Does a Cup Mean More than Our Unraveling Humanity?

I’m pretty sure that the Shakespearean metaphor that all the world’s a stage, and each of us actors, couldn’t be more meaningful than it is today.

And I am convinced that the stage and theater represent a bizarre comedy-drama. This week, we learned that some conservative Christians are peeved with Starbucks over a cup. Let me repeat this: A. Plain. Red. Cup.

Forget Star Wars. It’s now Starbucks Wars. (Based on this, it might be fine to curtail explorations into a better understanding of our universe because it’s clear we may now be living in an alternate one anyhow.)

In nations rendered powerful through centuries of industry, innovation, medicine, free-market systems and a gamut of technologies, I think humans are actually becoming less powerful. Why? Because of our multiple objections to even the most trivial and personal issues.

This is surreal and sad.

We should be more concerned that some students and a mass-media professor at the University of Missouri recently tried to stop a student reporter – in a public space and empowered through the First Amendment – from taking pictures at a protest over racial tensions at the school.

It should be of grave interest to Americans that people do not understand what journalism and a free press are about in a democracy. We cannot solely trust social-media users to vet facts, provide a checks-and-balances on government and leaders, and put events into context for the public.

While activism is important, an infantry of millennials with smart phones should never be the only way in which we rely on, or interpret, the reach of events or news. We are losing perspective and our priorities are askew.

Clearly, people don’t believe that the millions who have been displaced and massacred in the Middle East and Africa are less important than the design of a Starbucks cup. Surely, the destruction of irreplaceable art, artifacts, archaeological finds, and historic places isn’t deemed unimportant in comparison to the cup-no-longer-runneth-over-with-snowflakes saga.

We’re missing what links humans: things that really impact most people’s lives. We have failed to find the middle ground between overreaction and apathy.

During the same time frame of the red cup uproar, we learned or knew: ISIS likely got a bomb on a plane; we’ll have some college graduates wedded to massive education debts statistically longer than they will be to their spouses; there are predictions that as many as 100,000 species may become extinct each year; and there are reports that nearly 40 percent of men and women in the United States will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lives. (I note the caveat that this includes skin cancers and prostate cancer, the latter of which is common among elderly men.)

What’s Really Going On?

Maybe this era of misplaced hysteria is a hallucinogenic and collective mind-meld of which people can opt out. If not, I am considering signing up soon for long-term health insurance and a good mental-health plan. (But they will probably end up being managed by an insurance company that ups rates just because one sneezes or has bad dreams.)

I say this because today sometimes so little makes sense. Shouldn’t we be able to find a way to take care of our veterans but also get affordable drugs to the elderly and help those in need? Shouldn’t we be savvy enough to understand how abhorrent racism is, without labeling everything racist?

Shouldn’t we be able to have a conversation about guns in the context of mass shootings without the automatic leap that tomorrow the Second Amendment will be moot?

Shouldn’t we understand the stories of, and reach out to, suffering masses after multiple genocides throughout history and, currently, the largest refugee crisis since World War II?

Shouldn’t we stop lamenting people crossing our southern border while Mexicans mow our lawns and lay fiber-optic lines while we sip mojitos? Shouldn’t we be upset about the wasteland of pornography, violence and materialism to which children are exposed?

If all lives matter, why is life in the womb important, but not the lives of those reliant on government assistance once they’re born? If all lives matter, why are we complacent about women and children, globally, who do not enjoy the same wages and freedoms as men?

The inevitable truth now is we live our lives in extremes. Some on the right are so rabid, they are willing to deny fellow humans certain rights. Some on the left are so liberal, they don’t want to define any societal norms.

And now we have a presidential election cycle that proves how much of a cerebral stupor America is in. Diehard religious Republicans are so dogged in their democratic disgust, they’re willing to support a gambling-business mogul who is also an egotistical misogynist I like to call Donald Grump. (This observation doesn’t mean I’m perfect; however, I am not an ideologue painting everyone with a morally superior brush or claiming I, alone, can fix America.)

The point is that despite oceans we can cross, faith that is supposed to make us better, and technology that can connect Cambodia with Canada in milliseconds, we are losing our shared humanity.

And that is the crisis – the fact that we cannot jointly look at solutions, or jointly acknowledge others’ viewpoints, or commit to questioning, exploring or changing what we believe.

We cannot jointly agree we are all equal residents of a diverse planet. We cannot agree on what to do about displaced people, an increasingly unhealthy planet, or that we are standing still as genocide is committed again. We cannot agree, too, that a protracted debate over red cups is ridiculous, considering that eventually we could be wiped out by ignoring what’s really important.

I do believe in a higher power. But if there is a God who created everything, I’m beginning to think that maybe we are the increasingly rigid beta version.



  1. I think some of the answers lie somewhere between sane and insane, and it seems to be leaning more to the latter all the time. This should keep the sane awake nights!

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