Tempest in a Coffee Cup

 Tis the season of perpetual outrage.  I wonder at how pleasant and easy must be the lives of most people, given that they are getting angry over the most insignificant of matters.  Starbucks redesigns their cups for the holiday season and some people decide to get mad because the cups are simply plain red, with the green and white Starbuck’s logo, rather than like last years, which was red, with the green and white Starbuck’s logo, but the red part of the cup had faint white snowflakes.  Somehow the lack of snowflakes signifies Starbuck’s hatred of Christmas.  After all, snowflakes play such a prominent role in the nativity narratives in the Bible.

            Come now, let us reason together.  There is an old joke about the Jewish proprietor of a department store who, during December as Christmas approached began singing “What a friend we have in Jesus.”  Businesses love Christmas; that’s why you find Christmas decorations and cards showing up earlier and earlier each year.  I think I saw Christmas trees beginning to appear in Costco back in August.  No corporation would ever do anything to disparage Christmas.  The bulk of their profits each year are derived from the gift-giving Christmas season. 

            There is no war on Christmas, except in the fevered imaginings of those who wish to drum it up in order to drive up clicks on their websites (which will increase their advertising revenue) or television stations seeking higher ratings (which will increase their advertising revenue) or newspapers and magazines trying to boost sagging sales of their publications (which will increase their advertising revenue)…do you start to see the pattern?

            Outrage sells.  It has always been so with the purveyors of news and information.  As the old saying goes, “if it bleeds, it leads.”  You want to get the attention of an audience, show them the gory, the disgusting, the bizarre and anything that will make people mad.  Show pictures of kittens being abused, children having their candy stolen, traditions being upended.  Show tears and disappointment.  Forget about building a better mousetrap.  Just find something that will make people upset and they will beat a path to your door.

            The less real problems that people face, the more they will seek out new outrages and new tempests in a teapot to boldly go where no person would have ever thought to go before.  When people were starving to death, no one much concerned themselves about what “horrors” might lurk in their food.  They just wanted something to fill their bellies so they could stay alive another day.  When people regularly died from smallpox, polio, tuberculosis, cholera and the like, people recognized the modern medicine and vaccines were miraculous lifesavers.  In the age of lynching, segregation, bars to proper education, housing and employment, no one was much concerned about “safe zones” and being protected from “micro-aggressions” or having their feelings or psyche damaged because a college professor decided to talk about unpleasant topics from history or assign books written by a dead white man, clearly by so doing intending to disparage people of color and make them feel unimportant.  Owners of corporations, CEOs, college presidents and others who happen to say something that someone, somewhere thinks is offensive means that the speaker of the inappropriate must be punished and forced to resign. Any sign, bit of art, clothing, or symbology that could, if squinted at a certain way be construed as offensive by someone must immediately be removed and banned. No apology is ever enough and simply further proves how oblivious and thoughtless the offenders must be.

            Why do people focus so much attention on such increasingly tiny annoyances? Because the big things for the most part are no longer a problem.  And the big problems that exist do not admit of easy solutions.  Showing outrage over a coffee cup is much easier and cheaper than spending time working at a homeless shelter, or adopting a kid from foster care, or volunteering at your church or synagogue.  Reposting memes on Facebook takes so much less effort than doing a half-minute’s search on Google to see if it’s even true.  Clearly if the meme confirms my personal beliefs, offends my personal beliefs, lays bare the evil of my opponents, then it is an eternal truth and all must know my outrage.  Then I have stood up for what is good and proper and that means that I’m good and proper and I’ve accomplished something that will further the proper respect for my people and my way of life. Frankly, it reminds me of allergies. In a world of extreme hygiene, our immune systems begin reacting against the pollen that shouldn’t bother us in the least.

            If the world, if America, were really the horror that people imagine it to be, they wouldn’t have the time or interest in being angry about coffee cups, the latest tweet by a celebrity, or other wrong-think.