On the evening of Sunday, February 5, 2017 my friends and I were watching Super Bowl LI when a commercial aired that summarized what we had been feeling for several years now. Politics somehow always finds a way to weave itself into the fabric of popular culture, entertainment and sports. Super Bowl LI was no exception. My friends and I had been devout supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders and later former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election and to us, Donald Trump represented (and to a degree still does) a vile, xenophobic, bigoted and blatantly-unqualified rapist who had/has no business serving as the Head of State. We sneered when the cameras revealed Vice President Mike Pence in attendance of the game and we applauded the opening coin toss made my former P.O.T.U.S. George H.W. Bush because to our pleasant surprise, even a lifelong conservative such as Bush was opposed to a Trump presidency. Then this commercial appeared in which a Hispanic mother and daughter were seen making a long trek from village to village. To me, it was implied that these were central Americans who were making the dangerous northward trek to the United States in search of better working opportunities.
My own grandparents trekked from their tiny village in central Mexico to northern Mexico and then eventually made their way into the United States working in the western and mid-western states while the U.S. faced a labor shortage during World War II. I began to empathize with this mother and daughter duo as they waded rivers, hopped on moving trains and begged for water from other migrants as they crossed a scorching desert only to find a giant wall erected, blocking their path to what could have been a better life. The mother breaks down in tears as she realizes the futility of her journey to salvation but the daughter consoles her by showing her a makeshift American the daughter had constructed using scraps of cloth she collected during the long trip. Then the mother and daughter discover that this menacing concrete wall contains a pair of wooden doors that the two protagonists push through to make their way into the United States. The advertisement ended with the appearance of the logo of 84 Lumber (a construction company I had never even heard of until now) and a tagline that reads “The will to succeed is always welcome here.”
There’s no doubt in my mind that this tear-jerker of a commercial was meant as both satire and resistance to the campaign promise of Trump to build a giant wall along the southern border of the United States and to deport millions of Hispanics who immigrated to this country without documentation. Even now as I am typing this blog post just a day later, this commercial has split our already-divided nation yet again and it is redundant of the same national debate we have been having for quite some time now in the United States. Those who sit on the right wing claim this commercial is glorifying the act of “illegal” immigration whereas those on the left applaud the 84 Lumber advertisement for reminding Americans that our nation was built on immigration and that there is no justice in discriminating against those who risk everything (especially their lives) crossing international borders in search of the labor that is needed to make a better future for their children possible.
I confess that I am strongly liberal, but I feel I can almost objectively say that it is wrong for Trump and Pence to hinder the entry of Hispanics (and now Muslims) into the United States for a plethora of reasons. I also believe that those who are enraged by this advertisement and taking action against 84 Lumber lack the rhetorical and moral high ground to do so. First of all, this nation was founded by “illegal” English immigrants who annihilated countless Native American tribes to form the 50 United States so there’s a hypocrisy to Trump’s rhetoric. Second, Budweiser aired an advertisement that featured a similar message of inclusiveness and tolerance but it focused on a German immigrant’s story and therefore was not nearly as vilified by the public as opposed to the story of the Hispanic mother and daughter. And lastly, 84 Lumber has already won. This company used pure pathos to highlight the fact that the American construction industry (which we know is already being dominated by Hispanic Americans) cannot thrive unless it is willing to unite hardworking blue-collar men and women of all colors and creeds. Their business is skyrocketing as we speak and it is because they had the courage to write, produce and air this disturbingly relevant but ultimately beautiful commercial.
The American people, now more than ever, need to be reminded that this is a nation that must, should and needs to reward the tireless labor of immigrants no matter what languages they speak, no matter what religions they practice and no matter the means by which they make it to the United States from their native countries. Trump, Pence and their millions of avid supporters need to realize that America is “great” because of its diversity and inclusiveness and not in spite of it-a lesson made clear by 84 Lumber in what seems to be the first of many marketing campaigns that carry strong political and moral messages.
Link to 84 Lumber’s Super Bowl LI advertisement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPo2B-vjZ28