America the Beautiful for the 21st Century

Coca-Cola deserves praise for its inclusive Super Bowl commercial.

—by Raul A. Reyes

Raul A. Reyes

During this year’s Super Bowl, Coca-Cola debuted a 60-second commercial paying tribute to the diversity of our nation. Coke’s “It’s Beautiful” ad featured expansive scenes of the country and shots of a wide variety of real people. Some of them were enjoying a Coke.

It was set to “America the Beautiful” — as sung in seven different languages, including English, Spanish, Tagalog, and Hindi.

This commercial generated a profoundly negative response among conservative commentators. They reacted with hostility, fear, and even bigotry. To their discredit, these commentators revealed not only their ignorance — but also a willful refusal to accept the reality of America in the 21st century.

imageOn his radio show, Glenn Beck termed the ad “in your face,” and an attempt to “divide people.” This is quite ironic, considering that only weeks ago Beck admitted that his Fox News program was itself divisive.

“I think I played a role, unfortunately, in helping tear the country apart,” he said. He’s right about that. His conspiracy theories, “birther” comments, and demagoguery were a far more corrosive influence on American society than any commercial ever could be.

Former Rep. Allen West also took offense at the Coke commercial.

“If we cannot be proud enough as a country to sing “American the Beautiful” [sic] in English in a commercial during the Super Bowl, by a company as American as they come — doggone we are on the road to perdition,” the Florida Republican wrote on his website.

Even though West gets the name of the song wrong, that does not stop the tea-partying politician from calling the spot “truly disturbing.” As a self-styled “Guardian of the Republic,” West might be surprised to know that our country doesn’t have an official language and that the Census Bureau reports that 381 languages are commonly spoken within our borders.

Then there’s Todd Starnes, who tweeted “Couldn’t make out that song they were singing. I only speak English.” The Fox Radio host went on to wonder, “So was Coca-Cola saying America is beautiful because new immigrants don’t learn to speak English?”

Apparently these conservatives need a decoder for this commercial. “With ‘It’s Beautiful,’ we are simply showing that America is beautiful and Coke is for everyone,” explained Katie Bayne, President of North American Brands for Coca-Cola in a statement.

By the way, new immigrants do learn English. Consider a 2012 study by the Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project that looked at language use among Latino immigrants.

While the first generation is usually only proficient in Spanish, by the second generation, the use of Spanish falls as the use of English rises. By the third generation, English is the dominant language. A separate study last year by University of Wisconsin researchers found that Latino immigrants are learning English faster than previous groups of immigrants.

It’s sad that Beck, West, Starnes and other conservative commentators don’t appreciate the richness of our multicultural society.

The fact is that our country has always been multilingual. There are 169 Native North American languages that are still spoken today, linguist Nataly Kelly notes at The Huffington Post, and several of the Founding Fathers spoke languages besides English, including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe.

Today, 60 million Americans speak a language other than English at home. This year, for the first time, the Super Bowl was also televised in Spanish. So Coke’s commercial truly reflects our nation’s past, present, and future. What’s wrong with that?

Coca-Cola deserves praise for its inclusive Super Bowl commercial. And critics of the ad ought to think about the motto on the Great Seal of the United States: E pluribus unum. It means “Out of many, one”– — and it’s in Latin.


Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and columnist in New York City.
Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

Forget Fake Girlfriends, Republicans Have an Imaginary President

One of our major political parties has become infected with the Notre Dame virus.

By Donald Kaul

Donald Kaul

The bizarre story of Manti Te’o, the Notre Dame football player, and his dying girlfriend gives new meaning to the term “fantasy football.”

Te’o very nearly rode the heart-rending story of his tragic online romance into a Heisman Trophy (college football’s highest individual honor) and a national championship.

There was hardly a dry eye in the press box as Te’o told of the death from leukemia of his online love and how he would soldier on because that’s what she would have wanted him to do.

It was a great story with but a single flaw — he had no girlfriend, she didn’t die or, in fact, ever exist. She was Te’o’s imaginary playmate.

Notre Dame has said that the young man was a victim of a “cruel hoax” and he himself says he was the unsuspecting dupe of an online prankster but the more you learn about the mess the less faith you have in anything the school or player have to say about the matter.

Whatever the genesis of the tale, it’s now quite clear that Notre Dame and Te’o both knew it was phony days before the National Championship game and decided to say nothing about it.

The school’s athletic director said he kept mum out of concern for the player’s safety, the privacy of students and — this one will kill you — the integrity of the national championship game.

image

Thank God the integrity of the national championship game remains intact.

Jon Chait, New York Magazine‘s excellent political writer, has delivered the most telling comment on the matter. He wrote:

“Fake, schmaltzy inspirational tales are the essence of the culture of the [Notre Dame football] program. The…story of Knute Rockne and his dying player, George Gipp, became a famous movie that helped enshrine Notre Dame football…In reality, Rockne was an ethically dubious sports gambler, Gipp a pool hustler, and the main events of the story — Gipp’s dying wish to ‘win one for the Gipper,’ Rockne’s inspirational halftime speech — never happened.

“Likewise, Rudy is the inspirational story of a walk-on who overcame the odds to play football at Notre Dame, but the story is also filled with falsehoods. Rudy, by the way, turned out to be a stock scammer.”

In other words, Notre Dame football, through the years, has majored in imaginary playmates.

Which should not be a big problem — it’s football, right? — except for the fact that one of our major political parties has become infected with the Notre Dame virus.

Schooled by its spiritual leader, Ronald Reagan (who played Gipp in his most famous movie role), the party just makes things up as it goes along and pretends they’re true.

image

The Republicans’ chief imaginary playmate is a Barack Obama that none of us has ever seen. Their Obama is a hard-core ideologue, a borderline socialist who, on international affairs, favors weakness as a strategy. This is a vague figure of murky background, perhaps even an enemy alien, who stole the 2012 election from its rightful owner, Mitt Romney.

Which is a sharp contrast to the real Obama — a mildly liberal centrist who would love to find a Republican Party he could split the difference with. And as for weakness in foreign affairs, there are a lot of dead villains who would argue otherwise if they weren’t…you know…dead.

Obama, it’s said, does not reach out to Republicans. He doesn’t have them over for drinks and dinner like Lyndon Johnson used to. That’s the problem.

Which ignores the fact that Republicans, both ideologically crazed and sane, live in fear that someone will take a picture of them standing next to Obama while looking friendly. They know it will be used against them in the next Republican primary.

He could offer to come to their homes and tuck them in at night and they still wouldn’t cooperate.

Any real reform of our political system must await the destruction of the Republican Party at the ballot box. Perhaps that would lead to the rebirth of a reality-based party.

 


OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org).