Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Could a Coffee Klatch Save us From Neoconservatism and the Religious Right?

With the Religious Right and those horrible Tea Parties destroying the Republican brand, and the American identity as a whole, one woman fought back.

To counter the nonsense she decided to start her own "coffee" movement, and was surprised to find that there are many Americans who opposed the Tea Parties and the response was overwhelming.
When Annabel Park imagined what it would be like to head a new nationalpolitical movement, here is what she had in mind: a coming together of engaged, intelligent citizens who had tired of the angry rhetoric and accusations of the Tea Partiers; Americans of all political persuasions joining in a spirit of equanimity to discuss the nation's problems, and maybe even share a laugh. It was this beautiful vision that danced in Park's head on a recent Saturday as she made her way to Busboys and Poets, a cafe in Washington, D.C., for one of nearly 500 Coffee Party meetings taking place nationwide that day. She knew the house would be full—word had spread quickly on the group's swelling Facebook page. Park, a documentary filmmaker, was especially pleased that C-Span had arranged to broadcast the meeting.
But more than just a chance to exchange ideas, it also became a place where people could vent. People who love their country and hate what is happening in the wake of Fox News and people like Karl Rove. However, it quickly turned into something else.

...from the moment folks in the crowd stood up to speak their minds, Park knew these people had not come to sip cappuccinos and set an example of civility for an overheated nation. They were angry. They hated the Tea Party, and the Republican Party. They wanted to get even. One audience member said America was under the thumb of oligarchs and denounced "moneyed interests." A few people hissed when Sarah Palin's name was mentioned ... Park, a 42-year-old Korean-American with a smile that can only be described as "kind," regularly tried to steer the talk back to the group's more centrist principles.

But when someone asked how many people in the room were Republicans, all 80 hands remained down. "I like the civility idea, but I hate the Tea Party people," said attendee Karen Anderson. By the end of the event, some in the crowd had decided the movement, barely two months old at the time, needed a new leader. China Dickerson, a 26-year-old community organizer, said the Coffee Party wouldn't last "unless we get someone a little more powerful to head it." She wanted a rabble-rouser, "not someone that says we can all work together."

Park seemed a little rattled after the meeting. "If they want to fire me, this may not be the group for them," she said later. "We don't want conflict and confrontation."

These are the casualties of divisive politics.

So how do we turn it around? At both Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament and Canadians Rallying to Unseat Stephen Harper, we do vent, but we also comfort, encourage and debate. And yes we oppose neoconservatism, but love people like John Diefenbaker who knew what it meant to be Canadian.

But I think that Annabel Park is on to something. We need to return to intelligent political discourse to combat the ugliness of neoconservatism, which is all about tearing down, and the Religious Right that is all about judging everyone.

There are many disgruntled Conservatives as well, who don't like that Harper has abandoned fiscal conservatism (long before the recession) and are also tired of the hyper partisan nature of the party. We need to unite as Canadians to discuss issues that affect us all, and look for solutions together. The Facebook groups are good but I also like the idea of clubs. Even a chat group might work with ground rules. No partisanship, only citizenship in one of the best countries in the world.

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