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Remember the Maine.” “Remember Pearl Harbor.” “Never Forget 9/11.” Wait. Come again?
For a nation that prides itself on remembering, it is amazing how quickly and conveniently we forget. Sure, Dec. 7, 1941, is a day that will live in infamy, and 9/11 is a day we will never forget. But there are many other important events and themes that are forgotten by the American public.
This forgetfulness became glaringly obvious during the advertisements of this year’s Super Bowl. During a commercial break, Coca-Cola debuted its spot entitled “It’s Beautiful,” in which individuals of various races and backgrounds are juxtaposed singing “America the Beautiful” in seven different languages. The ad was intended to evoke feelings of unity, patriotism, and, of course, the thirst for an ice cold Coca-Cola.
Yet the one-minute clip’s reception was slightly different than the intended outcome. Immediately after the advertisement’s airing, some viewers took their opinions to the Twittersphere, asserting that having a patriotic tune sung in multiple languages sounded disrespectful. This outrage spawned a number of new hashtags, including “#SpeakAmerican” and others that included profanity aimed at Coke.
And, no, the hashtag “#SpeakAmerican” was not a joking reference to American patriotism like #Murica. It was a serious quip against Coke’s display of multiculturalism.
But wait a minute. This idea of the American multicultural melting pot is not a unique creation of Coke’s marketing wing, but a reference to the nation’s past, as well as a nod to the true composition of this nation today.
The United States is a nation of immigrants, who also subjugated this continent’s actual first inhabitants. We do not, nor did we ever, have an official national language. English is the language of government and commerce, but our lack of an official national language makes us unique. Our history as a melting pot has not always been harmonious, but our diversity forces us to continue progressing toward the ideal of equality and acceptance.
The advertisement put forward by Coke attempted to appeal to our national heritage as immigrants and embrace the new members in our patchwork quilt. Yet just as ideas of acceptance have been ridiculed at in the past, this commercial was met with jingoist and nativist attitudes reminiscent of the eugenics movement of the 1920s. Have we learned nothing since that age of pseudo-science?
In contrast, a Budweiser ad showing the company putting on a homecoming celebration for a soldier received a largely positive Twitter response. Let’s examine this advertisement more closely.
Regardless of how one views the political decisions made to deploy troops, supporting the soldiers themselves is a cause that spans party lines. Budweiser seems to have created a non-controversial, feel-good ad that will surely win over ordinary Americans enough to make them switch from Natty Light to Bud when purchasing cheap beer for their high schooler’s next Friday night get-together.
Not so fast, my friends.
Herein lies the issue with emotionally-targeted advertising. Budweiser, while it boasts American credentials as sweet as both apple pie and the Midwestern values held dear by its brewers, is not an American company at all.
Back in 2008, InBev, a corporation controlled by Belgian and Brazilian brewing giants, bought out the all-American brewery. That sense of patriotism marketed by Budweiser was actually funded by a company from two foreign nations that officially condemned the U.S. military’s intervention in Iraq before the beginning of the war in 2003.
But the supporters of the Budweiser ad, which Twitter indicates included numerous opponents of the Coca-Cola ad, did not realize that the patriotic ad was just a show funded by the foreign money of people with non-English first languages looking to pawn off cheap alcohol.
Instead, viewers who tweet seemed to favor a foreign company playing on American patriotism over an American company celebrating the nation’s diversity.
It’s time to wake up and smell the roses, America. This nation has been in a state of change since its inception and is continuing to change. Newer Americans may not look like you or speak your language, but that doesn’t take away from their love for this nation. They, too, want the best for their children. They, too, appreciate the Constitution’s freedoms. And they, too, are striving toward the American dream.
While these two beverage ads themselves are insignificant, the lessons learned from their fall out are important. Division in the U.S. goes beyond the gridlock in Washington and encompasses the American psyche itself. As a nation, we must move past emotionalism and toward rationalism, and band together as one to achieve harmony and progress. That will make America truly beautiful.