Season's Cretins

Starbucks may have had the right idea with its newest cup decor

It’s one thing to steal an ethnic expulsion strategy straight from the playbook of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. But now Donald Trump is forcing me to suspend my boycott of Starbucks. No wonder I feel like Crapuccino.

Generally speaking, I’m not the boycotting type, but I’ve been shunning Starbucks since 2008 when my hometown Seattle SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. The Doppio Grande in that swindle was Howard Schultz, the narcissist CEO of Starbucks, whose self-proclaimed brilliance was severely taxed by the rigors of owning an NBA franchise. He sold the team to a carpetbagger from Oklahoma City who never intended to keep the team in Seattle. Forty years of history hit the road.

I realize that no one in Syracuse knows the heartbreak of losing an NBA franchise that won the city its first pro sports championship, but … wait! Maybe there is some shared experience here.

But let’s get back to The Donald. Earlier this month, Trump gave a wink to a boycott of Starbucks urged by Christmas obsessives who whined that the chain’s seasonal red coffee cups aren’t Christmas-y enough this year.

“I have one of the most successful Starbucks, in Trump Tower,” Trump boasted in Illinois. “Maybe we should boycott Starbucks? I don’t know. Seriously, I don’t care. That’s the end of that lease, but who cares? If I become president, we’re all going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again, that I can tell you.”

A few days later, as horror consumed Paris, Trump had moved on, perhaps sensing that the shrinking-but-still-formidable “It’s Just a Freakin’ Cup” vote had bigger worries. All but lost in the frothy wake of the faux controversy is that millions of people boycott Starbucks for valid reasons: the company’s unfair trade practices, its lobbying campaign against truth in food labeling, its milfoil-like invasiveness.

Trump rival Marco Rubio gets it. During the Nov. 10 GOP debate in an obvious reference to the Starbucks CEO, Rubio said, “He understands only geopolitical strength. And every time he has acted anywhere in the world, whether it’s in Ukraine or Georgia before that, or now in the Middle East, it’s because he is trusting in weakness.”

Yet grave as the Starbucks threat is, those who whip up hysteria about a “War on Christmas” put us at even greater risk. Has there ever been a better example of Orwellian doublespeak? It’s Christmas that is waging war against the other holidays. Thanksgiving and Halloween should bury the hatchet with Labor Day and drive Christmas back to its original borders. Valentine’s Day can attack from the other side.

In support of a counterinsurgency, I paid a rare visit to the local Taxpayer Subsidized Mall. Destination: Nordstrom Rack. Nordstrom — another Seattle-based company — announced this month that it would hold off on displaying Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving, citing a preference for celebrating “one holiday at a time.” Imagine.

Unfortunately, the company dictate doesn’t preclude selling Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving. So upon entering the store I was immediately assaulted by racks of holiday schlock, much of it from China. The worst part is that I reflexively started filling my cart with stocking stuffers — fruit-scented balms and butters and such — figuring I might as well seize the opportunity to get some shopping done. I had to slap myself across the face — hard — to make myself stop.

Still, Nordstrom deserves credit for doing the right thing, in spirit at least. Rack shopper Rose Stack of Binghamton expressed gratitude for a relatively Christmas-free experience there. She said she frantically changes the channel in her car radio when she hears Christmas music too soon. “You get overdosed on it,” she said, shuddering. “I don’t want to hear it this early.”

For now, the Christmas drips have the upper hand. Dunkin’ Donuts, for example, wasted no time exploiting Starbucks’ position, dialing up extra-Christmas-y cups. So, that seals it. I’m suspending my Starbucks boycott through the holidays.

It’s a bitter cup of joe, but it doesn’t diminish June 1, 1979, the greatest night of my life with all due respect to the Svennson Triplets of the National Acrobatics Team of Sweden: That was the night the Seattle SuperSonics won it all.

Header graphic by David Armelino of the Syracuse New Times.
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