Amid what was one of the most boring and lopsided Super Bowls in recent memory was this ad, which isn’t likely to sell as much Coke as the ad agency hoped…
It’s America The Beautiful, sung in a whole bunch of different languages most American’s don’t speak and wouldn’t even recognize.
And it has offended lots of people.
Coke and its ad agency probably weren’t trying to offend anybody, nor were they particularly going for some sort of overt cultural message. The ad is clearly attempting to build on some of what they’ve done in previous advertising…
The “I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke” ads were clearly American, but they also signified an outreach to the world. They were an example of an American cultural offensive – “we’re here selling something great, and everybody on the planet should want it.”
Why yesterday’s ad is hated is that it’s the reverse. It’s everybody on the planet coming to America and singing a song which is almost interchangeable with the national anthem in languages which are most certainly not American.
You can call this a distinction without a difference, but you’d be wrong. The basic message here is globalization and inclusiveness, and while there are reservations about those concepts most people would agree they’re good things. But what matters is the terms upon which the message rests.
Sure, we’re a nation of immigrants. But what has always made that work is the idea of America as a melting pot rather than a salad. Come here from any place on the planet, but know that you’re coming to be changed by America rather than the reverse. That means learning English, among other things.
Today’s quote of the day is from Teddy Roosevelt…
“We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, and American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house; and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”
What the Coke ad says is that so long as you dwell in the polyglot boarding house you’re just as American as anybody else. And that’s a nice sentiment, certainly, but it’s also akin in some respects to the soccer leagues where everybody gets a trophy. It says you can be as American as everybody else without surrendering a part of yourself to America if you come from a foreign culture. You don’t even need to speak the language.
They’re not speaking Spanish or Arabic in the “I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke” ads. They’re all different colors and they’re wearing clothes from all over the world, but they’re speaking English. In this one they’re singing a distinctly American song in foreign languages.
That can be, and is, interpreted as cultural decline and surrender – and it taps into something a lot of people already perceive. It’s not even about immigration so much as it is the perception this country is in retreat across the board.
So there is pushback against the ad, and the response to that pushback is coming very largely from the 20-something generation. I’m seeing it all over social media today. Without referencing any specific statements (which would embarrass people I’m friends with on Facebook), the general gist of the argument is that objecting to the ad signifies ignorance, racism and xenophobia.
That if you don’t see the beauty of all these diverse people expressing allegiance to America through song, it just makes you a hater.
And that’s profoundly depressing.
It’s depressing because it’s virtually axiomatic that if you can’t speak English you’re not really capable of fully integrating into American society and you probably aren’t all that American from a cultural standpoint. If you can neither understand those around you nor make yourself understood, are you really part of the community?
This isn’t difficult math. And yet to recognize it is taken, by kids who otherwise appear to be relatively intelligent, as bigotry.
This is the product of multiculturalist proselytizing for the last couple of decades in the pop culture and the schools, and the alumni of that effort now believes that if you hew to traditional America and if you believe in old-school patriotism then you’re a racist and a xenophobe, or that you hate immigrants. Which is crazy, but it’s also a problem – how is American culture going to survive in the 21st century if an entire generation coming up thinks that distinct Americana constitutes racism, ignorance and xenophobia?
You wouldn’t think one little well-meaning soda pop ad would expose all of this, but it did. Watch the Coke ad debate occupy the discussion for a while.