09 April 2014

America is Beautiful in Many Languages

In 1971, when Coca-Cola launched its  "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" ad promoting peace and included a variety of races, it ignited an outpouring of protest among segregationists and war-mongers and isolationists and bigots - still clinging to the then not-so-distant past when “coloreds” used separate water fountains and Jim Crow ruled the day and races certainly did not intermingle in “perfect harmony” for all the world to see. And, oh, the audacity of a company as Americana as Coca-Cola promoting world peace during the Viet Nam war!

Fast forward to Super Bowl XLVIII and, well, I guess nothing much has changed.Promptly after Coca-Cola aired an ad with “America the Beautiful” sung in a number of languages, social media was littered with claims that the company was unpatriotic and plans to boycott its products.

Sadly, there exists a contingency of people still longing for the good old days when blacks rode in the back of the bus and gays stayed hidden in the closet and women in the kitchen and children were seen and not heard and everybody spoke proper English, y’all, and old white men ran the nation. Thank God those days are over because it’s most certainly not the America the beautiful in which I aspire to raise my mixed-race children. Its diversity, in my opinion, is what makes America beautiful.

What’s so scary about languages? English will always be the dominant language spoken in the USA. But, it’s certainly not the only one. Spend an afternoon at a café in SoHo or a tea house in the Castro and you’ll likely hear dozens of languages being spoken in the tables around you. Right here in America. That's really okay. Note: Chinatown is just as much a part of America as Lubbock, Texas.

There are supposedly 27 different languages represented at my daughters' elementary school - diversity that adds to the richness of their education and childhood and better prepares them to engage in the 21st Century multicultural world in which they live. So far, neither of my daughters has contracted any contagions as a result, nor are they leaning toward Socialism because they hear non-English words spoken every now and then.

America is a big ol’ country and there’s a place for everyone. I’m sure there are plenty of trailer parks or country clubs in sprawling suburbs where everyone looks, talks, thinks, loves and votes the same way. If that's your cup of tea, embrace it. Meanwhile, the rest of us can appreciate the inspirational message Coke was trying to send, even as we’re shocked, yet again, by the things that get labeled unpatriotic by some.

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