Did we forget we taught the world to sing?
BY NEGIN HOSSEINI-GOODRICH February 7, 2014 11:44AM
Updated: March 10, 2014 6:13AM
A day after the Super Bowl, I signed into social media to encounter, surprisingly, thousands of messages circulating about how anti-American Coca-Cola’s Super Bowl ad was. Curious, I searched YouTube to watch the commercial. Honestly, what I found in that 60-second advertisement, compared to all I had seen in Hollywood movies representing the United States, seemed more congruous with the real face of America.
I came to the States as a visiting scholar in 2010. It did not take more than a couple of days to find out that the real America was unbelievably different than what I had expected. In fact, its significant feature was the diversity of the American society. Watching and occasionally speaking to many immigrants, including Mexicans, Arabs, Chinese, Indians and even Europeans, gave me new impression of a society in which minorities, with their heavy accents, were neither terrorists nor dumb subjects to make fun of —which is how Hollywood routinely portrays non-American populations.
The more I explored, the clearer I could see the new, or the “true” face of the American society, which the American movies has kept hidden not only from the people all around the world, but also from their American audience.
Surfing on social media, I found some comments against the Coca-Cola ad so unrealistic that those commentators seemed to be either living in another country or talking about the America that can be found only in the screenplays.
As a journalist, I have traveled almost all around the world, from Seoul to Istanbul, from Tehran to Paris, from Barcelona to Dubai. I have heard the American songs and music in their malls, small shops, local offices, and public places. I have seen millions of people in the other countries welcoming American music, art, and movies in their homelands. This is not only a result of the Western cultural imperialism which has conquered the other nations’ hearts, or because of fascination of American culture, but a sign of reception and permissiveness of non-Americans as well. I have seen millions of people enjoying English-language songs without understanding even one word. I have encountered Spanish people having fun with Persian music. I have talked to Korean women admiring Arabic art. This is how the world embraces its cultural differences: by letting the other communities represent themselves, showing tolerance and accepting them. Still, it is about the societies which are mostly monoculture, restricted to their native nationalities.
A multicultural society like the USA needs to get the benefits of its members’ tolerance, not only because both Americans and non-Americans have textured the entire warp and woof of this society, but also because of the historic fact that “a native” American is only an American Indian or even a Mexican. In other words, majority of American people are also immigrants if they just ask their parents or grandparents.
Now, a one-minute multilingual commercial has ignited the rage of some Americans whose comments sound like they have no knowledge about their own history. They insist on being “the native Americans” as if they have never heard of the American Indians. They disrespect the Mexicans as if they know nothing about the invasion of Mexico by the Americans in the late 1840s.
Nevertheless, I know the recent dispute about the Coca-Cola ad does not reflect the views of all American people. A number of my friends living in other countries sometimes complain about the prejudiced or racist reactions of their hosts, and all the time, I have boasted proudly that, instead, how friendly, kind and welcoming the Americans are. I have bragged about a society which is open and warm to anybody from any nationality. I have discussed that this is the key to American success: to embrace all diversities, giving them chances to improve both personally and socially. I am sure that I was not wrong.
And finally, guess who the ultimate winner of the recent arguments is? Coca-Cola, I guess, who paid only for 60 seconds but has been on the air constantly for at least two days and beyond.
Negin Hosseini-Goodrich is a journalist and author from Iran. She has been working for the Farsi media, including Ettela’at newspaper, in Tehran for more than 15 years. Negin met her U.S.-born husband-to-be after coming to the United States in 2010 to work on her Ph.D. in communications; they live in Northwest Indiana.