Assmus: ‘Politically correct’ really is about being respectful

Recognizing differences does not equate to a “war on Christmas”

As the holidays approach, so does the media frenzy over them. Many stores are decked out in Christmas decorations and most places are already playing Christmas music even though it is not even Thanksgiving yet. This time of year is also famous for the “war on Christmas” issue, a conception by media outlets and others who believe that political correctness should not infringe on the celebration of Christmas, a traditionally Christian holiday.

One specific example of this is the red cup controversy of the Starbucks Coffee Company. The controversy started because the holiday cups at Starbucks this year are printed in plain red instead of the the traditional Christmas symbols as in past years. However even these symbols from the past were not specifically Christian, such as reindeer or snowmen. The reasoning behind Starbucks’ plain red cups is to include all holiday celebrations, rather than singling out Christmas specifically with cups with Christmas trees or carolers on them. The company stated, “This year we wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories.”

I don’t see how this is an act against Christianity, when it is clearly an act of respect to all people and customers that might not celebrate Christmas. What is most outrageous about the “war on Christmas” argument is the fact that the holiday season does not just include Christmas, but other religious holidays. Despite the commercialization and the widespread celebrations of Christmas that many people might have despite one’s religion, it still originated as a Christian holiday, and not everyone is Christian. Not saying “Merry Christmas” to every person you pass is not about being politically correct, it is about being respectful of others’ differences.

It is wrong to assume that every person celebrates the same holidays that our mainstream culture has decided are important. And even if people celebrate it, they might also celebrate their own cultural or religious holidays that have little to no representation in the media during this time of year. Just because Christianity is the dominant religion and our government has decided to make a Christian holiday, Christmas, a national holiday, does not mean that every person celebrates it or wishes to. These wishes should be respected and tolerated, especially in a country where every person is supposed to have freedom of religion protected under the first amendment.

I am not trying to create a “war on Christmas” or stop holiday celebrations. Simply, I want to point out how it is respectful to acknowledge that not everyone celebrates this holiday and should not be forced to. Everyone has the right to their own religion and the culture that goes along with it. Therefore it is rude to force greetings of “Merry Christmas” onto everyone and get angry when it’s not returned because it simply is not something that everyone celebrates. For a country that was supposed to be created with religious freedom in mind, it seems quite ridiculous that the idea of a “war or Christmas” is even a reality.

It is important to realize that there are many cultural differences within America, and that none should be considered better than the other. No one is trying to take away Christmas, least of all Starbucks since they still have a coffee blend that is titled “Christmas Blend” and have already started playing Christmas music in their stores. But more strategies such as the red cup one should be adopted by companies and people to respect the fact that not every American celebrates Christmas, that the semester break to many is not “Christmas Break” and that the holiday season is composed of multiple holidays that people celebrate.

The term “politically correct” carries so many negative connotations because of the way politicians argue against it and claim they are just being honest. In reality political correctness is just about having respect for others’ differences, and not judging people or making assumptions about strangers that you don’t have any knowledge about. So during this holiday season, remember that everyone comes from a different background and as Starbucks says, has a different story. Make sure to recognize that. Maybe when we start respecting each other’s’ differences, there will be less violence and intolerance in the world.

Abby Assmus is a graduate student as well as a writer for The Observer.