The Super Bowl Coke Ad and Cultural Relativism

What they object to is the idealization of the countries of origin, which inevitably balkanizes the country, and short-circuits the adoption of the American idea by new immigrants.

Those who object to the Coke ad see it in terms of a cultural elite that seems determined to drag the rest of the country along with it down a road of cultural cowardice and American unexceptionalism.  That’s a fair assessment of multiculturalism, but wildly over-interprets the ad.

They also reject the self-evidently false assertion that all cultures are equally valid on their own terms, which brings me to the other, far more objectionable ad of the evening.

Maybe because Axe deodorant isn’t quite yet the international cultural icon that Coca-Cola is, everyone is ignoring their ad, “Make Love, Not War,” that puts U.S. servicemen in Vietnam on the same moral footing as Kim Jong-un and the Iranian mullahs.  You want real cultural relativism, look here.

In case you were fortunate enough to miss it, the ad showed a Kim Jong-un look-alike on a balcony overseeing a military parade, a mullah opening a missile launch device, a Russian tank confronting a woman as though it were Tiananmen Square, and an American helicopter approaching a rice paddy in Vietnam.

Then, at the climactic moment, each uses the tools of war to ludicrously perform a grand romantic gesture: the American jumps out of the helicopter and embraces his Kim; the Russian pops the hatch on his tank and the woman climbs up to plant a kiss on “Mikhael!”; not-quite-Kim Jong-un give the nod, and the assembled masses flip up cards to create a giant valentine to his current main squeeze; and not-quite-Rouhani presses a button to launch a fireworks display, warming the heart of Mrs. Mullah.

Yes, I know, Sting taught us that the NorKos love their children, too.

But it’s not nearly that banal.  It’s the moral equivalence between the average GI Joe, who conducted himself under pressure with compassion for the Vietnamese, and genocidal maniacs who have devoted their lives to the care and feeding of their totalitarian systems.

Remember, the reason we’re supposed to be pleasantly surprised at all these people turning weapons of war into vehicles of love is that the people who are on the receiving end have reason to be surprised.  The girl in the rice paddies seeing a Huey is supposed to feel the same apprehension as the generals on the reviewing stand or the girl facing down the tank.  It’s bad enough that Axe wants to adopt John Kerry’s comparison of the U.S. Army to the Mongol hordes; they’re going further and turning every draftee into the Great Khan himself.

That’s the real dark side, the logical endpoint, of multiculturalism –- if we’re all just as good, then we’re all just as bad.

Whatever Coke is saying, whether it’s that American values have universal appeal or even that Coke is just a worldwide ambassador for America, it’s sweet.

The idea that inside every American is a murderer struggling to get out, isn't.