When I see narrow-minded bigotry, I think of signs like this that presided over a shameful period in US history. I heard some of my own family members who agreed with that sentiment back in the 70s. It embarrassed me deeply. I was ashamed to hear people I love saying such hateful things.
What a surprise to see similar sentiments rise up over something as simple as a Super Bowl Coca-Cola commercial.
The song was “Oh Beautiful,” and it is distinctly American. The words, penned by Katherine Lee Bates as she sat atop Pikes Peak looking over the plains of Colorado, praise the beauty of our country. The song was sung during the Super Bowl commercial in several different languages. The meaning is the same regardless of the language used to sing it: “Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple-mountain majesties above the fruited plain. America, America, God shed His grace on thee! And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!”
We memorized that song in school, at Katherine Lee Bates Elementary in Colorado Springs, at the foot of Pikes Peak. It held special meaning for me then, and it still does today. It is uniquely American and speaks, interestingly, of American exceptionalism. The rest of the verses are included below.
Why are we arguing over the language used to sing those specific thoughts and ideas? The song praises America for its bountiful beauty–and, remember, for God’s grace on such a country! How beautiful can that be? (Don’t go all first-world on me, folks. Just saying, don’t try using your English-only argument about this song. Regardless of the language used, it still praises America!)
Social media is lit up with ugly comments on both sides about this commercial. Let’s take a step back and think. While one person on social media blasted that “The national anthem should be sung in English” (excuse me, but that wasn’t the national anthem anyway), others are taking Coca-Cola to task for injecting race issues into the Super Bowl.
Seriously. Take a breath.
Once you step foot on American soil, it does not mean you must drop your original language and never speak it again. Don’t get me wrong–I am conservative and want strong border enforcement and tough immigration laws. That’s not the issue here. The reactions to that Coca-Cola ad, though, did verge on bigotry, when people protested that the song should only be sung in English.
How petty and simplistic.
I believe the point of the commercial was to celebrate the mix of people and cultures we have in this country. Aren’t we the melting pot? What other country, when its athletes are marching in at the beginning of each Olympics, has such a mix of ethnicity among its team members? Isn’t that great?
And don’t forget that the song, sung during the Super Bowl, dared to sing that “God shed His grace on thee,” America. How bold, to perpetuate the idea that God is actively blessing people. Does He only shed His grace on people who speak English? (Yeah, that sounds ridiculous to me, too.)
So let’s take a deep breath and consider that while we do live in America, we are a rich mixture of ethnic backgrounds and cultures. Consider that we do indeed live in a beautiful country “from sea to shining sea,” and consider that regardless of the language in which we sing it, that truth remains the same.
Reject bigotry of all kinds. Challenge one another to think more deeply about the media messages out there. This little dust-up was misguided and narrow-minded. There are so many other things to get all riled up about. (Like the fact that I just ended that sentence with two dangling prepositions).
Here is the rest of the song. Pay attention to the words; they are distinctly American, and they also boldly honor God.
O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine.
O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self control,
Thy liberty in law.
One response to “Clouds of dust over a Super Bowl ad”
I have a second-generation friend who told me that she reasons in English, but Spanish is the language of het heart. It was the language she first learned at home. So wby shouldn’t she be able to sing of her love for America with the language of her heart?
I love your post.