Have a Coke and a Multicultural Smile

Two Sundays ago on February 2, the Seattle Seahawks battered the Denver Broncos to claim Super Bowl XLVIII. Much was said about the game afterwards: the play; the athletes on show, Russell Wilson; Peyton Manning and many other things than a Brit could care for. Whilst lacking as a spectacle, it still managed to be the fifth-rated Super Bowl in history, and apparently averaged over 115 million viewers. That is incredible.

However, continuing what seems to be a trend in recent years with the Super Bowl, a television commercial stole the limelight of the occasion. And unless you’ve been stuck on an island in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to eat or drink but turtles and bird blood since last year, you will know which advert I am speaking of. Its the Coke one, Mr Alvarenga. (Glad to have you back.) The rest of us will also know that many took to twitter immediately after the advert to vent their outrage.

“#SpeakAmerican” and “#BoycottCoke” were trending on the social network soon after the ad. The overwhelming verdict of many seems to have been best articulated by one SteveB who tweeted: “Don’t you love how Coke has turned our National Anthem into EVERYONE else’s? #BoycottCoke” Nevermind that this was a widespread and popular sentiment, the usual suspects were soon out, up in arms, portraying the popular reaction as racist and xenophobic. I will not name these outlets. They deserve no serious attention, except to be recognised vaguely as extant.

Now I myself did not watch Super Bowl forty-eight, not least because in my time zone, you could only view it at ungodly hours of the morning. But even if I had watched, I doubt I would have seen the same adverts American viewers could see. Nonetheless, on hearing of the controversy the day after, I seized the nearest computer and searched away on the internet.

I have to say, having seen the ad and listened to commentaries concerning it, I was stunned at the dearth of understanding of its real significance. In my humble opinion, I think many Americans have missed the Coca Cola Company’s true intentions behind the advert.

I have panned free podcasts of all the big names in US talk radio and I’m yet to find one opinion that has a similar understanding of the advert to which I have. Perhaps it’s because I’m cleverer than most. However, I somehow doubt that is the reason; being reared here in socialist Britannia must have stunted more than a few of my brain cells, I’m certain. Still, I have a few more than Piers Morgan. Everyone does.

But all that aside, consider this America. Your nation is in the throes of a battle to make its government do what it is sworn by law and morality to do, protect America’s borders. Yet day to day we hear of one Republican or another begging, yes, begging, the Obama administration to enforce the immigration laws before an amnesty bill is considered. The gun of lawlessness is held to the American people’s head and the demand that millions of lawbreakers be granted reprieve is incessantly barked from Washington. Week after week, one member of the Democrat party comes out trying to convince Americans that if only they could grant amnesty to illegal immigrants, then the nation would prove herself no longer racist, leaving many asking rather confoundedly: “What was 2008 and 2012 about then?”

And so, it is with this contextual backdrop in view that Coca Cola decide not to issue an advert with their epitomical, cheesy eighties song, “I’d like to buy the world a coke” sang in different languages, but instead they choose a song with the patriotic resonance of ‘America the Beautiful’ and throw it to the wood chipper of multiculturalism in front of an American audience during one of the most American of occasions.

Perhaps as an oversight, expecting Colorado’s Denver Broncos to win the day, Coke thought what a prescient and relevant song this would have been to use for their advert, the significance of which would only be known to the most knowledgeable viewers, the inspiration for the hymn being Colorado Springs. But what could have been no oversight was the Babelisation of one of America’s most beautiful anthems.

You see, Coca Cola was one of several corporations who sent a letter to House Speaker Boehner and minority leader Pelosi, last year September, urging both to assent to immigration reform speedily, as reported here by the Washington Examiner. And at the same time they did this, they were laying off American workers. Is it then merely coincidence that the same company follows such an act up with a commercial aimed at portraying some Dystopian Utopian version of America using an olla podrida version of a great American anthem? Note that the very second language used in the ad is Spanish. Reader, more so than in politics, in advertising, nothing happens by accident. In fact, in the Coca Cola advert, both converge almost perfectly in deliberate seamlessness.

For those who do not understand why such a ploy might have proved as offensive as it did, I ask: Off the top of your head, which of the founding fathers were from Germany? Which were from Holland? Which were from England or Spain or France? I wouldn’t expect you to know that by rote, because it doesn’t matter. Not really. Wherever they were from, once they stepped ashore your great land, soon or immediately thereafter, they adopted English as their native language, so that all you know of them today is that they were Americans.

Language unites a people. But it can also balkanise. I don’t believe any American would have complained if all of those diverse faces were shown with a unifying theme: “America the Beautiful” and not “America el Hermoso”. Yes, Alec Baldwin might still have mouthed off a few choice words on seeing the gay couple in the ad, but who would be paying attention? A nation may have many different skin tones, but more than one language and it struggles to remain one nation. Here, I point you to one of your most popular media personalities’ immortal expressions: “Borders, Language and Culture.”

But Coke know all this. And in my view they also knew the advert wouldn’t be unifying but divisive. But what better way to enmesh into the American subconscious the notion that immigration reform – good, border control – racist?

To me it seems corporations like Coke have sounded the battle cry; they’ve drawn the lines in the sand. They intend to show you, the American consumer, who really owns the country. And by Coke, it isn’t you!

The question is: What are you going to do about it?

Will the Tea Party allow crony corporations like Coca Cola to lobby their way to lawlessness? I hope not. As I write, I take comfort from the fact that the momentum behind such efforts is waning. But all Coke needs is for conservatives and patriots to let up. Please do no such thing.

As a British conservative and admirer of the Tea Party, I am heartened by the fact that Americans have finally found a palate for that O’ so delightful beverage. So I heartily urge: Bottoms up America; Less Coke, More Tea!

Mary Gauguin