The Starbucks cup controversy probes common conceptions of religious freedom and tolerance
By LESLIE MUIR
People are mad that beloved Starbucks, a bastion of coffee capitalism for the hipster crowd, took all Christmas designs off of their holiday cups. Each year the trendy coffee chain releases a festive holiday cup design that usually includes a greeting and a jumble of images which all vaguely invoke holiday spirit. This year the corporation has literally wiped the slate clean of all baubles and bangles. Instead they have unrolled a line of minimalist red cups dressed solely in the one color, still garnished with the familiar green logo. Many self-proclaimed “lovers of Christmas” and Christian advocates have taken to social media to state their dismay at what they see as Starbucks taking Christmas out of stores.
This argument (although not before made at Starbucks specifically) harkens back to Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck and Fox News’s “War on Christmas” in which these three rallied the support of some American Christians to believe that the removal of Christmas specific decorations from public places was a subsequent afront on Christianity. (Glenn Beck sees the communist flag and the blood-red eyes of Satan staring back at him from his red cup of double-whip peppermint mocha.)
The purposeful red and green-logo scheme is a direct showing of Christmas colors, but according to many social media posts, this gesture isn’t enough. By not putting elves on our coffee mugs or putting up Redwood-sized trees in our airports, are we as Americans really putting Christmas under attack?
Putting aside the age old reasoning that not all humans on this planet prescribe to one faith and that choosing one winter-time religious practice to decorate the town with isn’t very fair or welcoming to people of all faiths, let’s dive into semantics.
Should corporations deck the halls? Holiday cheer is always a great thing, so long as it doesn’t infringe on other’s religious practices or lack thereof. Some symbols are commonly recognized as just being about enjoying the winter months (such as snowflakes, frolicking woodland creatures, more snowflakes), and businesses should go to town decorating their wares with these images and hawking them to us all in the guise of selling holiday spirit. Since it’s also the Christian spirit to be accepting of others and kind to all, it should be no problem to accept these all-inclusive winter designs that offend no one and appeal only to cheer. Besides, what could be more American than exploiting the festive season for extra profit on all holiday themed goods?
Therefore, accepting the Starbucks cup and all of its flat, red spirit is part of living in America today. The fact that the cup is entirely devoid of all aforementioned symbols or baubles or anything of interest at all is more of a design problem than a communist-takeover statement. This year’s design doesn’t so much say, “Enjoy the Season” or “Happy Holidays,” so much as it blandly states, “Holiday” and nothing else. We should all be thankful Starbuck’s didn’t choose to go with an even more neutral all-blue cup, which could have proclaimed loudly to the world, “Winter,” which in these times might have also been a controversial statement to make.