Attention Hogs, the Easily Offended, and Red Cups

In scrolling through my Facebook page, I have come across four posts in the last hour that say:

“Let me see if I get this straight; you’re upset because Starbucks is selling red cups without snowflakes and you call this a “War on Christmas”?  Let me tell you what a real war on Christmas looks like: it looks like hunger, poverty, homelessness, and bigotry.  Now leave the cups alone and fight those battles.”

…which is a nice sentiment, I suppose, but I had no idea what they were talking about, other than, if it involved Starbucks and red cups, it couldn’t be that important.  So I looked it up.  And I was right.  It wasn’t actually that important.  Some evangelist with more righteousness than good sense decided that Christmas is exclusively a Christian holiday, despite pagan roots and commercial traditions, and that Starbucks was being stupidly politically correct by ignoring this.  And Starbucks responded with a rather nice comment about people drawing on cups and inclusiveness, but I really wonder if they put that much thought into cup design.  They might.  It seems like something they would do.

And yet…gosh, I don’t like homelessness or bigotry or hunger or poverty…but aren’t we just feeding the fire with comments like that?  How can you fight righteous anger with righteous anger?  We probably should just do what the baristas did when the evangelist “tricked” them into writing Merry Christmas on his cup: look at him like he’s a lunatic and get on with our day.  We might have, except some other Christians started whining about the same thing, then some more Christians and a whole bunch of other people feel the need to tell them to shut up, like we’re all children in an across-the-internet argument.

Which brings me to kind of the point of today’s…rant.  It’d be nice to just call it a post, but let’s call it what it is…a rant.  And maybe me trying to make a point.  A point about good manners and political correctness and possibly the internet as well.

We are constantly bombarded with commentary by people who have the cloak of anonymity to hide behind when we get online.  People strip off pretenses of political correction, general kindness, and dignity to put down and squabble like pigeons because they will never meet the people they speak with face to face and don’t care to.  If nothing else, the internet has proven that people are largely angry with the world in general and like to take it out something that can’t fight back.  The backlash of this is extreme political correctness and extreme sensitivity to everything and anything.  (It’s not the first time in history this has happened, but that’s another post.)

But for all people gripe about how easily offended other people are, isn’t griping the problem?  Aren’t we being offended about how easily other people are offended?  Aren’t we using a serious problem to win a petty argument?  Is that right?  Is that moral?  Will it turn out all right in the end?  I don’t know.  And I suspect you don’t either.  Not really.  You may believe one way or the other, but you don’t know.

Sometimes (okay, lots of times), I suspect that some of the people who do this kind of thing are just really lonely and want attention.  They also might just be really loony and want attention.  I lean toward the second, most of the time.  Why else would you decide a corporate entity has a soul and should worry about the true meaning of Christmas?  Okay, overly-extreme example.  But what I’m getting at is, if they just want attention, why are we giving it to them?  It’s like the little neighbor kid who wouldn’t quit being a pest.  Maybe my mother was right and if you ignore them, they will go away.  Being offended is like getting in an argument.  One person can get offended, but it takes at least two to make it a big deal.

I am not saying righteous anger doesn’t serve a purpose and protests don’t make a difference, but I am saying that I would, personally, like a little peace and quiet.  I can’t fix the world right now and we may not agree on what’s broken anyway.  You have a right to shove your opinions in my face, I have a right to walk around you.  I will even say, “No thank you,” when you offer me a pamphlet, because I was raised to be polite.  And I will do my best to do this, even when you are really offending me, because I have better things to do with my time than let you ruin it for me.

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