This morning I awoke to a Facebook feed peppered with controversy over Coca-Cola's Super Bowl ad, which featured a multicultural mix of people, all presumably Americans, singing "America the Beautiful" in their native tongues.
Most negative commenters seem to think it is in some way blasphemous to sing "America the Beautiful" in any language other than English.
"If I didn't hate Pepsi so much, I wouldn't buy another coke," went one Facebook post. "SPEAK ENGLISH!" went another. And so on. There is really no way around it - these comments are provincial, isolationist, and xenophobic.
I have news for these commenters... The 21st Century economy is a global one. Coca-Cola is a global corporation, the third most valuable brand in the world. They did not get that way by alienating foreign buyers of their products. They employ over 150,000 people on every inhabited continent in the world. While it is true the flagship product, Coca-Cola, is an American invention, and while it is true Coke is still headquartered in America, its product range caters to a global consumer. It is just this type of global perspective that has allowed Coke to remain competitive the world over. It stands to reason their ads would try to reflect an inclusiveness of all consumers.
Whether we like it or not, modern globalization means we must be inclusive if we want our goods and services to meet with the widest possible market. Whether rural America knows it or not, the major population centers of America are not all white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, they are a multicultural mixture representing all corners of the globe.
If the capitalist arguments don't convince the xenophobic mob thrashing the "American the Beautiful" ad, then perhaps the words to the song will. The final words of the familiar first verse speak overtly of God's 'grace' and of 'brotherhood', while the rarely sung second verse glorifies the spirit of 'pilgrims', who were themselves just immigrants searching for freedom from persecution and prejudice:
"O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
God shed His grace on thee
Till paths be wrought through wilds of thought
By pilgrim foot and knee!"
Clearly Katharine Lee Bates, the song's librettist, did not intend her inspirational poem to be a source for division between people. Rather, it is clear her vision of America is one of inclusiveness and fraternity, a sentiment altogether absent from the negative comments.
It makes one wonder how ugly the response would have been if Coke had decided to run its original "Reasons to Believe" ad during the Super Bowl. This ad, currently running in some world markets, features clear antiwar sentiments and a gay couple being married.
I guess we will all have to wait for Coke's next quarterly report to find out if this controversy helps or hurts their bottom line. This capitalist, for one, wishes them all the best.