As I watched the utter annihilation of the Denver Broncos that was Super Bowl XLVIII, I was paying only cursory attention to the commercials. Unlike some, I’m not just in it for the ads. So, as I was checking my computer, with my eye away from my television screen, a rendition of America the Beautiful began to play. But the commercial didn’t really get my attention until the lyrics changed. They weren’t being sung in English anymore, and I turned to look at the screen. Then the language switched again. And again. The commercial had succeeded in grabbing my attention. I smiled. What a nice little message of diversity and multiculturalism, I thought.
But as the commercial ended, my smile faded. Not because of what it represents, but how it would be received. I knew that, as I sat there, waiting to get back to watching the Broncos being pummeled into the turf, that people were flocking to social media, perhaps by the thousands, to express their outrage over the audacity of Coca-Cola to feature America the Beautiful being sung in a language other than English.
And boy was I right. After the game, I took a look at Coca-Cola’s Facebook page and what I saw was disgusting. Disgusting, but sadly, not surprising.
As I skimmed over the page, I took a few screenshots for use later. To capture and immortalize the stupidity and nationalistic rhetoric lining Coca-Cola’s Facebook wall. It pained me to read. Person after person saying they’d never buy another Coke product again and how the company should be ashamed of itself. Check out just a few of the posts I saw wrapped up neatly into one image.
Click to Enlarge
And for what? Promoting diversity? For trying to promote a message of acceptance of those from other countries trying to make a go of it in America? For trying to live up to the ideal etched in bronze and mounted inside the pedestal of what’s supposed to be our shining beacon of freedom to the rest of the world, the Statue of Liberty?
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
– Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus
But of all the posts I’ve read on Coca-Cola’s Facebook wall, of all the intolerance and nonsense I read, the following comment was the most distressing to me.
“As an American, I found this ad appaling (sic). I have no problem with legal immigration, but once they live here, they need to assimilate our culture, our laws, our language.”
Perhaps I’m alone in this but I utterly detest the idea that people who come to America have to leave their culture, and customs at the door. That America should be a melting pot, where other cultures are melted down and ultimately assimilated into one American culture. I prefer the popular counter argument to the idea of a melting pot, the salad bowl. In that sense, all of the various cultures that make up America are mixed in together but at the same time, distinct. The various customs and ways of life coalesce into a single core of America, but the ingredients that make it are separate enough to lend their own unique flavor to the country.
You know the sad part of all of this? The people who posted these things probably think they’re being patriotic. I’ve seen quite a few people try to hide their bigotry, xenophobia and intolerance under the blanket of what they believe to be patriotism, which couldn’t be further from the reality. No, that blanket you’re using isn’t patriotism. It’s 100% pure, un-concentrated nationalism. It’s patriotism taken to the extreme, to the point where one ceases to merely love one’s country and starts to hate other nations for not being like the country they protest to love.
For all the talk about how far we’ve come over the years, it’s disheartening to see that old xenophobic attitudes are still kicking around, in many ways as strong as ever. Perhaps people are more reticent about their bigotry in public but the added security of and ease of access to the internet gives the bigots of the world a public and freely accessible forum to vent their frustrations to the world. It’s disappointing to see just how much further we have to go as a country, to live up to ideals born hundreds of years ago.