February 4, 2014

Misty Watson: Coke is for everyone, America is not

Misty Watson

— Only in America would people band together and take a stance like this.

There is a backlash against our own Georgia-based Coca-Cola. People have had enough. They refuse to drink any of those products anymore.

It’s not because Coke contains empty calories and the highly-controversial, overly-processed high fructose corn syrup. It’s not because of the childhood obesity epidemic. It has absolutely nothing to do with wanting to live a healthier life or any environmental problems with the company’s habits.

Instead, it is in response to one Super Bowl advertisement.

The 60-second commercial titled “It’s Beautiful” features seven female American teens and children singing “America the Beautiful” in seven languages: English, Hebrew, Hindi, Spanish, Tagalog, Keres and Senegalese-French.

The ad shows shots of America and the different people who live here. If you haven’t seen it, it can be found in numerous places, including Coke’s website, us.coca-cola.com.

I was at work during the Super Bowl, but when that commercial came on, I stopped what I was doing to pay attention.

“What a neat idea,” I thought. “It showcases our culture with gorgeous voices.”

I told my co-workers that Super Bowl ads should fit into one of two categories — hilarious or heartwarming. Coke’s had fallen into the heartwarming category.

So imagine my surprise when social media exploded with such hate and xenophobia. I know. I really shouldn’t be surprised at this point.

“With ‘It’s Beautiful,’ we are simply showing that America is beautiful and Coke is for everyone,” Katie Bayne, president of North America Brands for Coke, said on the product’s website.

Well apparently “Coke is for everyone,” but America is not.

Twitter blew up with comments like “this is America and we speak English here.” Or worse, people griping that our “national anthem” had not been sung in English, which is “our official language.” I don’t think you’re allowed to gripe about this if you don’t even know what our national anthem is or that America has no official language.

Fox News’ Todd Starnes tweeted, “Coca Cola [sic] is the official soft drink of illegals crossing the border” and “So was Coca-Cola saying America is beautiful because new immigrants don’t learn to speak English?”

Classy, Todd.

What message is this sending to the girls involved in the commercial, for starters?

“Out of many people, out of many cultures, that’s what makes it one country and one nation,” said Naomi, one of the girls who sang in the commercial. She couldn’t be more than 13 or 14 years old. Her interview can be found on Coke’s website.

“We have the right to be ourselves,” she said. “We can speak whatever we want and pray whatever we want to pray. I think that’s pretty amazing, and we’re lucky to have it. ... They might feel joyful. They might feel like America has all these different things and they might feel really proud of their country. I hope. I know I’m pretty proud.”

Sorry, Naomi, a portion of the American population didn’t share your sentiment, but your comment gives me hope for the next generation.

I remember, vaguely, the Coke commercial from my childhood in the 1990s where people of all races and ethnicities and their children gathered on a grassy hill and sang, “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.” It was a “reunion” for a 1970s commercial.

I’m still not sure the world is ready to sing together like that some 40 years later.

Unless maybe the world is singing in only English.

Murray County native Misty Watson is a staff writer and photographer for The Daily Citizen. You can reach her at mistywatson@daltoncitizen.com, facebook.com/MistyWatsonDCN or on Twitter, @mistydwatson.