Merry Christmas – Did That Offend You?

Surely by now you have either seen or heard of Joshua Feuerstein and his famous Starbucks rant blasting the company’s removal of the words Merry Christmas from its seasonal red cups. The video had over 16 MILLION views after only three weeks and has drummed up controversy not only for Starbucks but bringing up the extreme nature of “being politically correct”. Have we as a society gone too far with trying to be politically correct?

The term politically correct (PC) gained traction in the US in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s through a series of articles in the New York Times, with one particular article addressing its use in university teachings.   The term PC was used more with “irony and disapproval than with reverence” and with reference to Stalinist doctrine. Subsequent articles detailed the use of PC-ness to fight against prejudice, sexism, and racism as college campuses became more diverse with a growing number of women and minorities attending. Note again that this occurred in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

To be clear, take a look at the following definitions:

  • Prejudice – an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason
  • Sexism – prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.
  • Racism – the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races

…and to bring us into the Starbucks controversial realm…

  • Religious intolerance – when a group (e.g., a society, religious group, non-religious group) specifically refuses to tolerate practices, persons or beliefs on religious grounds (i.e., intolerance in practice).

All of these have a strong, negative component. While we, as a society still need to continue fighting this negativity, we have come a long way in battling these issues of prejudice since the late ‘80s, when the PC movement began. If you really think about the definition of religious intolerance, is Starbucks now being intolerant of Christians? Before you answer, consider the fact that 71% of the U.S. considers themselves as Christians. The vast majority of the country aligns with some form of Christianity and it is reasonable to assume that they celebrate Christmas in some way.

Is this where we are headed?
Is this where we are headed?

Another point to contemplate is…what is offensive about wishing happiness on someone? Whether it’s Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah or Happy Kwanzaa, does that really fall under the definitions listed above? What’s really the message being conveyed?   Should we be judging whether an act is right or wrong…..or should we look at the intent ? Instead of taking AWAY these expressions or avoiding them completely, why not embrace them?

William Cowper stated that variety is the spice of life. Without spice, food can be bland. I vote for keeping the spice, keeping the variety, and embracing our different choices. Share joy and positivity, and focus on the intent of the person delivering the message.

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