Letter: Nothing necessarily blue about it

I would like to commend Peter Sack for his column in Friday’s paper (“Don’t politicize coffee,” Feb. 6). While I think Sack goes a little too far by fretting about the possible proliferation of similarly left-leaning businesses around New Haven, I share his concern that a store like Blue State Coffee threatens to “create a community that is unwelcoming to a diversity of opinions.”

But what I find most troubling about Blue State is not its tendency to promote “political polarization,” but rather the implication contained in its name. According to the shop’s Web site, Blue State donates 5 percent of its sales to “progressive” causes and organizations. In the case of the New Haven branch, there are four such groups: Dwight Hall, Yale’s umbrella community-service organization; Cityseed, devoted to promoting sustainable agricultural practices; Shelter Now, which advocates for greater city services to help the homeless; and LEAP, Leadership Education and Athletics in Partnership, an AmeriCorps program that aims to cultivate young leaders who work with children in high-poverty urban areas.

All four are undoubtedly worthy causes, and I am glad Yalies’ caffeine addictions will help further these programs’ goals. But to call these organizations “progressive” in an openly political way — and in explicit contradistinction to the supposed values of “red” America — seems to me problematic. There is nothing “blue” or “progressive” or “liberal” about using private money to support community-service groups or agricultural sustainability, just as there is nothing “red” or “reactionary” or “conservative” about directing private money toward the homeless or at-risk urban youth.

Liberals and conservatives often disagree about the extent to which the government should use taxpayers’ dollars for such causes, but that in no way means conservatives care less than liberals about helping the needy or the less fortunate. In fact, numerous studies — including one cited in a recent New York Times column by liberal columnist Nicholas Kristof (“Bleeding Heart Tightwads,” Dec. 20, 2008 ) — have suggested that “households headed by conservatives give 30 percent more to charity than households headed by liberals,” in Kristof’s words. The disagreement between liberals and conservatives is about means, not about the importance of doing good works.

On a campus like Yale’s, where some people are already too quick to dismiss conservatives and conservatism as heartless and selfish, Blue State Coffee has done us a public disservice by smugly conflating charity with liberalism, and liberalism alone.

Cullen Macbeth

The writer is a senior in Berkeley College and a former managing editor of the News.


  • Y'10


  • Anonymous

    indeed. nicely done, cullen.

  • Recent Alum

    If Dwight Hall, Cityseed, Shelter Now, and LEAP are not partisan Democrat organizations, then I suppose that the author could name a few Republicans who sit on the Board of these organizations?

  • Anonymous

    Such a good point. Thanks.

    Recent Alum- Are you seriously suggesting that Republicans unilaterally oppose community service or shelter for the homeless? Even if there aren't Republicans on the board, I'm certain that there are Republicans who have given money to these organizations. Not to mention Republican Yalies who tutor or do other volunteer work through Dwight Hall.

    Oh wait, I forgot, Republicans have no souls and their sole political agenda is to make sure that nothing good ever happens to anyone, particularly not to those who need it.

  • To #3

    It's New Haven; there aren't exactly a lot of Republicans around.

  • Recent Alum

    #4: Of course I believe no such thing; in fact, I quite agree with studies that show that Republicans are, on average, more generous than Democrats when it comes to making charitable contributions or giving back to the community. I just don't think that the four organizations in question would accept Republicans among their ranks (let alone on their Board). Back when I was at Yale, Dwight Hall was not only an organization that sponsored community service programs, but also a left-wing lobby group that advocated for any and all Democrat legislations.

  • Well…

    …I get your point. But let's remember that the conservative movement in this country has made a cottage industry (in the last thirty years, certainly) of characterizing liberalism in terms that surely are not exclusive to liberalism--and arguably with much higher stakes involved than a cup of coffee. This isn't to say that two wrongs make a right. It's to say: is this really what we should be thinking about at this moment in our nation's history? Namely, that Blue State Coffee on Wall Street in New Haven is making conservatives feel dissed?