BHM Stories: What Important Fact Coke’s America the Beautiful Commercial Should Remind Us?

ImageI missed this one as I spent the first half furiously fast forwarding so that my phone updates would stop ruining the game; but evidently Coke upset some people this evening. Coke generally runs at least one commercial every bit as sweet as their drinks; but this time the sweetness backfired (at least according to the Twitterverse). Here is a link to both the commercial and some of the comments.

Yes, English is our national language (as well as the language of Global business); but should we be so adamant about never admitting or using the other million languages that exist in our world? I would say not.

First, the practical answer. We now live in a global world. We cannot afford to sit back and insist that others learn our language while we refuse to learn theirs. If we want to continue to stand atop the food chain some understanding and ability to enter into global markets (whether in Johannesburg, or St Petersburg) is a must.

Second, is this little fact of history or the philosophical answer. There is an accepted pattern of behavior which occurs in immigrant communities. First generation immigrants learn little of their new lands. They continue to use their native language. They continue in their older customs. They change overall, very little. Second generation, naturalized citizens of this new country tend to throw out all of their cultural heritage. Yes they may know the old language and customs (and will revert to them with their parents- if only to ease the tension); but in their daily lives they are almost too like their adopted homes. If their parents exhibit one end of the cultural divide; these 2nd gen Americans exhibit the other. Think Dave Chappelle’s black-white supremacist as the absolute far end of the spectrum, the ultimate send-up of the potentiality for minorities to incorporate the surrounding culture’s dislike for minorities with the belief that white culture is the best culture.

Yet a funny thing happens, many within the following generations see both the good of their heritage and their new home. They seek to bring together both the positive attributes of their grandparents and the new skills and customs appreciated so much by their parents.  It is here that we see the enduring power of America. It is here that we see the reason for America’s staying power. As a Christian interested in missions, I have read a lot about the power of my missionary predecessors; but one thing that I have learned in my studies (and practice) is this: immigrants and minority cultures often provide the dynamism behind their newly adopted homelands. Multiple studies have discovered this fact. For any great nation or culture to maintain its place it must grow; and growth demands the ability to change and innovate. And it is within the immigrant communities that we find this innovation, this can-do spirit. It is not within the comfortable confines of daddy’s money and privilege that we find the impetus for change; it is in the furnace of the lower classes. it is in these braves souls seeking to blend together the best of their previous homelands with the best of their new homeland that we find the power to change.

When the words of their previous nations blend together in harmony with the words of their current nation; then the magic happens. Then America finds its greatness. It is in the young boy from Hawaii who longs to be president and the young boy from Hawaii who longs to be Elvis. It is in the young boy from Georgia who longs to pastor his people and the young boy from Alabama who longs to win the Super Bowl. It is the girl from Hungry who longs to bring justice to world and the young girl from Sri Lanka who longs to get everyone dancing (and thinking at global issues at the same time).

There is the corny cliche that hangs around in every locker-room: Together Everyone Achieves More. It’s a dumb cliche but in many ways it stays around because it points us to an important truth. No man is an island. No woman can do it all alone. Independence is a great thing to have; but in the end it’s lonely and not quite as successful as interdependence. We need each other. The Apostle Paul put it like this: no arm can say to the leg I have no need of you. America is great and always has been great not because of our independence but because of our interdependence. The American Dream is achievable. But ultimately only when we all come together and make a new harmony that is equal parts English and Spanish and Italian and Farsi and Sowento and…

The melting pot only works if each and every ingredient retains its unique flavors even as it sublimates into one complicated arrangement of tastes, kinda like the words of America the Beautiful as sung on the Coke commercial.


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