The Starbucks Flap

As a coffee lover, I regard Starbucks as the world’s worst: intensely bitter, overly roasted and grossly overpriced. While it Starbucks logoused to be easy to avoid (simply by staying out of a franchise store), it is now ubiquitous in hotels, airports and casual eateries around the globe.

In a society that has become as intensely focused on food and drink as ours, you might assume this state of affairs would be regarded as disturbing. Far from it. It turns out that the real outrage isn’t the contents of the coffee cup, but what’s depicted on the outside.

In the past week, Starbucks created a national controversy by eliminating any reference to Christmas from its holiday coffee cups. Those containers are now bright, solid red, with the company logo in the center. A Starbucks spokesperson said the cup was designed to be a “blank canvas” that encourages “customers to tell their Christmas stories in their own way.” Apparently, baristas are also forbidden to say “Merry Christmas” to the poor unfortunates who line up to purchase their products.

Obviously this was intended to be an attempt at inclusiveness. The act of being “inclusive” implies that people who don’t subscribe to the majority belief or viewpoint feel left out, and must be included in the common way of thinking as an act of kindness—a form of politically correct noblesse oblige. This is not necessarily the case. As a non-Christian, I could care less about the holiday and have no yearning to join in the majority celebration of it. What I’d really appreciate would be a good cup of coffee, but that won’t be forthcoming from Starbucks.

A Constitutional amendment is what is needed here. The relevant section of the First Amendment currently reads as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

Here’s the proposed new text:

Congress shall make no law respecting the packaging of coffee cups for general sale, nor shall it restrict the rights of consumers to purchase a caffeinated beverage that is not bitter or roasted to the point of astringency

All we need is a two-thirds majority of the states, after which we can concentrate on less important matters.


Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation (Lyons Press, 2014); his first novel, Friend of the Devil, is forthcoming from Black Opal Books in Spring 2016. For more information, go to


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