America the Beautiful

I don’t usually get choked up over TV ads. (OK, yeah, I do. All it takes is folk music and/or puppies and I’m reaching for the kleenex.) But Coke’s America Is Beautiful Super Bowl ad was just beyond amazing.

It managed to portray – through images of our country, our American brothers and sisters, and the gorgeous voices of nine young girls singing “America the Beautiful” in nine different languages* — what is most beautiful, amazing, and exceptional about America.  I’m not sure my desire to drink a Coke is any greater after seeing the ad, but I’m really glad they made it.

Remember this?

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!”

Send them, she said.  And they sent them.  Us.**  Which was highlighted eloquently by this excellent rebuttal to what turned out to be a conservative backlash against the ad.  That’s right, the part of the political spectrum that spends a lot of energy on American Exceptionalism — a/k/a why America is the Best.Country.Evah!!!1!!! — is angry about an ad that shows how truly exceptional we really are. We’re not exceptional because we have guns – the Somali pirates have guns. We’re not exceptional because we speak English – the Brits have been spreading English with colonialism for centuries, and it’s taught in high schools from Beijing to Kinshasa. We’re not exceptional because we’re white – most of us aren’t, and lots of liberal socialists with universal healthcare in Canada and Scandinavia are white.  We’re exceptional because we are one country formed by people from everywhere else.***

The prize for “I don’t think that word means what you think it means” goes to Glenn Beck who declared that the purpose of the ad was “to divide people.”  Yes, precisely, if by “divide” you mean “unify.”  Seriously,  you have to be addicted to anger to dislike this ad.  Do you think conservatives know that you can, in fact, be a Republican and still like this ad?  It’s OK.  They won’t take away your GOP membership card or your gun or your “Don’t Tread on Me” bumper sticker.  Go ahead — smile.  It’s a beautiful country full of beautiful people being sung about in beautiful voices.  Enjoy it for just a sec, then go back to being angry at  . . . whatever it is you’re always angry at, people getting healthcare or married or whatever.

As always, Jon Stewart has the best response.  I tried to embed the entire clip but failed.  But trust me, you’ll love it, especially — starting around the 4:30 mark — the long lost clip from a 1928 Super Bowl ad,  in which similarly marginalized and excluded Americans sing “America the Beautiful”:

{Image: White man standing on a street in front of the "Little Italy" sign, arms and hands splayed in front as he sings; image of the Italian flag (three horizontal green, white and red stripes) and the word "Italy" in the lower lefthand corner.}

{Image: an older white man sits at a bar with a full glass of dark beer in a Guinness glass; image of the Italian flag (three horizontal green, white and orange stripes) and the word "Ireland" in the lower lefthand corner.}

Gotta watch all the way to the end  — I love this lady!  Belt it out, sister!

{Image: White woman with dark hair and flowered dress with a necklace bearing the Hebrew letter "chai". Her arms are outstretched to the side and her mouth open in song. image of the soviet flag (yellow hammer & sickle against a red background) and the words "Soviet Union" in the lower lefthand corner.}

***********

* You can see each version individually on YouTube along with the girls’ narration:  English; Tagalog; Mandarin; Arabic; Hindi; Hebrew; Spanish; Keres; and Senegalese French.

** Well, most of us.

*** Again, ahem, most of us.

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