All it took was a brief dramatized shot of a historical European immigrant to send certain corners of the internet into hysterics during the 2017 Super Bowl. #BoycottBudweiser had started to trend days before the big game, when Budweiser first shared its ad depicting its founder, Adolphus Busch, coming to America to found what would become America's most popular beer.
"You're not wanted here! Go back home!" a mob of onlookers shout in the ad — mirroring threats that scores of Americans have heard in the streets since Donald Trump's election. Budweiser's simple ask, which amounted to little more than "treat human beings the way you'd like to be treated," spiraled out into a divisive flag-plant fit to shake brand loyalty and get the cuck sirens sounding. Because it seems that's all it takes to be political in 2017.
Make a simple ask for peace, patience and compassion, and watch yourself turn into a martyr overnight.
We saw it again and again throughout the Super Bowl broadcast. Brands and stars barely raised their political critiques above a whisper and still saw their messages resound across the internet.
Coca-Cola reran its 2014 ad "America the Beautiful," which shows American families of all ethnicities singing the patriotic song in various languages.
"We believe it's a powerful ad that promotes optimism, inclusion and celebrates humanity — values that are core to Coca-Cola," the company said of the spot. Nothing about Trump, just a simple reminder of the fact this country has no official language and all human families have value. The response: #BoycottCoke.
Even for the more liberal-minded, the most subtle statements of inclusion shone like political knife points. Fans could read deeply into Lady Gaga's simple inflection on her opening salvo "liberty and justice for all," or her choice of notable anti-fascist folk singer Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," a song with a deep protest history.
To many, her 2011 "Born This Way" lyrics also felt more cutting that they ever have: "Whether you're broke or evergreen/ You're black, white, beige, chola descent/ You're Lebanese, you're orient."
Compared to the infamous "This Machine Kills Fascists" sticker Guthrie once wore on his guitar, or, to cite a more recent public example, Kendrick Lamar performing in chains at the Grammys, this Super Bowl was elementary-school level in terms of disruption. Literally, kids learn the golden rule and the histories of America being built by immigrants in elementary school.
And yet in these fraught times, when we're actively struggling to lock down what being an American even means, inclusive rhetoric becomes divisive rhetoric. If nothing else, this fact should provide insight into why we're seeing protesters flood the streets week in and week out in Trump's America. They're trying to get the country to heed the lessons they feel Americans should have learned in their formative days.
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