I am not really an NFL fan (I prefer the college game.) But I do watch the Superbowl and I enjoy watching the ads. I thought the best ad this year was Radio Shack — ‘The 80s called and they want their store back’. It was the best because it is true. Radio Shack is an outdated version of an outdated concept and will likely soon go the way of Montgomery Wards and Blockbuster Video.
The most controversial ad this year was not from GoDaddy instead it was from an advertising giant that has created some of the iconic ads (think Polar Bears) of Superbowls past. The ad was Coca-Cola’s ‘America’.
[By way of disclaimer, I am a Pepsi guy, I only drink Coke when I am in the Atlanta airport]
In this ad a number of young girls sing America the Beautiful, each singing a portion in a different language, over a video that jumps between iconic outdoor scenes and images representing a number of ethnic groups in the United States.
One of my favorite radio personalities, Jan Mickelson of WHO referred to the ad as
A beautifully done dose of toxic sludge. This is the intentional opposite of E pluribus unum, Latin for “Out of many, one” Coke is NOT it.
A number of my conservative friends and colleagues expressed outrage at the ad on their Facebook walls and Twitter feeds.
Unfortunately, I think that many of my conservative friends have let their anti illegal immigration zeal be mis-interpreted (or actually become) anti-immigrant. Before anyone accuses me of pulling a Chad Brown — I am very much an immigration hawk. Had his campaign made it to the caucus, I would have voted for Tom Tancredo. I continue to oppose any form of amnesty for illegal aliens especially a path to citizenship. I believe that English must be the official language of the United States and the State of Iowa. However, I really like the ad. It is beautifully done as Jan Mickelson said, but I disagree that it is a dose of toxic sludge.
In fairness, I should probably point out that I am a child of immigrants. My mother is from Guam, a US territory. She is a US Citizen by birth but was not a US Citizen at birth. When she was born, before World War II, Guam was a Naval Protectorate of the United States and natives of Guam were without country. Unless they were naturalized, they did not hold United States (or any other citizenship.) The Guam Organic Act of 1950natural-born citizen of the United States.
My father was not a US citizen. He was a permanent resident alien, here legally. He came to this country legally from Jamaica to attend the University of Wisconsin and retired after over forty years as a professor at UNI. I am not sure why he never bothered to become a US citizen. As an aside, I was born just over a year before Jamaica became independent. At the time of my birth my father was a British subject. He later became a Jamaican citizen and held a Jamaican passport. I guess that means if I run for president I might have a Ted Cruz problemJamaican Bobsled Team for Sochi 🙁 It could’ve been me and Usain Bolt!
Both John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan referred to America as a city on a hill. Even in these difficult economic times, America, the land of freedom and opportunity, continues to attract immigrants from all over the world. As a nation, we need to embrace those who come here through the front door, those who obey our laws and want to become a part of America. One of the ways that America is special is the way we treat immigrants. Anyone can become an American. People like WHO’s Simon Conway, who come here legally and are naturalized, are Americans. By contrast, a foreigner can become a French citizen, but they will never be French.
[Aside: I know there will be some reading this who will immediately say, that it is arrogant to refer to ourselves as Americans — America is a continent, not a country. But America is a nickname for the United States of America, like calling a beloved grandmother ‘Nana’.]
So why am I not offended about hearing America the beautiful sung in different languages? Because we are out of many one (E pluribus unum). We ask immigrants to this country to adopt our language and culture but that does not mean that they completely give up theirs. Most of our great American cities have little Italy’s and Chinatowns. Last year I visited the three largest Polish cities in the world, Warsaw, Chicago and New York. Here in the upper Midwest you see the influence in food, culture and architecture of Czech, German and Scandinavian immigrants. I spend a lot of time on the West Coast with large Asian immigrant communities. Initially these communities have retained much of their native heritage including their language. Many of the old-timers, understandably, never became truly fluent in English. Subsequent generations typically assimilate very well. English is eventually their first language and over time many lose their ancestral languages all together.
I thought it was interesting to see the videos of the individual girls who did the singing on the video. All of them spoke perfect unaccented English (as perfect as any teen or tween girl’s English can be). What I saw was a group of American teenagers with beautiful voices who just happened to be a generation or so removed from their immigrant heritage singing respectfully of their homeland in the languages of their ancestors.
As an American, a conservative and a patriot, I am an immigration hawk, I believe that English must be our national language, I believe in American Exceptionalism, and I still believe that immigrants should be welcomed into our city on a hill.