Coca cola serves up the Real Thing: diversity and tolerance

This morning I had one of those “aha!” moments. It was more of an “okay, okay” moment if I am being honest, but it hit me as abruptly as an “Ow!” You know the kind, when you are sitting there minding your own business and, without seeing it coming, “THWAP!” goes the sound of a Nerf football hitting you up-side the head. It is not one of your finer moments as your hair flies everywhere from impact and your face contorts into something unrecognizable. Then clarity and anger ensue when you look up to see your brother rolling on the ground, laughing hysterically at you. That’s the one.

That moment hit me this morning. I was in a bit of a snit after reading a couple of Facebook posts about the Coca Cola commercial played during last night’s Super Bowl. The ad is bold and inspirational. It is a colorful montage of video clips of people of many different ethnicities, religions, ages and backgrounds. It shows images of different things such as: a cowboy on his horse in the mountains, kids eating popcorn in the movie theater, a large group of family and friends in a restaurant, kids and adults street dancing, a family camping out in the desert, a wise old man laughing, a young girl rollerskating with two men (presumably her dads), women buying vendor food in a city, friends surfing together, and so on. It shows people living life with their friends and loved ones.

If you haven’t seen the commercial, here it is in all its beauty.

http://www.hulu.com/adzone/591363

It can appear at first to be a portrayal of people from all around the world, but it is set to the music of “America the Beautiful” sung in different languages and the background scenes are places in the good ol’ USA. One quickly realizes it is a depiction of the rich diversity of our own country. It closes with the text, “America is beautiful.” I found it to be an intelligent and artful way to honor what and who make up this great country. After I saw it I thought, “Well done, Coca Cola.”

And then I went on Facebook. Between the many posts about the demise of the Broncos and Peyton Manning, there were some posts calling for the boycott of Coca Cola products. What? To my dismay, I realized that some people were offended by the commercial and its portrayal of America. I was truly shocked. Then I was disappointed. Then I was angry. I could not believe that people I knew – people with whom I was friends, at least on Facebook – could be so narrow-minded. It was unbelievable to me that anyone could find it offensive that our country is made up of people from all around the world. I mean, that has been a fact of this country for centuries.

As well as the Native Americans originally here on this land, this country was founded by people who came from all corners of the world. Like me, the folks disgusted by Coca Cola’s message are descendants of people who came to America from other countries. Confused by what they think would be accomplished by boycotting Coca Cola, I thought, “Angry, ignorant hypocrites.” Perhaps they think, “If I stop buying Coca Cola products we can keep our country more white.” Well, that’s just ridiculous. Even more perplexing is the notion that diversity hurts our nation. I am white. Diversity damages my life, my liberty and my pursuit of happiness no more than same-sex couples getting married affects my marriage. Again, ridiculous.

I considered “unfriending” these friends because our views are so disparate, so opposite, I could not bear to be aligned with them in any way. Then the proverbial Nerf football hit me. “Ow. Aha. Okay, okay.” I was the one acting like an angry, ignorant hypocrite now. I was ready to champion diversity except when it came to people having diverse views about diversity. You can’t get much more hypocritical than that. I realized that I could hardly choose to shut out someone else’s beliefs just because I did not agree with them. How would I learn and appreciate different perspectives if I only keep in my circle of friends the ones with the exact same views as mine? What good does that do me? None. None at all.

I love diversity. I really do. I believe that one’s tolerance grows out of appreciation for differences. Tolerance is an invaluable life tool. I give myself the opportunity to become more enriched in life because I appreciate differences. That is my choice. It doesn’t have to be everyone’s. But if I make that choice for myself, for it to really ring true and teach me tolerance, I must also appreciate the differences I may not like. Not just the ones I do. So, no “unfriending” for me based on differences in opinions and views. Keep them coming, teach me tolerance and enrich my life. Thank you.