America the beautiful, for all

February 9, 2014

blog_judy_coolsMoonlighting. A blog by Judy Cools.

The Superbowl was turned on in our home this weekend, but I didn’t watch the whole thing, or even pay a lot of attention to the parts I did watch.  As such, I’m just now getting caught up on the Coca-Cola ad controversy.  I have to ask the nay-sayers: “Really??”

I couldn’t imagine that a big corporation like Coke, which has a pretty good track record of nice ads, would do anything so “out there” to be genuinely offensive.  So, I did what any sensible, genuine, intelligent, thorough, and resourceful person would do: I went to the internet.  I easily found the ad in question, a montage of clear, beautiful voices in several different languages singing  “America the Beautiful”.  I found it was creative, pleasant to hear, upbeat, and well…. {{{sigh…}}} beautiful.

Before I had a chance to puzzle over just what people would have found offensive, another video started.  A beautiful young Hispanic woman sang the entire song, and there was an interview that overlaid a portion of the recording session. She spoke enthusiastically about the song, about her life in the U.S., and the ad.

When that video finished, a third began.  This one was in Tagalog.  Then Hindi, Hebrew, Keres, Senegalese-French, and English.  Each short video showed the making of the whole recording, and bits of an interview with the person singing.  The young people’s confident, eloquent speech, their love of the country, their happiness about the welcoming diversity of culture here, were spellbinding.

The final ad video was a series of edits from these different voices singing America the Beautiful.  Not together like a choir, but one after the next.  As a phrase finished in one language, a different language would pick it up for the next phrase, and so it went through the one-minute commercial.  Meanwhile, different scenes in the background show pieces of the American diversity.  There were children playing, Native American elders, beach scenes, open fields, and families.

Still not understanding what about this is so offensive, I dared to read a couple of Twitter comments that were included on an article about this controversy.  It didn’t help.  I only saw angry, blinded people, making no sense at all about how wrong this commercial is.

Does anyone recall the term “melting pot”?  The ad was all about the beauty of this country’s diversity.  Our diversity is our calling card, and the complaints of the outraged (surprise, surprise!) didn’t even make logical sense.

“This is America – English only!!”  Yes, it’s America.  And it’s a lot bigger than English only.  (Where do you live??)

“Never sing this song except in English; it’s wrong”.  Hello?  It isn’t our national anthem; it’s a beautiful song about our country – and the country of those who sang.

“If they’re going to live here, they should speak English.”  Hello again??  They did speak English, and if any of the critics had bothered to listen to the individual videos, they would have observed that each person whose voice was used in this commercial was fully fluent, animated, and enthusiastic – in English.

Which brings me to a final point and a question for the critics: How can you profess to be so very dedicated to a song, while at the same time speak against the very principles for which it stands?

“…and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.”

© 2014, J. L. Cools


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