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Coke ad puts me off, but not for any reason stated so far

February 4, 2014
By PAUL GIANNAMORE - Blogger ( , The Herald-Star

Go ahead and put me down in the column of people who were not really comfortable with the Coke ad featuring "America the Beautiful" sung in a bunch of different languages, but keep your labels to yourself. I don't fit 'em.

I'm not entirely sure why it bothered me at all, and by bothered, I just mean a little out of kilter.

Racists spouting filth against the ad actually make me really, really want to just say I love that ad. Except I don't. But that doesn't make me in agreement in any way with those who think that being an American has something to do with being part of some kind of whites-only, English-speaking master race that loves the NSA, hates Obama for his race and thinks anyone who isn't like them is some kind of commie who would undermine the USA, God bless it.

Those who label any sentiment against the ad as a failure to understand multiculturalism or the melting pot don't capture my sentiment, either. And they are succumbing to the labeling they accuse the right of using.

First off, look at my last name. Consider a couple generations down the family tree there were branches linking across the Atlantic from Abruzzo, a beautiful region of central Italy, from shorefront Pescara to the mountainous Pettorano sul Gizio. I know that this newspaper, a few generations ago, wrote about the "crazy Dagos" in the South End and now they pay me.

About all that I truly know that was lost over the years is the speaking of really, really good Italian around the house, largely because my parents' generation used it as secret code to keep us kids from having to leave the room when they wanted to talk about us. Oh, and that Weirton Steel turned my father's beautiful first name "Enrico" into the Americanized "Henry" when he went to work there in the 1940s, like some kind of Ellis Island with blast furnaces. Except it fed the family, bought a really nice ranch house out in the West End and put three kids through college debt free, so who's complaining?

So, do not tell me I don't believe in a melting pot.

Some say if you hate the ad, you must be a big conservative pundit fan, except I don't agree with divisiveness spread by ideologues.

I have watched and respected Muslim families at rest stops on our Interstate system as they say their prayers during the appointed times of day and felt at that moment ashamed of all the times that I used to be too cowardly to make the sign of the cross in a restaurant. I believe learning about other cultures helps us be stronger human beings, more capable of recognizing that which links us, instead of focusing on that which divides us.

And I know that Coke is sold virtually everywhere and can be something which unites humanity...who doesn't love a good cola?

Still, there is this sense of disturbance. Maybe hearing it in other languages shocked that part of me that still wells up a little during the national anthem, regardless of all the times I've criticized our government. I know it's the greatest nation on earth because it lets me be a pundit.

I've chalked my disturbance up to this:

One: It's another sign of rapid change, another sign that the "Leave It to Beaver" life I had as a kid out there in the West End is dead. It's another sign of being a past-middle-aged American (unless I am living to be 102, and who wants to do that?) trying to figure out a rapidly shifting cultural landscape.

Two: It seemed a little stick-in-the-eye to sing "America the Beautiful" in foreign tongues when our men and women are not quite home from a 13-year-old war yet. Maybe in 1987 it wouldn't have bothered me at all. I don't know. I don't know if it would have bothered Americans to hear the song in Japanese or German in 1946. Besides, they didn't have that ad in 1987. Or 1946.

And I still like the whole "I'd Like to Buy the World A Coke" song.

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