David Rovics :
Coca Cola’s ‘America the Beautiful’

Here’s my contribution to the discussion resulting from Coca-Cola’s multilingual ‘America the Beautiful’ Super Bowl commercial.

coke commercial still

A still frame from the Coca-Cola commercial, “America the Beautiful.” Photo from Coca-Cola. Image from USA Today.

‘America the Beautiful’

By David Rovics | The Rag Blog | February 5, 2014

America is beautiful but it’s got a lot of ugly people
I heard one of them this morning on the radio
He interrupted the pop music programming
To tell us what he thought we needed to know
He said America is an English-speaking country
And that Coke commercial was just all wrong
You can’t interrupt an all-American football game
To have little brown girls sing an all-American song

He said America is beautiful but it’s only got one language
The one we inherited from the King
Although the king himself spoke German
     and the French helped us overthrow him
But I still don’t want to hear those girls sing
He said it and I wondered if it reminded him
Of his grandparents who were probably refugees
From Finland or Italy or Lithuania
Or perhaps from Belarus or Germany

Or perhaps they came from Ireland where they fought for generations
To try to speak the language of their birth
And now their red-faced son is shouting English is the language
In this little stolen corner of the Earth
Not Navajo or Lakota, not Tagalog or Spanish
But the language of those who came out on top
Not the language of the conquered or the ones who were here first
But the language of the ones who run the shop

America is beautiful, it would be silly to deny it
If you’ve seen the forests or the mountains capped with snow
But as I left my Japanese wife to drive to the French school
With a carpool full of gorgeous kids in tow
Who all sang along to Katy Perry and then listened to this bigot
Tell us this is an English-speaking nation
I don’t know what the kids thought but I said this guy’s a fascist
And we all agreed to change the station

[Portland resident David Rovics is an indie singer/songwriter and peace and social justice activist who tours regularly on four continents. Rovics’ music has been featured on Democracy Now!, BBC, Al-Jazeera, and other major media outlets and his essays have been published on CounterPunch and Truthout. He blogs at Songwriters Notebook.]

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1 Response to David Rovics :
Coca Cola’s ‘America the Beautiful’

  1. josephS says:

    Accusing people of being against multilingualism is a straw man. The visceral reaction many people had to the ad came from a sense that it was a sort of taunt against those who deign to think that it’s in the best interests of anyone living in America to be able to speak English. Only the most ignorant among us would have any problem with anyone who can speak multiple languages. I mean who cares! it’s great!
    There were many ugly reactions to the ad, but those aside, the real issue is whether we in America think English is important enough as the language that binds us all or not. If you believe it is, then it’s not difficult to understand some of the more nuanced views about how the coke ad does not promote that vision. Since it is only an ad, and since Coca-Cola isn’t in the business of caring about national unity as it is about selling its product, maybe the best reaction would have been no reaction. But the way the issue is being framed, you’d think insisting that people who live in America at least be able to speak passable English is tantamount to calling for a ban of any language other than English in any context. But that would be silly, right?

    I don’t have any sympathy for the true bigots and their comments about the Coke ad, but let’s not confuse them with the more nuance crowd.

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