America Is Beautiful In Every Language

Coke's Super Bowl ad underscores the best things about America.

Pond surrounded by mountains in Vail, Colorado

A lousy political debate has soured people on multi-culturalism.

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The response to Coca-Cola’s Super Bowl ad is nothing less than shocking. The xenophobic comments generated in social media and on the company web site after it ran an ad celebrating the nation’s rich ethnic and cultural diversity are, frankly, an embarrassment to almost everything this country stands for. (For those who haven't seen it, the ad is here.)

Why is it such a big deal to have people representing different population and language groups sing "America the Beautiful" in their native tongue? There are, as a percentage of total population, a very few people who adhere to the abhorrent and unacceptable view that the United States is a country for white people and white people alone. To be blunt, they have their own web sites to talk to one another and probably aren’t logging on to the Coca-Cola site to share their extremist opinions. So what’s going on?

[See a collection of political cartoons on immigration.]

You need not look much farther than Washington for the answer. The media, especially conservative niche publications and web sites, have for some time now been ginning up the story that the Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives is about to sign off on a broad grant of “amnesty” for anyone and perhaps everyone who is currently in the United States illegally. For most people this is an unacceptable way to deal with the issue.

The problem that lawmakers face is that for some segment of the electorate any comprehensive immigration reform that does not lead to illegal immigrants being sent back to their country of origin to apply for resident status through proper channels constitutes amnesty.

It’s a hot button – often expressed by the phrase “What part of illegal don’t you understand?” – which has polarized the debate and thus far caused it to grind to a halt. This, in and of itself, is somewhat bizarre since the status quo is not working for anyone – not the policymakers who have to come up with a new plan, not for the opponents of anything that looks or smells like amnesty, and not for the people who would be directly affected by any change.

The smart thing would be for the Republicans in the House to take the lead on busting up the plan for comprehensive reform and to instead address the major issues one by one, with national and border security being the first thing they take up.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

There is considerable logic in this, given that – as was recently expressed to me – the first thing you do when the bathtub is filled to over-flowing is shut off the water. The seemingly porous border isn’t a problem only because of who comes over it but because of what comes across as well: drugs, firearms, children involved in the international sex trafficking racket, counterfeit apparel and movies, and other goods being moved into the United States illegally by domestic and international criminal cartels. The problems on the border should be addressed before anything else – which would probably make the remaining issues easier to resolve.

Now back to the Coca-Cola ad. The politics of the recent era have left a bad taste in the mouths of many as far as multi-culturalism goes. Too many of its strongest proponents can only manage to talk about it in ways that make the time-tested truths of our common American civilization look bad by comparison. In fact it is the particular way that America is multi-cultural – taking the best of what new immigrants bring to this country and adding it to the best of what others have brought before – that is one of her greatest strengths, a understanding the Coke Super Bowl spot underscores.

America is not just for the Americans – it is for everybody who wants to be an American too. If anyone is at fault it’s the politicians who preach the importance of balkanization and separatism over the need for assimilation and unity.