As I drank my coffee on the way in, I was thinking to myself how symbolic it was that I had a somewhat polar opposite drink in my hand for a "tea" party; an almost entirely different philosophy was presented, all while at the gut level, my political belly was left warm and full.
In fact, I remember thinking, "Why can't there be a coffee party for guys like me to go to?"
As it turns out, there must be. I was not the only one thinking this in late February. By early this month, I had discovered something called the Coffee Party movement. As soon as I heard of it, I was astounded at how an idea was at the same time spreading rapidly online. They've organized a National Coffee Party Kickoff slated for this coming Saturday.
And what I saw inspired me to take action, too. While the movement is growing rapidly (doubling to over 100,000 members since the first of the month) I noticed that there was no chapter being formed in the city for which this site is so-aptly named.
So in this week's edition of Soundpolitic Sundays, below the fold, I'll share with you how I came to organize the Coffee Party Albany meeting for this Saturday, March 13, 2010, at 2 p.m., to start a new chapter for the search for uncommon ground we share as Americans.
I first heard of the Coffee Party by catching the movement's founder, Annabel Park, on the Chris Matthews show. However, my best first video impression was on the front page of the Coffe Party USA website:
The Mission Statement I read as the plumbing in the broadband pipes cleared so I could actually watch the above was there to tide me over:
MISSION: The Coffee Party Movement gives voice to Americans who want to see cooperation in government. We recognize that the federal government is not the enemy of the people, but the expression of our collective will, and that we must participate in the democratic process in order to address the challenges that we face as Americans. As voters and grassroots volunteers, we will support leaders who work toward positive solutions, and hold accountable those who obstruct them.
Having just seen up-close the exact opposite in the form of the Tea Party, I thought to myself what I hope many of you are thinking: this is exactly what our country needs.
I thought of the glory of the Old Obama Campaign, now more like an over-glorified soap opera-reality show mongrel of American Political Theater. And of how it was Obama's campaign that organized ordinary folks to get elected, yet how the President is faltering along with the rest of our government as we - pay attention here - sit back and watch the pot boil.
You know the old saying. So what's the point in that? Instead, I started actively watching what was going on with this Coffee Party...
If it had been on cable television like the Chris Matthews show, then surely the papers had gotten to this first, I thought. Sure enough, the news was fit enough to print in the Times the day before I discovered the movement. Thanks to the power of the net, I'm able to waive the dollar price of the dead trees version and get this to share with you...a blessing when you've been out of work much longer than one day (one year, one month, two weeks, and four days). I do wish I could pay for the content though...
I digress. My apologies. Here's a clipping, with scribblings.
This summer, Ms. Park said, the party will hold a convention in the Midwest, with a slogan along the lines of “Meet Me in the Middle.” The party has inspired the requisite jokes: why not a latte party, a chai party, a Red Bull party? But Ms. Park said that while the Coffee Party — and certainly the name — was formed in reaction to the Tea Party, the two agree on some things, like a desire for fiscal responsibility and a frustration with Congress.
“We’re not the opposite of the Tea Party,” Ms. Park, 41, said. “We’re a different model of civic participation, but in the end we may want some of the same things.”
“The way I see it,” Ms. Park said, “our government is diseased, but you don’t abandon it because it’s ill. It’s the only body we have to address collective problems. You can’t bound government according to state borders when companies don’t do that, air doesn’t. It just doesn’t fit with the world.”
Still, she said, “we’ve got to send a message to people in Washington that you have to learn how to work together, you have to learn how to talk about these issues without acting like you’re in an ultimate fighting session.”
Ms. Park and chapter organizers said they would invite Tea Party members to join their Coffee counterparts in discussions. “We need to roll up our sleeves, put our heads together and work it out,” she said. “That’s, to me, an American way of doing this.”
This new information made me realize instantly why I was moved by and away from the Tea Party.
I realized this long ago. That if citizens, instead of citizens accepting a wall of separation between the people and government could create something that accepts the democratic responsibility to take action to and solves our problems ourselves, together, by taking the action of not building that wall in the first place. If we can see that there can't even possibly be a wall to begin with, than our problems will be solved because we've just created the environment in which things get solved together.
That's all. No anger, no fear, and hate either real or imagined. Come to think of it, all three of these are imaginings of weakness. None of them get anybody anywhere except in the path of their temptations.
And despite the beauty of civic participation that the Tea Party does stand for and act on, it still doesn't mask the ugliness of the anger, fear, and yes, hatred of the Tea Party. These three lumps of coal needs another few good looks, questions asked, and more than a few good people to turn words into action.
Ahem. Why don't we quickly address those three words - anger, fear, and hate - the best way the nerd writing this knows how:
Now I don't care if you're a Jedi Master or Zen Master or Master of Ceremonies or whatever their called as Mass or Vespers, this makes sense. Their anger at the government leads to a fear of the government while leads to a hatred of the government.
And since one of my main ideals as an American is that "We the people" means "You the person," then if we get angry, fearful, and hateful of our government, then by logical extension we are only pissed, scared, and harmful to...ourselves.
Truth hurts. Ouch.
Or if that's too blunt, where the Tea Party is by-and-large an unconstructed "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" rant, the Coffee Party seeks to be a "Gotta prob'm? Git'r done!" conversation. I can see both of those still being taken seriously as both part of the same equation yet strangely equated with opposite camps. Contrast is comedy.
With a smile on my face, I finished the online organization for the Coffee Party Kickoff in the historic city of Albany. It's all set! Anybody reading this in the Capital Region can click right here right now to sign up or inquire about more information. I'm on top of this like the water above the grounds in an espresso machine and yes, I'm full of rising steam.
Why am I so excited? Shouldn't I curb my enthusiasm in case the Coffee Party ends up being as ridiculously refuted as it's Tea Drinking patriarch? Precisely because the movement captures the same glorious goal of civic participation in the electoral and political process that did captivate about the Tea Party. And because the Coffee Party was demonstrating by example the core principle of working together on finding common grounds (pun intended!) between our hot-beveraged brethren.
Our fellow citizens. We really aren't as divided as previously suggested.
So even while I still have serious problems with the stuff people said at the Tea Party, I found myself thinking, "I'll invite some of those guys, too. Why the fuck not? We're all Americans!"
So as I started contacting civic-minded folks to get some bodies in the door at Uncommon Grounds (no pun intended) in Albany, New York at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 13, 2010, I contacted people I'd met on the Year of O8 and the Class of '09 folks I'd met. We'll be meeting to enjoy fine organic brew in both our hearts and, by that very action, we'll be finding common ground between ourselves not as "Tea Partier" or "Coffee Partier" but as citizens, all on the same level.
Level one. Press start to continue.
That seems like a fair trade for game over. Tune in next week on Soundpolitic Sundays to see just how nice we played together.