SANTA CRUZ, February 3, 2014 — One of the more engaging television commercials during this year’s Super Bowl featured the song “America the beautiful,” sung in several different languages, accompanied by images of Americana and different types of Americans. During a broadcast which has become synonymous with groundbreaking product placement, this Coca Cola spot was one of the high points.
As is often the case in America, the response to the ad was swift, furious and ugly. The United States, long home to a wide array of creeds and cultures, holds on to a stubborn bigotry which clings like a tick to its national consciousness. For a nation with so much color and diversity to embrace, there exists a particular type of American who not only fears what they may not instantly understand, but who also feels compelled to celebrate their ignorance on any platform available to them.
Coca Cola has a long history of contributing money to Republican lawmakers with anti-immigration agendas. One might wonder how the company reconciles its cozy relationship with the GOP with such a pro-diversity advertisement, and after viewing the backlash from America’s lowest common denominator, Coke may well rethink the image it is attempting to present, though hopefully not.
In most of the country, the diversity woven into the American fabric is not hard to find. Wildly varied colors, cultures, and beliefs all contribute to a vibrant, multi-layered national experience. Americans celebrate customs and beliefs from all over the world. They flourish here regardless of where they came from originally. Americans who are unencumbered by fear, prejudice and bigotry have such a tremendous opportunity to learn about parts of the world they may never have the opportunity to see. The U.S. is truly a melting pot, and with a small degree of open-mindedness, it is a wonderful thing to be a part of.
Living in such a diverse culture presents daily opportunities to learn to see past the obvious differences in skin color, beliefs, and ethnic mores to see how interconnected we all are. Deep down, all people love, celebrate, and grieve in similar ways. As we interact with those around us who do not share our background, we grow in understanding, and our perception of the world we live in expands exponentially.
The opposite tack, one which many Americans choose, is to remain blinkered, basting in ignorance and fear. Many of these people feel so justified in their thinking that they feel obligated to share it with the world. The thread of hateful tweets which erupted immediately after the Coke commercial aired provide all the necessary evidence that America still has miles to go as a multicultural nation, and that at our worst, we can look like a nation of intolerant morons.
There is some hope in the fact that Americans everyday are cautiously stepping outside of their comfort zones, daring to connect with their fellows on a deeper level. U.S. history has shown that courage and understanding have always triumphed over bigotry and hatred. Those who spewed their vitriol all over the internet after hearing America the Beautiful sung in multiple languages would do well to pause and reconsider. The world is smaller than they may believe, and is shrinking by the day. They can either dig deeper into their small-minded hideaways or discover the courage to embrace it.