Monday, February 06, 2017

It is about family.

We survived another weekend!

I don't mean politically. I mean Super Bowl Sunday.

I watch the game, but mostly I hang around for 5 hours watching the commercials. This year, I had 1 all around favorite, 3 favorite funnies, and 1 that I want to speak more deeply about.

My favorite all around commercial was the Guardians of the Galaxy 2 trailer. I'm a geek and GotG was one of my favorite teams and comics from my early days. The movies have not been faithful to the original storyline (or even the second volume of stories). But the first movie was a lot of fun. I am hoping the trailer is proof that the second movie will be just as fun.

My 3 favorite funnies were

- the Melissa McCarthy Hero commercials. She attempts to become an environmental activist, trying to be an "eco-warrior" saving whales and trees and polar ice caps, and such. It is full of physical comedy. And being raised with the Three Stooges in the background of my youth, well this was a sure hit for me.

- the Terry Bradshaw Stain commercial. It had a long setup and played out over a length of time ending with Jeffrey Tambor playing against the hyper, sportball guy type that Bradshaw is. It was more the delivery of everything than just lines of jokes.

- The Cam Newton fill in commercial. Again, physical comedy was a big part of what had me laughing out loud through the whole thing.

There were some very poignant commercials that stood out for the power of their message. In the climate of disagreement and cultural unrest we are experiencing now, some were equal parts hopeful and catalysts for anger. One such commercial is sticking with me. I would love to say that the AirBnB #WeAccept commercial or the Audi commerical about equal pay/worth for women were the most powerful for me. They did stand out in their message as timely and bringing attention to the cultural ills they address. But the one that really has me pondering in heart and mind was a beer commercial.

Anheuser-Busch released their commercial early through YouTube. It was a simplified portrayal of co-founder Adolphus Busch's journey to America. The trials and travails that are depicted in the commercial may not be accurate. The level of disdain that German immigrants experienced may not have been as intense as shown. But it wasn't the details or plight of the immigrant that hit home for me.

It was about family.

I have been doing some research into my dad's family. It led me down a few lines of possibilities. But the combination of facts that I have found and the anecdotal stories that are retained with my family were intertwined in this commercial. It wasn't a perfect match. Based on what I have been told and what I have researched, this commercial was more personal for me.

I believe I had an ancestor, Adam Bergmann, who lived in southern Germany near the city of Frankfurt. Specifically it seems around the town of Hofheim. Based on anecdotal memories of family, it is possible he was a beer maker. This is something I cannot confirm. There is a Bergmann Brauerei in Dortmund, Germany but I do not know of any relation.

As near as I can tell, Adam Bergmann was married and had multiple children. My research has 11 children born to Adam and Anna Maria. In the 1840's and '50's, Germany was undergoing a lot of instability and difficulty. Adam left Germany with most of the children and came to America. I have not been able to confirm this with absolute certainty, but based on birth records, the family arrived in New York and moved through Wisconsin before, mostly, settling in the region of Missouri and Kansas. In particular, my direct line of family took up residence in Leavenworth, Kansas around the late 1850's.

That story of my family's immigration has been near to my heart. I treasure finding out where my heritage lies. And the stories I have uncovered have been enlightening. And that is why the commercial moved me so much.

I understand that the commercial has set off a debate in the social media arena. Some are claiming that it is derogatory toward...something. There is no reason to  hide that "established" Americans have been anti-immigrant throughout the history of this nation. The Catholics were hated by the Protestants. The Anglicans were hated by patriots and revolutionaries. The Irish were despised by many people who were 2nd or 3rd generation American from European immigrants. The Germans, who came over en masse at about the same time as the Irish, fared somewhat better than their northern European seekers. The Chinese were relegated to just above slave status. When World War I arrived, Germans were no longer accepted with open arms. In between the World Wars, the Japanese began to arrive and settle in, and then Pearl Harbor and Executive Order 9066 occurred. Throughout the first half of the 20th Century, Russians and other Eastern Europeans were suspect of being "Bolsheviks" or "Communists". In the later parts of the 20th Century, Southeastern Asians were unacceptable in many communities. Mexican and Latin Americans have been the focus for much of the first decade of the 21st Century. But now, groups from African nations and the Middle East are the target of open hostility to their movement here. The great irony in all of this is the fact that all European immigration came at the expense of the nations of Indians who lost more and more of their identity over time. The great nation of the United States of America was established on the displacement of the indigenous people by refugees and immigrants, who then made it their crusade to eradicate the culture of those who inhabited the land before them.

In writing this, I am not trying to raise a flag on either side of the debate that has arisen. If I were, it would on the side of historical accuracy to the anti-immigration attitude American's continually exhibit. Instead, I am trying to express that this commercial means something. This commercial represents a lot of stuff. It is not just an advertisement for beer. It sends a message. For me, the message is simple but heartfelt: it is about family.