Georgie De Mattos/Mustang News

Brandon Bartlett is an English sophomore and Mustang News conservative columnist. These views do not necessarily reflect the editorial coverage of Mustang News.

As I ordered my mandatory holiday-themed Starbucks coffee, I was utterly taken aback when I saw their cups; they were red. No pictures of snowmen, no ornaments telling of joy and hope, nothing. Just that pagan siren calling me back for another cup of overpriced caffeine.

I was appalled. Don’t they know it is my right to have my deeply held beliefs exploited just so that stockholders can make a quick buck? And how dare they end the annual (dis)respecting of Christ’s life by perverting his memory with the yeast of consumerism.

To what has this nation come?

But, satire aside, we all know that the reaction wasn’t really about the cup; it’s about the conflict between differing paths to unification: homogeny versus the appreciation of diversity.

However, before we begin passing judgement, let’s establish an understanding for both sides of the dispute. And let us start with an understanding of our shifting culture.

The percent of American’s who identify as Christians has been on a steady decline for the past 70 years, and has been especially precipitous over the last decade.

Consequently, we should expect nothing less than a shift in the way people celebrate a holiday which has been traditionally religious.

But why is the rhetoric of “war” and “persecution” being employed?

This is because, generally, people’s expectations about future events are constructed from past experiences, and a violation of those expectations, especially when the expected end is desirable, feels like a shift from normalcy.

Hence, when a whole generation of people, especially a generation which is more likely to be religious than its counterparts, is raised with Christmas seeming to be a nearly universal holiday, the ever-growing violations of those expectations are going to feel like some sort of a perversion of tradition.

And this is only further exacerbated by the lingering persecution complex that was sparked within the Evangelical community during the ’90s.

So regardless of the possible misnomer, we can certainly be sympathetic to the group who, justified or not, truly feels as though their symbols and values, which have brought so much joy and fulfillment to their own lives, are being eroded by the growing secular portion of society.

And they are not without good reason to be saddened and angered by this. The natural human response to turmoil, for which humanity is running a surplus, is to attempt to amplify tribal unity through homogeny.

And this would make sense, since homogeny, especially in terms of religion, can be psychologically beneficial for the individual.

However, this group has a problem. Though many would not like to admit it, times are changing, and not everyone believes that jingle bells rock quite as much as they used to.

Yet, it is not as though this is a new phenomenon; there have always been people on the outskirts of culture who have been excluded by Christianity’s monopoly on social consciousness within America. People are now becoming aware of it.

And given the fact that ingroup/outgroup power dynamics are what fuel so much of domestic (and international) conflict, it makes sense that other people would desire to be more inclusive on issues which, within a civil context, merely don’t matter. Just because someone is of a different faith doesn’t mean that you cannot, as the bumper sticker says, coexist.

This mindset is, also, not without good reason; for not only can someone alter their mindset to embrace a greater level of “tolerance” without it harming their ability to relate to those around them, but this can also increase a society’s ability to produce and adapt to changes.

The case is settled, diversity done well is a good thing. Though, it must also be noted that attempts at diversification can also further reinforce prejudice biases ultimately leading toward the oppression of one group by those in power.

So then, what ought we to do?

Unfortunately, as with most issues, this doesn’t have an easy answer.

How can we both respect people’s deeply held beliefs and desire for unification and solidarity within their society, and yet, hold in tension that such a mandate will inevitably lead to discrimination of those outside of the cultural norm? How can we both express ourselves and leave room for others to express themselves?

These are the questions at the foundation of our modern “culture wars.” And these battles are not waged between good and evil, enlightened and stupid, progressive and conservative, but between good people who merely have different understanding of how we can make society better.

Okay, with that said, let’s get to what you have all been waiting for: What does this all-knowing and infinitely wise student columnist believe we ought to do? Don’t worry, your patience has not been in vain. (Did you catch the sarcasm? I hope you caught the sarcasm.)

First of all, we need to stop acting as though saying “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” is a microaggression. And I’m not claiming that such could not, theoretically, be done offensively. However, I think we can all agree that in most cases such language is really only meant to convey warm feeling.

Wishing someone a Merry Christmas even if they do not celebrate the holiday is like wishing someone a good afternoon before the clock has struck 12, it’s a polite way to convey care regardless of its factuality.

And yet, we must be sympathetic to those who are annually bombarded with incessant reminders that they don’t quite mesh with the general trend of culture. I mean, just try to put yourself into their shoes.

Remember that kid in middle school who was just way too into Pokemon? He had the Pikachu backpack and the Poke ball binder, and never understood that you didn’t care what he did on his Gameboy last night?

Yeah, it’s like that. Only instead of it being one kid, it’s everyone all the time.

Imagine trying to go about your daily life for nearly two months (can’t we wait until after Thanksgiving?), and everything familiar has utterly transformed itself: the music in stores, the movies on television, the way your friends are dressed, those beaming lights on all your neighbors’ houses, all of it foreign and reminding you that you don’t quite fit in.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you should not celebrate Christmas, nor that our yearly façade is a bad thing; but maybe we should reconsider our dogmatic requirement of keeping things inclusive.

Maybe decorating a huge evergreen and calling it a “holiday tree” is not an attack on the traditions of Christmas, but an attempt to broaden them. Maybe it is not a declaration against anything, but an invitation to the outsider, an outstretched hand saying, “You don’t need to believe the same things that I do in order for us to both stand shoulder-to-shoulder in celebration of love, whether that love be from God, humanity or both.”

And maybe, just maybe, a plain red cup is not a political stance, but an opportunity for those who have always been excluded to join in the great and universal celebration of something much larger and more important than Christmas.

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