On Super Bowl Sunday, Coca-Cola debuted a TV commercial that was pleasant but hardly remarkable. The minutelong ad was a celebration of the things that make America unique among nations and was seen by one of the biggest television audiences in history.
It opens with a shot of a cowboy and his horse in a picturesque valley. A voice in the background begins to sing “America the Beautiful.” The scene shifts quickly and viewers see surfers, break dancers, old people, two men (perhaps a gay couple) roller-skating with a little girl, Hispanics, Muslims, restaurant workers, children of different races and various adults going about their business in a diverse society.
The language in which “America the Beautiful” is sung changes several times until, by the end of the commercial, its lyrics are rendered in eight different tongues. What could possibly be more symbolic of an America that was and is a nation of immigrants?
Within seconds of the ad’s initial airing, social media were aflame with complaints from people deeply offended that “America the Beautiful” would be rendered in any language other than English. Racists and xenophobes called for boycotts of Coke on Twitter and questioned the patriotism of a company that would embrace diversity at the expense of the assimilation of America’s melting pot.
Because the United States is the confluence of many cultures, faiths and traditions, the symbolism of one of its patriotic anthems being sung in different languages is apropos. The Coke ad certainly doesn’t advocate the abandonment of English, but it recognizes the fact that America’s strength as a nation arises as much from our differences as from our common experience.
No real American should fear or condemn that noble reality.