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The un-American Super Bowl

It was shocking and surprising to hear the outrage over the multi-lingual rendition of America the Beautiful

I am not an American, and thank God and Her Majesty the Queen, I am proud of it! But in the past four years of living here in the great USA, I have assimilated into the culture of ‘American patriotism’. I am a proud traditionalist when it comes to American festivities, we turkey it up on Thanksgiving, we grill on July 4th, we stand in solemnity on Memorial Day and we proudly thank our friends who serve in the American armed forces on Veteran’s Day, and on Super Bowl Sunday I sit in front of the television and watch a game of children’s rugby (aka American Football).

All of the aforementioned days, sans the last, can be paralleled to a Jewish thought or time. Independence day can match Passover or Yom Haatzamaut, Thanksgiving anytime in which Hallel is recited, veterans and memorial day peers well with Yom Hazikaron as well as the general Jewish idea of hakarat hatov (bestowing thanks and gratitude). Why is that the Super Bowl, a time where more than one hundred and eleven million people are watching the TV, where millions are spent on thirty second advertisement slots, are people so unwilling to engage with topics of moral thought.

There were humorous advertisements such Volkswagen and M&M’s, some that sparked political rows such as Soda Stream’s partnership with Scarlett Johansson, and then there were beautiful short films that aimed at touching people’s hearts like the Budweiser team of advertisements like puppy love, and welcome home soldier, the latter was also a guest at the Superbowl, a small token of appreciation for a sacrifice beyond words. But then comes along Coca Cola, one of the world’s most recognizable brand, that provides a striking montage of the melting pot that is America, singing America the Beautiful, and suddenly there is national outrage.


Twitter and comment sections on various blogs and news sites around the country went wild. Comments such as “Nice to see that coke likes to sing an AMERICAN song in the terrorist’s language. Way to go coke. You can leave America” or “Dear Coke commercial…. DO NOT sing my Country’s song of Freedom in a different language. ????”. How about a Minnesota church that wrote, according to CBS news, “Today we are throwing away all our Coca-Cola products and replacing them with Faygo. Faygo represents Christian Values and follows the Constitution. Mexicans singing the National Anthem is an abomination.” The criticisms were not only spewed out from political conservatives from the Midwest, unfortunately on my own Facebook newsfeed, peers from across the religious and political spectrum found the advertisement distasteful and un-American.

It is this last point that I do not understand. To me, the foreigner, this advertisement was the dictionary definition of American; a tale of beautiful multiculturalism, living in a country that protects and advances the rights of so many. Yes it was an American song, yes it evokes pride in this country, and yes it is originally sung in English. But it was still an American song, perhaps even more so, the images and music should have evoked pride in this country, and there is no national language of this country so why is there so much concern of it not being sung in English.

It is here, in this saga, of this Super Bowl, that has shown me truly what sets this climax of American sports apart from our Jewish values, an unfortunate dark side of America which spans across both religious and political spectrums. Where sports could be a perfect time for ideology and human acceptance, kindness and positive social action, in a way that reminisces of certain Olympic heartwarming stories, the reality is that this spectacle of bravado and ego, fireworks, pop and gross expenditure is nothing but that; a spectacle. And the unfortunate truth is that American’s do not care, they do not want anything more than that; this is a sacred space where for four hours the realities of the world; the poverty, the troubles, and true face of this country should not discussed. And if it is, it is blasted as un-American.

This cannot be what the Super Bowl is about? This cannot be how American’s react? This cannot be acceptable?

Perhaps we need to analyze and reassess our priorities, understand that this stage is an opportunity for our collective engagement in the betterment of this country and her people. Perhaps we can hold a repeat game and maybe get it right. I’m sure the Broncos will agree to give it another go.

About the Author
Originally from Auckland New Zealand, much of Alon's time over the past ten years has been for the growth and development of community. Alon has an MA in Sociology from the University of Auckland, and is a graduate of Yeshiva University's Semicha program. He is the Rabbi of the ACT Jewish Community in Canberra, Australia. Alon also holds a degree in Medieval Jewish History.