In another edition of Jo reacts to things that everyone has already pretty much gotten over; I finally saw that Coke advert that flipped collective shits across the nation. If you’re unaware of it, it featured some lovely eclectic scenes of people living life to the fullest and at the same time enjoying coke, nothing earth shattering there, but that’s not the real controversial part. The thing that seems to have gotten people up in arms is the fact that the song “America the Beautiful”, sung in a variety of languages, was played over these images of people drinking coke.
As I watched this commercial that was aired again during the opening ceremonies of the Sochi Olympic Games, I made what I believed to be an innocuous comment “I don’t see what the big deal is.” It was then that I encountered some shit flipping first hand. I was informed by a very vehement source that America is supposed to be a melting pot and that “they” are supposed to come over and conform to “our” way of life. If “they” did not, I was assured, the very foundations of society would fall apart. You know, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria, that sort of thing.
So first off; No.
There are always those people who never fail to complain when they feel that diversity is being “forced upon them” but those people, to use the technical term, are full of shit. Diversity isn’t being forced upon you, reality is. The reality of the world and the reality of the United States is not exclusively White/Christian/Heterosexual/and Masculine. You are not being attacked when you are reminded that people other than you exist. Society isn’t falling apart, it’s moving on, very, very, very slowly, towards a more realistic appreciation of what has always existed, other people. The only thing being lost when other people are given equal footing is supremacy.
The whole idea of assimilation (which is really what he was taking about when he brought up the melting pot) hinges on the belief that it is in the best interest of society for all members to conform to the ways of the dominant group. In actuality this conformity is only ever in the best interests of that dominate group, because they own the monopoly on correct behavior.
Those who would support this view of social politics will claim that they support assimilation because it is really for the sake of equality. It is, they will claim, the easiest form of integration. But they don’t get it both ways, it can’t be let’s all be equal but you have to speak and act exactly like I do. The deck is stacked against anyone who falls outside the margins of acceptable behavior and those margins are shifting arbitrary things that exists more to keep the powerful powerful then to serve any reasonable purpose for the good of society. This attitude only protects and legitimizes exclusion, it reaffirms dominance.
Second; are we sure we want to stick to this “You’re American, speak English.” tact? Are we sure? Because it really seems like the only thing people are defending when they shout “Speak English” is ignorance. Monolingualism is not some sort of badge of honor. I’m embarrassed that I only speak one language. I feel like I’m missing out on so much, I want to speak all the languages. I don’t see what we’re losing when we become more multilingual, except maybe, again, supremacy. Having a first language comprehension of English gives an advantage, especially when this is the language of the courts and the job market.
Anyway what the people who hated the coke commercial missed, and something that they will probably never understand, is the real beauty of life itself. Conformity and ignorance are ugly. They are limiting. They are what has given us suburbs, ranch style homes, and the TLC network. Beauty is in infinite variety, it’s in the unknown and the unknowable. They are cowards because they can’t conceive of anything that does not comfort and coddle them into lulled sense of their own superiority.
I don’t mean to say that we should exotify other cultures and languages, which it can probably be argued that this commercial did, what I mean is that a knee jerk reaction to reject anything unfamiliar is the death of progress. Like I’ve said before, you don’t love something by letting it stagnate and die. I truly believe that you can’t really claim to love this country if you’re form of love is a strangle hold on the status quo.
It is irrational to claim that what it means to be an American is now, or has ever been exclusively White/Christian/Heterosexual. It is irrational to view any reminder that what an American looks like is not simply what Glen Beck sees when he looks in a mirror as an attack. It is irrational because bigotry is irrational. No one has ever truly studied the world and logically come to the conclusion, “Well, I guess white people really are just better.”
This makes it impossible to argue with a bigot because no matter what you do or say, they will remain convinced. They will skirt the issue, they will claim that you are imposing your liberal will upon them, they will make illusions to Hitler and Stalin because those are the only two historical names they can remember, and they will deny to the hilt that they are racist. They are just defending “traditional America”, a tradition that just happens to be White/Christian/Heterosexual/and Male. They’re minds are the walls of Troy, an impenetrable, immovable force. Repeat after me; You will never change them!
But this leads us to the good news;
The Coca-Cola Company is not a benevolent organization. They are not lead by the goodness of their hearts to make commercials that save the world. They know full well that conservative minds can’t be changed. Yet they are a corporation who, like all corporations, exists for the soul purpose of making money. If they aired this commercial not only once, but twice, the world is changing. Slowly, very, very, very, slowly, the world is changing.
The voices of the bigots are loud because they continue to get air time and hate, as a rule, speaks louder than love and truth. But maybe, just maybe, hate is dying out or at least getting horse. At any rate, the Coca-Cola Company seems to think that a multilingual “America the Beautiful” is a good business decision and that makes me hopeful that at some point in the future we will have an America worth rooting for.
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!