#AmericaIsBeautiful, In Any Language

It’s really interesting to consume pop culture in the absence of TV. That’s right, we cut the cord a couple of years ago. Words I never thought would leave my mouth – for I have always loved my color teevee…..But we (the husband who treasures the “kill your television” paperweight I gave him, and the rest of us with a wifi connection) don’t seem any the more deprived for it. Kinda hard to be between YouTube, Netflix, Amazon instant video, the Internet in general. (I submit that these days, if you can’t follow along with water cooler talk, you might really be willfully living under a rock. Not judging, an observation.)

That said, it is interesting to watch the cultural conversations from a remove, and get my water cooler talking points from the next best but hypervocal and hyperfocused lens of the twitterverse or my facebook feed. This morning’s takeaway – there was a game last night! The Seahawks pounded the Broncos! Payton Manning’s face! And all of that is less important than that ad – Coke dared to put out a spot featuring “America The Beautiful” in something other than just English and now ‘Murica is mad!

We’ve seen this kind of thing before. After Nina Davuluri became the first Indian-American Miss America, there was a shocking amount of vitriol towards her. Plenty from people who don’t like their American beauty queens to be anything but white, and with what seemed like a huge overlap from folks who can’t tell one brown person apart from another and think we’re all terrorists – may we never cross paths if you work for TSA, please and thank you.

But back to Coca Cola.  There’s probably more to it than that but I, erm, haven’t actually watched the spot (hey, it’s early in the morning, I got things to do and places to go). Apparently the level of stupid the Internet has poured on the ad has hacked off and disheartened many. As of this morning, a colleague is pondering a blog post on the subject. I look forward to it greatly as his post will probably be very wise, with well-chosen words that make a larger point about advertising, businesses, community conversations, and so on.

I however, am still cranky – I’m not a morning person, I’m ready for spring, and my first cup of tea is still hitting my system as I write this – so here is what I shall say on the matter:

I still have faith in humanity. I think the majority of the world continues to be curious, welcoming, and aware that there are entire cultural universes outside our ken that do not tilt on our personal axis. And that we are not automatically threatened by the possibility of other people being different. I think the majority of people watching last night were savvy to why the US remains a superpower – it’s not just military, it’s soft power, with recognition and desire to market to a global multilingual market that’s much larger than the Super Bowl’s English-speaking audience. And they’re open to what I saw just now on YouTube (yes, I’m more awake now) – a hauntingly beautiful set of voices, the communities we make for ourselves, the idea that it’s okay if we’re not all alike in how we look or define “family,” the joy of just being. And apparently, our universal desire for a cold fizzy drink to go with all of that.

But that’s not what we hear about the day after any major cultural event. We hear from the good many – about the idiocy of a beauty pageant in this day and age with contestants aiming for medical school, about the actual game and the players, whether or not the Super Bowl’s trafficking connection is overblown, and that Bruno Mars has perfect “performance hair” that doesn’t move.

However, normal and reasonable doesn’t make for good news. So we are treated, the morning after, to people and their stupidity on display, 24/7, in perpetuity. The people who automatically assumed Davuluri was a terrorist, and as I told my colleague on his facebook feed:

… the people who don’t get that Coke is a multinational company, selling in markets that don’t speak English. And then there are the folks who confuse “America the beautiful” with the national anthem – the few, the proud, the stupid. You can’t fix stupid. To paraphrase Jesus, the stupid will always be with us.

More likes than usual for that last bit.

The people mad about the Coke ad are not unlike Indians who were just as dumb about Davuluri, the ones who felt the need to say “she’s beautiful, although she’s dark!” and thought she should invest in a bit of “Fair and Lovely” even as they took great offense to the racism from the US. Oh the irony….They drowned out plenty of others, Indian or otherwise, who were smart enough to realize that a beautiful woman is lovely, no matter how she looks.

My American colleagues probably didn’t hear about the sane folk in India. But they do exist. And I’m similarly delighted with the number of sane folk in the US sending one massive double eyeroll towards those planning on boycotting Coke.

For my money, much as I appreciate lush choral arrangements of “America The Beautiful” and the Coke commercial’s powerfully simple and elegant rendition, I remain an R&B girl and highly encourage you all to check out Ray Charles’ version. Enjoy. For America is indeed beautiful. As is much of the world. and I plan to start out my week reminding myself that the haters are but noise, when there is much music to be had. Happy Monday.

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