Muller: Coke captures American sentiment in Super Bowl ad


Yoni Muller, Columnist

Last weekend was Super Bowl Sunday, and everyone in the country (except for the Denver Broncos) appeared to tune in. As part of a longstanding tradition, major companies did their best to convince an audience of more than 110 million people to buy stuff they don’t need.

With its commercial “It’s Beautiful,” Coca-Cola attempted to celebrate America by having “America the Beautiful” sung in multiple languages. Naturally, for many people, this was less “celebration” and more “massacre” as they took to Twitter to accuse the company of treason. However, instead of decimating the company’s use of multiple languages, they should be rejoicing at its implications.

On the surface, there are many reasons why someone might be unhappy with “America the Beautiful” being sung in different languages. Given our various immigration and foreign policy debates, it might be perceived as the foreigners’ conquest of America. Furthermore, for many people, national pride and pride in that country’s official language are closely related — just look at France.

However, national identities are not functions of language; individual identities are. I myself am proud to be a Hebrew speaker. It has certainly influenced how I identify myself, but I certainly wouldn’t say I’m Israeli. I am, on the contrary, extremely proud to be an American citizen. The commercial shows millions of people just like me who have strong connections to another language but identify as American, and historically that’s what we as a nation have always prided ourselves on. People from any country in the world can come here — keeping their customs, culture and language — and still feel proud to be Americans.

Furthermore, this notion of America losing its historical identity as it gets stolen or corrupted by immigrants is absurd. People are fond of saying that in America we speak English, and that’s true. But we also speak every language in that commercial, plus dozens, if not hundreds, more. “America the Beautiful” was first written in 1895. Even then, this country was filled with people who spoke French, Italian, Gaelic, German, Chinese and Japanese as their first language, if not their only one.

So why are people so outraged by the foreign languages in this commercial? Is it because those languages are stigmatized by current events in our nation? Is it because those languages are associated not only with a different nationality but a different race?

People were quick to point out that immigrants don’t learn to speak English, but they have no obligation to do so. In truth, by not learning English, immigrants are only hurting themselves. Though we don’t have an official language, English is the standard for our political speeches, business dealings and media. Anyone who refuses to learn it cuts themselves off from a wealth of information and entertainment. Still, a person’s refusal to learn English doesn’t make things worse for anyone else. Yes, there are times when a non-English speaker will get mad at someone for not being able to understand them; those people are mean and stupid. Outside of those interactions, nobody is harmed by someone else refusing to learn English.

In fact, immigrant attachment to their native languages is a huge benefit. The dependence on their language helped immigrants conglomerate and form ethnic enclaves throughout the country. The number of Chinatowns, Little Italys, Koreatowns and more would be dramatically lower if everyone were forced to learn English. Overall diversity would dramatically decline. The population composition based on nationality might be the same, but the abundance of culture and ideas that each immigrant group provides would be largely diminished without freedom to express themselves in the language of their choice.

America is beautiful not because everybody speaks the same language and has the same values but for the exact opposite. America is beautiful because it still holds true that anybody can come here, and anyone can thrive here. America is beautiful because its residents are allowed to practice whatever religion they want, observe whatever customs they want and speak whatever language they want. American pride doesn’t stem from a set of traits and cultural elements that define “Americanness” but because of a complete lack of those traits. Americans are united not in race, values, hobbies or anything other than being American, and “It’s Beautiful” captures that sentiment pretty well.

 Yoni Muller is a Weinberg junior. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].