It is so disappointing to hear that the 2014 Coca-Cola Super Bowl advertisement, “It’s Beautiful”, has ignited a wave of criticism about having diversity “crammed down our throats” by a corporation. Give me a break, folks, it was an advertisement. Symbolism. It wasn’t a congressional proposal to re-write the National Anthem. As trivial as this incident might seem, I believe the outcry is evidence of a much deeper-rooted problem we have in this country: A true lack of generosity.
Being generous means not seeing life as a zero-sum game
Just because someone else has something doesn’t mean we have to have less. Hearing phrases of a beautiful anthem sung in other languages doesn’t take away from the beauty of our own. Respecting other ideologies and beliefs does not mean our own is diminished. Finding beauty in another country’s heritage does not take away from the glory of the nation we have built.
Have we forgotten that we are a nation of immigrants? Every American, save the Native American, came here from another country. We were all once immigrants coming here to seek a better world. We boast of the fine cuisine, yet none of it is native. Our homes are filled with evidence that artists, engineers, business leaders and scientists from all over the world have contributed to this America.
America is a beautiful paradox. We come from different worlds, yet strive to create one under which we can all thrive. We protect individual liberty, yet we create laws that represent majority values. We live in a world that is united under one flag, while allowing all to live and worship as they please.
Part of the problem is that many Americans are too far removed from the immigrant generation. For those who newly arrived, there was always a desperate hope to pass on the teachings of the old country. Families who came from Germany probably had a strong desire to teach German to their children. This was certainly true (and remains so) for Italians, Greeks, Polish, and so many other early immigrant nationals who came to our shores.
I know from personal experience, because my parents came from China. I grew up in a bilingual family, and was not allowed to speak English at home. My mom and dad did everything they could to instill pride about being Chinese that lasts in my psyche to this very day. Today, I, with my Italian-American husband, have tried to instill in our two children the best of both heritages, and hope they feel proud to have ancestors from such heralded civilizations. But this in no way diminishes our pride about being American. I actively practice my privilege to vote, make it a point to understand the current debates affecting our country, and I still get a lump in my throat when I hear the “Star-Spangled Banner” sung well.
I thought the Coca-Cola ad was wonderful. I’m certain that those who made the decision to air it during the most highly watched event on television knew that it would be controversial. They could have picked a different song, but it wouldn’t have been as powerful. It was actually a perfect song. It teases out this much-needed debate about what kind of country we want to be; one that continues to be welcoming to all who reach our shores, or one that has decided the door is now closed?
Many of us remember that this was the company that decades ago said, “I’d like to teach the world to sing”. This advertisement demonstrated that we did. And in a beautiful way. Thank you, Coca-Cola.