America the Beautiful

If you watched the Super Bowl or are regularly on social media, you probably have seen this commercial by now:

I saw it when it originally aired during the Super Bowl and my first thought was “Wow! What a great representation of why America is an amazing country.”  It showed how people can come together from all different countries, ethnicities, races, upbringings, languages, etc. and find a mutual interest (even if it’s something as trivial as a Coke).

What never went through my mind nor would I have ever expected was how negative people would react to the commercial.  When this popped up on my Facebook newsfeed yesterday, I was shocked: http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/coca-colas-multi-lingual-super-bowl-ad-inspired-a-racist-mel.

Maybe I am naive, but I cannot believe that in this day in age, people (especially my generation) still think this way.

The comments about how we should be speaking American were just plain dumb.  In case you were wondering, “American” is not a language.  English is.  American English is a dialect of English.  And English developed from Latin, as did Italian, Spanish, French and a few others.  In comparison to how long some other languages have been around, English is relatively new (originating around the 8th or 9th century A.D.).  And English is definitely not the original language that was spoken in America.  But I digress…

What bothered me even more, however, was the underlying notion in these comments that in order to be an American, you must shed all of your heritage and culture.  Then, you must conform to this standard of being “American.”  But what exactly does it mean to be American, anyway?

In the Declaration of Independence, these words were penned: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

To me, being an American means that we believe these words. Being an American means believing in freedom of religion and speech.  Being an American means that there is diversity and that there is a lot to learn from that diversity.

To me, it doesn’t mean losing who you are, your heritage, or your beliefs.

I am half-Greek.  My dad’s great (thank you, Mom, for catching that!) grandparents were the first of his family to immigrate to America.  I take pride in my Greek heritage and enjoy learning about that culture.  I LOVE Greek food and hope to one day visit there.  The other 50% of my heritage is a combination of English, Welsh, German, and maybe a few others (my mom’s side of the family is much more of a blend as they immigrated much earlier than my dad’s side).

I am also 100% American. I love America, I love what this country stands for, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

I think we have forgotten what it means to be American, and now more than ever, we need a reminder.  A reminder that America is a beautiful variety of cultures, languages, and beliefs.

O beautiful for spacious skies, 
For amber waves of grain, 
For purple mountain majesties 
Above the fruited plain! 
America! America! 
God shed his grace on thee 
And crown thy good with brotherhood 
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for glory-tale 
Of liberating strife 
When once and twice, 
for man’s avail 
Men lavished precious life! 
America! America! 
God shed his grace on thee 
Till selfish gain no longer stain 
The banner of the free! 

(America the Beautiful by Katharine Lee Bates, as found on scoutsongs.com)

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