On Super Bowl Sunday, in between watching my infant baby girl and eating some leftover arroz con pollo, I watched Patriotism make a comeback. (Alright, that’s a funky way of saying I had a low-key dad-life sober Super Bowl party, where I witnessed a crazy come-from-behind victory by a team whose very name speaks to our eroding freedoms and rising fascism here in the good ol’ US of A. The Patriots.)
Who’s a Patriot and what is Patriotism’s role in a decaying empire? From Tom Brady’s MAGA hat, to Bill Belichick’s and Robert Kraft’s Trumpian donations, to the Hamilton ladies reppin’ for the sistas during America the Beautiful, to Lady Gaga’s not-quite-subversive-enough rendition of “This Land is Your Land,” to the white-bread conservative Patriots stealing the electoral vote from the multicultural liberal Falcons, Super Bowl LI had all the juicy political subplots barely buried beneath the surface of what was actually an exciting game of gringo football.
But you can’t be a Patriot without buying some good ol’ American-made products.
So the million-dollar advertisements in between downs made sure to drive home the Patriotic messages the game and its halftime show couldn’t.
Coca-Cola reheated its Kumbaya for KillerCoke lukewarming ad of multicultural representation, which initially debuted to controversy three years ago during Super XLVIII. But new commercials by Budweiser and 84 Lumber tackling the issue of immigration stole the show of what is Gringolandia’s biggest annual orgy of Edward Bernays’ agitprop sandwiched inside a Super Big Mac of gladiator violence. These two commercials’ seemingly pro-immigrant imagery hid a more sinister message of Trumpian fascism and celebration of white nationalist capitalism.
“You don’t look like you’re from around here.”
That’s how the Budweiser ad starts, depicting the story of the German immigrant founder of the all-American beer. Except for this: the dude really does look like he belongs here today, right in gentrifying Brooklyn. This is not the brown immigrant, the “bad hombre.” This is the entrepreneurial, hard-nosed, hard-working, fair-skinned immigrant who eventually assimilates into white capitalist America until he “looks like he belongs here.” And indeed most Patriots would tell you Budweiser “belongs here” more than say, a Corona.
84 Lumber’s commercial depicts an indigenous mother and daughter’s harrowing trek through deserts, rivers and storms to reach the U.S.-Mexico border. The construction industry leader manufactured some controversy by including a cliffhanger in the aired ad, directing viewers to “finish the journey” and watch the ending online, claiming Fox refused to air the original full cut.
The supposedly censored ending shows the mother and daughter arriving at a soaring, un-scalable, Israeli-like border wall, at which point the daughter presents her mother with a ragged U.S. flag she crafted from scrap materials during the journey. The mother cries as they then discover a heavenly door in the massive border wall, which has been built under the leadership of a blond-haired, blue-eyed lumber foreman. He has the tools and the know-how to save these poor brown immigrants, plus it’s implied he got the keys to that magic door and can let you in as long as you’re patriotic, submissive, hard-working, and have the “will to succeed.”
Peep what the owner of 84 Lumber, Maggie Hardy Magerko, had to say about the commercial:
“Even President Trump has said there should be a ‘big beautiful door in the wall so that people can come into this country legally.’ It’s not about the wall. It’s about the door in the wall. If people are willing to work hard and make this country better, that door should be open to them.”
Or a recent Facebook response by 84 Lumber to a complaining customer:
“Hi Thomas, we do not condone illegal immigration. The spot shines a light on commitment and dedication symbolizing for the struggles [sic] we all face. And sometimes, all it takes is one door to open to change our entire world.”
Does that sound “pro-immigrant?” Is this really a “No Ban, No Wall!” battle cry from a company “taking a stand for what they believe in?” Hell naw. This duplicitous, doublespeak, Bannonesque messaging manages to normalize a border wall that is to come (promoting it even). It cements the narrative of the good vs. bad immigrant, where Trump’s dictatorial state power determines who’s good and who’s bad, whose “hard-working will” serves the needs of transnational capital and thus have those golden gates opened to them by the white man savior.
Either this is low-key intentional fascist propaganda or some soaring white liberal rhetoric taken so far that it came back full circle to become reflective of white supremacist fascist ideology. Either way, both these commercials amount to Trumpian propaganda for a decaying empire—one planning to resurrect itself by undergoing a massive infrastructure investment while simultaneously imposing austerity on masses of poor and working people. These seemingly pro-immigrant images are actually geared toward solidifying Trump’s base since he will require massive buy-in from loyal white workers in this effort to reorganize and adapt U.S. capital to a new multipolar world. Trump and his cronies need Patriotism to make a comeback, even if it’s gay, even if it’s a little brown or black, even if it includes women, as long as that Patriotism is employed to save a dying petrodollar and Make America Great Again.