I have a personal note about the Coke diversity commercial which is embedded below. I didn’t watch the Super Bowl on Sunday, but it was on at the place I was staying, so I saw a bit of it. And part of that was the Coke commercial. It is extremely beautiful and the sound design was just perfect. But I only really got one thing out of it: the Muslim women buying Chinese food from a street vendor. That was totally brilliant!
It bothers me that others look at the ad and think that it divides us. Such people have an incredibly simplistic view of community. People don’t have to share religion or language or anything specifically. What binds us together is not our particular totems. What binds us together is shown in that image of Americans from different places meeting to do business. That is America. And that is what conservatives always claim to be in favor of.
We can disagree about most things. The essence of what we are is commerce. In times long past we were bound together to hunt and gather and farm. Now we bind together because one of us makes delicious Chinese food and one of us wants to eat delicious Chinese food. What is more American than that?
All my life—Five decades!—I have gone to Chinese restaurants. And then as now, they always had menus that looked like the image above. The fact that they had Chinese characters on them did not make the restaurants un-American. Nor did the fact that the waiter often spoke almost no English. That’s why the menu items are numbered! So we can do that most American of things: buy stuff in the most convenient way possible.
But the conservatives complaining about the commercial don’t seem to understand America. What’s more, they seem afraid. They seem to be worrying that America is becoming less American. And by that they mean white and protestant. But it’s time to wake up. That was never what America was. And even if it had been, there’s a great big world out there. America represents less than 4.5% of the world’s population. It’s time to stop thinking that we are the only people who matter in the world.
Coke is certainly aware of that. I don’t think the commercial was aimed at Americans. They are going after that more than 95.5% of the world who might enjoy a refreshing Coke. But Coke is still seen as an American company. So they are selling this notion that America is the world. And in so doing, they’ve created the best advertisement for America ever created, all in the name of selling some product. What’s more American than that?!
A lot of conservatives have compared the new commercial with the “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” commercial from 1971. They claim that the old commercial was inclusive whereas the new one is divisive. I wasn’t old enough then, but I have little doubt that conservatives hated that old ad at the time. It’s so very liberal and hippy and feel good. But that is exactly what conservatives always do. Of course they are in favor of whatever happened socially 40 years ago, just as conservatives will be fine with the new ad in 40 years. Same as it ever was and sadly always will be. It’s the song they sing!