“The essence of the beautiful is unity in variety.”
– Felix Mendelssohn
Ok. So, unless you’ve been living under a rock since the Super Bowl aired, I’m guessing you’ve probably heard about the backlash that Coke has received for its ‘controversial’ ad aired during the game. Didn’t see the commercial? Well, here ya go. Take a look:
I know I’m not going to say anything new with this blog. Anything I have to say about my opinion on this matter has probably been said by many others. And that’s fine. But I still think it’s important for my voice to be heard, even amid all the others. As Plato is quoted as saying: “Your silence gives consent.” Well, that’s not going to happen for this girl. I’m going to say what I have to say about the matter, and then move on.
What is the ‘controversy’ you ask? Well, obviously, we see a video filled with people of differing nationalities, ethnicities, etc. singing America the Beautiful. And some of our fellow Americans are saying that this is *ahhem* “un-American.”
So, first of all, I suppose I should say that I shouldn’t be surprised. Hardly anything can happen these days without some type of controversy surrounding it, especially when it involves differences among fellow human beings (*gasp!* Heaven forbid!). But even though I readily agree that I shouldn’t be surprised, I still have to admit that I am. Seriously, people? We’re still at this point?
For God’s sake, what is it going to take??
Let me ask you to do something. Look to your left. Now, look to your right. And I want you to tell me what you see. Do you see someone who looks exactly like you? Someone who wears their hair the same way, has the same family background that you do, the same job, the same amount of money in their bank account? Do you see someone who has the same number of children you do (or lack thereof), the same eye color, the exact same skin tone? Does that person share your religion? Is every single thing about them exactly the same as you?
Duh. I’m guessing probably not. And you know why that is? BECAUSE WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT. That’s just all there is to it. We are not a world made up of robots. The differences are wide and numerous and there’s no way I could sit here and list them all. But here’s the thing: just because something is different, that doesn’t make it wrong. Why is that so hard to understand for some people?
What gives anyone…anyone…the right to decide which differences are ok, and which ones aren’t? So, the person to your left came from a lower class neighborhood than you did, and that’s ok. But their first language isn’t English, and that’s not ok? Which background differences are ones you’ll accept and which ones aren’t? Aren’t you kind of playing God there, my friend?
And back to Coke. First of all, every single one of the people in their ad was an American. They said so. They didn’t go to other countries to film this. They didn’t bring people from other countries in to sing about our great nation. No, they chose Americans. Our friends and neighbors that make up our diverse land. And they tried to show you the beauty that exists in that. And why are we surprised that they did this? One of the most memorable ads from my childhood is the one that Coke did in the 70s using the song, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.” Remember that one?
Here’s a portion of the lyrics:
I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.
I’d like to hold it in my arms, and keep it company
I’d like to see the world for once all standing hand in hand.
And hear them echo through the hills for peace throughout the land.
Man. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Coke has always stuck to the theme that America is beautiful. And it’s the diversity that makes it so. We are supposed to pride ourselves in our acceptance of every walk of life. Of not forcing one religion or one life path onto the millions of people who grace our land. [Take a look at some of the other third world countries for a second if you’ve forgotten how blessed you are to live here.] So, with the controversy that has sprung from this one commercial, what are we telling other countries? What message are we sending to them? And even more importantly, what message are we sending to ourselves? To our children?
Again, like I said, I’m not saying anything that I’m sure hasn’t already been said. I’m not changing the world and I’m most likely not changing any minds. Unfortunately, when I type the last word on this blog and click ‘publish,’ the world will continue on as it was before…there will still be hatred, bigotry, exclusion, and hypocrisy. I simply cannot change that.
But you know what else is going to happen after I click ‘publish’?
I am going to wrap up my work day, and then I’m headed to pick up the biggest variety of kids you’ve ever seen. Boys, girls, scholars, goofballs, white, black, geeks, jocks…you name it, I’m getting them. And I’m transporting them all to my house for my daughter’s 14th birthday party sleepover. We are going to eat pizza and cupcakes and watch movies and laugh until late into the night. We’re going to sing Happy Birthday at midnight to my baby as she turns 14 (in whatever language the kids want to sing it in). For this one night among all of the others, we are all going to come together for one purpose – to have fun celebrating a unique, talented, open-minded little teenager’s birthday. And then tomorrow, we’re all going to go back to our separate lives. Our separate family units, our separate religions, our separate homes.
No, I cannot change the world. I know that. But tomorrow as I say goodbye to this wide variety of my daughter’s friends as they return to their varied lives, I can bask in the glow of knowing that I have impacted and influenced one small part of the world. I have raised a beautiful daughter who knows no bounds in the love she feels for those around her. There are no exclusions when it comes to being her friend. The more different you are, so much the better. I have a raised a daughter that knows to look beyond outward differences, and dig a little deeper to see the heart that lies inside.
For this, I am proud. And for this, I will continue to voice my stance on the importance of unity amid diversity. Because I know, in the deepest part of my being, that at least one person is listening.
“Even if unity of faith is not possible, a unity of love is.”
– Hans Urs von Balthasar