 16 and 25. According to Major Johannes Paraan, the head Army recruiter for Vermont and northeastern New York:
Deliver donuts and coffee for the faculty once a month.
Hispanic Heritage Month (in September). Participate in events as available.
The only thing that will get us to stop contacting the family is if they call their congressman. Or maybe if the kid died, we'll take them off our list.
Just as advertising has been crammed into every nook and crevice of televised baseball games, the glamorization and ubiquity of the military throughout American culture (and baseball) has become our default setting.
No game begins without the singing of at least one national anthem, "God Bless America" is played on special occasions (stay in your seat!), there are military flyovers on Opening Day, and veterans or military officers are often chosen to throw out the first pitch or are interviewed in the TV or radio booth during the game.
None of this is biased, of course, or should be construed in any way as a political statement. In fact, it's apolitical. It's simply our normal, default setting. It's only when someone asks when a peace activist will throw out a first pitch or raises even a slight objection to any of the on-going wars that everything changes. Suddenly, the atmosphere has become horribly politicized! Why can't fans enjoy a relaxed afternoon of baseball and applaud as the PA announcer thanks the attending veterans for "defending our freedoms" and "protecting our way of life" without having to think at all about politics?
And obviously, you can forget completely about asking why a country teetering on bankruptcy is spending over $10,000,000,000 of taxpayer dollars every single month for no reason other than empire and corporate profit. In the US and (to a lesser extent) Canadian mainstream media, it is strictly taboo to have a conversation about the true nature of any military action. That inability or unwillingness to discuss topics like adults is not limited to the military, of course. We cannot have a reasoned conversation about anything: race, sex, poverty, immigration, etc.
I hope Kap Fulton's petition gets a lot of visibility between now and the start of the season. I support it wholeheartedly. If you agree that the San Diego Padres -- or any professional sports team -- should not act as a promotional arm of the military, especially when it comes to children, please sign the petition and forward it everywhere you can.