I’d like to buy y’all a Coke

Published 11:18 am Thursday, February 13, 2014

Maybe it was the choice of song. Maybe it’s those darn social networking outlets. Maybe it’s just us.

A commercial for Coca-Cola shown during Sunday’s Super Bowl featuring people of various ethnic backgrounds singing “America, the Beautiful” set off a Dumpster fire of criticism on Facebook and Twitter, those newest of ways to express one’s, ahem, feelings.

Granted, it was a typical Super Bowl commercial in that it wasn’t really meant to make you want to buy the product, so to speak. It was meant to entertain you, keep you sitting in the easy chair during the timeouts from football. In this case, the soft drink behemoth featured the patriotic tune for which the lyrics were first written in 1895 by Boston-born author Katharine Lee Bates, who lived with another woman for 25 years and often wrote under the pen name James Lincoln. (Digest that one, haters!)

The song that, in the 1970s, reentered its way into the nation’s consciousness when Ray Charles performed it on “The Dick Cavett Show” was sung beautifully in Coke’s commercial by faces darker than mine and singing voices clear of cobwebs that plague us non-singers. My reaction? Coke’s ad people are getting bored again; I wonder if the Broncos have shown up for the game yet. That’s all.

The Twits on Twitter? I’ve reminded people that the late media critic Marshall McLuhan was on point in 1967 with his book, “The Medium is the Message.” The Twitterati and the (Face)bookie Monsters reminded the world that the avenue given to any random yo-yo out there by social networks to express his or her ignorance is the message here — not Coke, not multiculturalism, not the different languages heard during the 60-second ad.

Voices of displeasure were heard from every random corner of the socioscape, as I call it. A church said on Facebook they were replacing their Coke products with Faygo and that Mexicans singing the “National Anthem” was an “abomination.” Perhaps they slept through the singing of the ACTUAL national anthem at the start of the game and were confused. Others said multiculturalism was turning America “into a slum.” Gotta chuckle at that one, given there’s a lot of folks of Irish, Italian and German descent who, if they could, join me in laughter from the grave as they reminisce about digging the nation’s ditches and building its railroads. Their descendents enjoy freer lives due to that experience and sacrifice.

The last time Coke broke ground with music and commercial imagery was July 1971, when television was reaching a peak of dominance of visual media. “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (in Perfect Harmony)” was performed that year for $250,000 — a measly sum considering the $4 million charged per spot by the TV networks nowadays on Super Sunday. It nodded to hippie culture with the kids sitting in a circle on a hill but conveyed a certain unity the world got used to. It was repackaged for Christmas that year and carried an even stronger subliminal message of unity and hope.

What’s different in 2014 is that technology gives a voice to everyone. Agreement is, by nature, a silent activity. Opposition, on the other hand, is loud and sometimes boisterous. Anger can create a primal need to be heard, hence the Internet!

Coca-Cola, first bottled here in Vicksburg and way too big to bow to a few idiots, will be fine. And the haters will be fine. People who emigrate here in search of a better life usually earn degrees, learn English while preserving a native language and contribute to better society. I’ve had the good fortune of friendship with several who fit that description.

Yes, cases where the opposite is true on those aspects are a huge problem for those of us who’ll sit in front of a computer to do our income taxes this week through April 15. Freeloaders abound and the concept of “community” is lost on many of the 11 million people in the country illegally. I get that.

I just don’t think so much anger, aided by technology, should color our opinion so darkly on the concept of diversity.

Danny Barrett Jr. is the assistant managing editor. He can be reached by email at danny.barrett@vicksburgpost.com.