February 7, 2014


A Coke ad crystallizes GOP's immigration problems (Michael Gerson, February 6, 2014, Washington Post)

Coca-Cola's Super Bowl ad featured a series of multicultural images set to "America the Beautiful," sung in seven languages. It turned out to be a national Rorschach test. The immediate reaction of some -- myself included -- was a lump in the throat. There is something moving about hearing American ideals of brotherhood, reverence and sacrifice praised in other tongues. It is the universality of these longings that makes them powerful. For the same reason, I get misty when I hear "Amazing Grace" sung in Tsonga, Swahili or Kituba. Some hopes belong to everyone.

The immediate reaction of others -- measured by Twitter and talk radio -- was that the ad represented an aggressive and divisive multiculturalism and that American national songs should be sung in English (though conservative blogger Erick Erickson smartly noted that "E Pluribus Unum isn't in English either"). Fox News radio host Todd Sarnes called Coca-Cola "the official soft drink of illegals crossing the border." Former congressman Allen West (R-Fla.) declared America "on the road to perdition."

This is already making too much of a Twitter tempest. But it does illustrate a vivid difference in disposition. Some looked at those images and saw an affirmation of the universality of American ideals; others saw a violation of the particularities of American culture, such as the use of English. Some saw exceptionalism and strength; others adulteration and threat.

Posted by at February 7, 2014 5:49 PM

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