Last night during the Superbowl, in case you missed it, the Coca-Cola company ran this commercial:
And quite predictably, a lot of people hated it. Mostly because there is apparently a rule somewhere that songs about America cannot be sung in any language other than English. Other detractors mentioned hypocrisy & corporate greed, etc etc.
This, however, is not a post about any of that.
This is a post about celebration.
Because anybody who stops to think about it for even a second will see that the point of the commercial was to celebrate.
Celebrate beauty, celebrate diversity, celebrate family, celebrate home.
You see, I believe that, with all its faults, America is still a special place. Beautiful, vast and complicated, filled with people from all over the world who, whether it was a week ago or a hundred years ago, risked everything to be here. (Or in the case of the native peoples, to keep what was theirs – oh, and is it necessary to mention that the true natives of America did not speak English? But I digress.) The Coke commercial was not telling us to give up English in lieu of whatever language we were born to – it wasn’t about taking something away. I read it as “America can (should) be celebrated in every language! Singing America the Beautiful in another language spreads the message of the song farther and wider across the world. Why on earth would we oppose that?
Imagine if in order to read the Bible – or at least to qualify as a ‘real’ Christian – you had to read it in Biblical Hebrew & Aramaic. Or sing Silent Night only in German, the language in which that song was written. Does it lessen our connection to God if we read a holy text in translation? Does it lessen our connection to America if someone sings America’s praises in Spanish or Tagalog?
The answer must be no. America – beautiful in any language.