Skip to comments.What That Coca-Cola Ad Tells Us About Americanism
Posted on 02/06/2014 4:03:41 AM PST by 2ndDivisionVet
If I asked you to describe a proponent of something called Americanism, what would you say? My guess is that your mind might jump to a jingoistic Southerner with a rifle, a pick-up truck, and a high school education, who speaks fluent merican. Readers familiar with the work of David Gelernter might talk about a religious creed that views America as a new promised land and Americans as a new chosen people, committed to ideals such as liberty, equality, and democracy.
But at the Super Bowl earlier this week, Coca-Cola asked us to consider a different vision of Americanism, one that is as committed to Gelernters fourth great religion as any patriotic redneck or Constitution-wielding Tea-partier.
The ad, which was brilliantly put together, asks the viewer a simple questionFill in the blank: as American as _________.
Apple pie? Little League baseball? Turkey dinner at Thanksgiving? A lone cowboy out on the range?
If you give the last answer, then the ad invites you on a little journey, an audio-visual quest in search of American identity. With no more westward land to conquer colonize settle, where is manifest destiny calling us? What is the next frontier?
And the ad leaves no doubt as to the answer. Manifest destiny is calling us to extend our commitment to liberty, equality, and democracy, to add a fourth ideal to our Americanist creed: diversity.
For those unfamiliar with the ad, Id invite you to take a look. (For the over-achievers out there, be sure to check out the behind-the-scenes video.) In brief, the ad features a multi-lingual rendition of America the Beautiful alongside brief scenes of the various flavors in our multi-cultural melting pot. The languagesEnglish, Spanish, Tagalog (common among Filipinos), Hindi, French, Mandarin, Arabic, and Keres (spoken by the Pueblo tribe of New Mexico). The scenes include a white rancher on a horse, a Filipino family surfing, a Latino family at their Mexican restaurant, Jewish men in yarmulkes looking out a window, Muslim women in hijab, and two gay dads at a roller rink.
Now Im an evangelical Christian. Whats more, Im an evangelical Christian who attends a church that annually celebrates ethnic harmony on MLK Day, sings songs in English, Spanish, and Swahili, and has a choir with the name Every Tribe and Tongue. So, as soon as the ad jumped into Spanish, I knew exactly what was happening, and resonated deeply with it. Im a part of a faith that welcomes all nations; therefore, I want to be a part of a nation that welcomes all peoples.
And this is where the ad gets shrewd, and I get skeptical. Because the ad wants to move beyond multi-lingual to multi-religious and multi-sexuality. Lets break these down one at a time.
In itself this seems rather straightforward and obvious. After all, its a simple fact that Americans speak more than one language. At the same time, theres still the reality that one of the key features that has historically defined a people as a people is a common language. This is true even of multi-lingual societies, which often have a common language of trade and government. The ad even acknowledges this to a point, since English is the dominant language throughout the song, appearing at the beginning, middle, and end of the ad.
The reason for a linguistic understanding of people is at one level hopelessly pragmaticcommunication requires a shared medium, a lingua franca. The light rail and most of the of the government facilities in my city give instructions in English, Spanish, Somali, and Hmong. But there are limits to this sort of multiplication. And I doubt anyone is going to charge the progressive government of Minneapolis with ethnic bigotry because they dont offer signage in Mandarin, French, or Arabic. Nevertheless, the ads point remainswe are a nation of many peoples and languages, and this sort of diversity is a cause for celebration. (Which is one reason why the nativist reaction to the ad was so appalling.)
Again the claim itself is largely unobjectionable. After all, religious liberty is enshrined in the Constitution (present legal disputes about mandates and conscience notwithstanding), and America has always been filled with peoples of many faiths. But again the ad is trying to press this point home as well. First, theres the choice of religions to emphasize. Judaism and Islam are singled out, and with clear intent. By moving from Jewish men wearing yarmulkes to Muslim women in hijab, the ad makes the not-so-subtle point that America is a peacemaker. To co-opt the language of the apostle Paul in the letter to the Ephesians, America breaks down walls of hostility. It ends enmity and strife. The conflict between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East may be intractable, but in America harmony reigns beneath spacious skies. This is a lofty claim, and underscores the ambition (or pretension) of the ads Americanism.
Whats more, the claim to transcend religious differences is itself a deeply religious claim, and easily recognized if the situation is reversed. For example, at my church we have an annual Global Focus. During that week, we hang large banners adorned with pictures of people from various ethnicities and countries. We hang flags in our sanctuary that represent the nations of the world, and we do so in the shadow of a large cross and beneath the churchs mission statement which reads, We exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ. The implication is unmistakable. In Christ, all ethnic and national barriers are broken down. In Christ, all peoples become one people. For evangelicals like us, ethnicity, nationality, and culture are subordinated to our fundamental identity in the crucified and risen Lord.
The Coke ad essentially inverts this arrangement, making the claim that religious identities are subordinated to America the Beautiful. Diverse religions have their place in Americanism, much as the various temples and cults of ancient Rome were welcomed and celebrated. But there is a supreme god in this pantheon, and all peoples, no matter their creed or denomination, must doff their hat to him/her.
This was clearly the ads most striking move, and Im willing to bet one of the primary motivations for creating it. A gay couple with a young daughter, enjoying a happy day at the roller rink. Having equalized ethnicities, languages, and religions, we must now equalize expressions of sexuality. And, of course, this is the flashpoint of the present iteration of the culture war, and the reason that all of Americanisms recent holy days have showcased the ascendant sexual orthodoxy of the Americanist creedfrom the Macys parade to the Rose Bowl parade to the Grammys and now the Super Bowl. This is the ads artistic geniusit subtly and powerfully communicates that welcoming diverse languages, diverse religions, and diverse sexualities are equivalent embraces. This, we are told, is one seamless web of celebration.
And, of course, the reverse is true as well. The clear implication of the ad is that to reject the celebration of homosexual practice is no different than rejecting someone because they speak Spanish or have a different color of skin. From Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall. To insist on the truthfulness of ones religion over against those of another is just racism in another guise. And this is where the overarching message of the ad begins to grow shaky.
Americanism would have us believe that diversity is what makes us great. Or, more properly, this kind of diversity makes us great, the kind that celebrates the equal value and worth of different ethnicities, languages, religions, and sexual practices. But, as Hamlet would say, theres the rub. For the creed that unites all of these diversities is itself a unified, totalizing, and exclusive claim. Its the creed of Americanism. These diversities can only be celebrated when they are subordinated to a more fundamental claim, one that elevates America into a comprehensive religious ideal.
Or to use the traditional Christian language, Americanism turns America into an idol, a rival claimant for the allegiance and affections of men and women. And as I noted earlier, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus will suffer no rivals. As a Christian, I cannot elevate a creature to the status of Creator. I dare not bow the knee or lift my soul to another.
So then, let me tip my hat to Coke. They brilliantly showcased the fundamental questions facing us as a people. For evangelicals like me (as well as believers in other traditional faiths), the question is: if being a good American requires us to embrace and celebrate the full diversity on display in Cokes advertisement, is it possible for us to remain good Americans? Or must we humbly dissent from the Americanist creed and in so doing be branded as bad Americans?
For adherents of the ads Americanism the question is reversed: How diverse is the diversity that makes us great? Is it wide enough to make room for historic evangelicals, conservative Roman Catholics, traditionalist Muslims, and orthodox Jews? Or does Diversity itself have a limit?
We will only become a cohesive country when we start to celebrate our COMMONALITY again. Diversity of origin but commonality of purpose. The Left is tearing this country apart. I hope there will be a road to recovery someday. That road is not close, though.
>>Or does Diversity itself have a limit?<<
Of course it does. Any man-made construct is limited by man’s inferiority.
“We will only become a cohesive country when we start to celebrate our COMMONALITY again. Diversity of origin but commonality of purpose.”
Very well said!
The funny thing about the ‘diversity’ crowd on the left is that they are absolutely intolerant of diversity of opinion - when the opinion differs from theirs.
It’s all fine until it all comes crashing down. Unfortunately, it will, despite the optimism of the Limbaugh’s and Hannity’s. This kind of lunacy can’t endure.
“Diversity” is the root cause of every war in history. Civil wars are not because people are too alike. It’s because they have differences. I’m tired of having diversity crammed down my throat. So, my next door neighbor wants to sexually mutilate his daughter?
At one of the jobs I worked a 45 year old Palestinian flew home to get married. He returned with a pregnant thirteen year old. (I met her when she was eighteen and mother or five.) He selected her because, “She was in he poorest circumstances and would be the most grateful to me for taking her away.) Diversity, oh yeah. His goal was to have nineteen children as that’s what his father had done.
The Federalist is not what it used to be.
Why invite the Prof “I am a Christian but I am more broad-minded than you” to sprout homosexuality on the coca cola ad?
I certainly didn’t get the vibe of ANY HINT of us rejecting the coca cola ad because some homosexuals speaking Spanish or other language.
Border, Language and Culture makes a country a country.
“diversity” A politically correct word that means “Surrender all the ideals upon which your country was founded in order to make enemies of your country feel at home here.”
We are NOT a diverse country. We are a melting pot. Come here and become AMERICAN or don’t come here at all.
Diversity is a scheme of the left to destroy us.
The first one is the world come together to celebrate Americanism, this one celebrates the Balkanization of America. Proposal to break up California into 6 states should give you a clue.
You might want to re-read the article. Either that or my reading comprehension skills have gone to pot. I don’t see him “sprouting” homosexuality there, but if you can point out to me where he does, I’d appreciate it.
Imagine if pig iron was able to say, "Hey, I'm part of this steel, but I'm going to retain my pig iron properties." If that's the case, then the pig iron isn't fully integrated into the steel. Therefore, it becomes a weakness in the quality of the steel.
Joe Rigney is an evangelical Christian the same way that Episcopalians or Presbyterians call themselves Christians. They ordain practicing homosexuals to leadership positions within the church, only to have them preach homosexual advocacy and immorality to the flock. Yes, that type of Christian.
In a republic, Leftist diversity means eventual doom.
>>Or must we humbly dissent from the Americanist creed and in so doing be branded as bad Americans?
I’m beyond caring whether I’m branded a “bad American”.
As stuff melts into the pot, its composition gradually changes.
And that’s OK.
But the multi-cultis insist that we all accept everything as America before it melts in and is absorbed. And that is an utterly nonsensical POV.
This is 2014 and the language has been corrupted to imply that lies are the real truth. The REAL truth is that “diversity” as it is used today is a codeword for THE ultimate segregation. Segregation, one from another, complete and utter.
Wow! Nailed on the very first post.
“... one that is as committed to Gelernters fourth great religion as any patriotic redneck or Constitution-wielding Tea-partier.”
And herein lies the key to the writer whole perspective of America. In his small mind, only rednecks are patriots and only a “Tea-partier” would “wield” the Constitution.
On the other hand, he may be correct. You seldom see patriots or Constitutionalists these days who are liberal.