Super Bowl ads are created to get viewers talking about a company’s product. If you remember the ad the day after the game, the commercial did its job. If you can talk about it for days afterwards, it’s a success.
But what if it sparks controversy? The Coca-Cola ad during this year’s Super Bowl did just that, and America is still — one week later — divided on its reaction.
The commercial in question is the “America the Beautiful” spot that begins with a female singing the song in English. Halfway through the first line, another young voice picks up the lyric in a different language. In all, nine different languages were used to complete the song: English, Spanish, Tagalog, Mandarin, Hindi, Hebrew, Keres, French and Arabic.
Sounds like an amazing ad celebrating the diversity of our country, right? Wrong — at least that’s what many viewers would have you believe. The uproar over one of America’s most beloved, patriotic songs being sung in languages other than English could be heard “from sea to shining sea.”
The Twitterverse exploded with tweets from both sides of the fence. Many praised the ad, but many more attacked the commercial as a slap in the face to Americans. Fox commentator Todd Starnes tweeted: “Coca-Cola is the official soft drink of illegals crossing the border.” Another irate tweeter posted, “Nice to see that Coke likes to sing an AMERICAN song in the terrorist’s language.”
Perhaps that viewer developed a little amnesia during the game. Remember Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber? How about Eric Robert Rudolph, the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games bomber? Or Wade Michael Page, who killed six people in 2012 at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin?
Know what these people have in common? They’re all terrorists, they’re all American and they speak English. So, to which “terrorist language” was the tweeter referring?
What many of the opponents of the ad fail to remember is that America is a melting pot. Regardless of what many right-wingers believe, immigration is legal when done through the proper channels, and most of us can trace our heritage to a country that is not the United States.
Many “true” Americans believe that immigrants, once they’ve landed on our shores, need to assimilate themselves to the American way, as if to say, “Welcome to America, now speak English and forget your past.” Never mind that many of these “immigrants” are actually second and third generation Americans who happen to have an ancestry that can be traced to other parts of the world.
Perhaps most ironic in all of this is the 1971 Coca-Cola ad that featured several dozen teenagers on a hilltop in Italy singing, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.” Over forty years later it sounds like Coke has done just that — taught the world to sing. The world, however, is getting smaller and smaller, with many of those “foreigners” living right here within our borders.
We should all be proud of being Americans, but there is still plenty of room to allow for the pride of our ancestors, be they African-American, Mexican-American, Chinese-American, European-American or what have you.
So sing, hyphenated Americans, in whatever language you feel. America has welcomed you even before the Statue of Liberty was erected, and we love the diverse cultures you bring with you.