Readers, just to liven things up a bit, I am going to depart from whining (and laughing) about the aches and pains (and joys) of the daily life of a Bitter Divorcée to write about politics. (If you aren’t into such things, please feel free to stop reading now. Don’t worry—I won’t be doing this often. It’s not really my thing.)
This piece begins on a flight home from Louisville, a city on the banks of the Ohio River, which isn’t quite as broad as the Mississippi, but is surely just as lovely. I am still not entirely sure how the community’s inhabitants prefer their town’s name be pronounced, but it is most certainly NOT Lewis-ville nor, Louie-ville, either of which will earn a speaker scorn.
I went to Louisville to attend the inaugural convention of the Coffee Party. Someone recently posted a comment to one of my all-too-frequent politically-ranty Facebook posts, “Why are you so opinionated?” Readers, I am crazy-like raising these three great kids, putting the bulk of my life and my energy into getting them to adulthood, safe and whole, and as well-adjusted as the situation affords—but I also have an eye to the world they will inherit. That is why I am so opinionated and that is why I was in Louisville with the Coffee Party.
Stephen Kiernan gave a compelling talk relating to the subject of his new book, Authentic Patriotism. Kiernan has a way with words, and he’s a keen speaker with an innate gift for taking an audience along on his word journeys. I liked him immediately, and not just because he spent some of his own life stomping around the same college town that gave me my creative (and political) awakening. Kiernan’s recipe for successful campaigns for change includes things like resolve, hope/faith, commitment, community, and patriotism. Flag wrapping isn’t just for wingnuts anymore, but wait—Kiernan on authentic patriotism: (It’s much more than flag-wrapping.)
True patriotism – not some divisive shadow, not insistence on being in the right about some issue, not a bludgeon to hammer those with whom you disagree, but the honest emotion, the authentic thing – is love of country. Not love of self, nor love of one set of ideas, but genuine love for the common purpose and shared values within a geographic boundary.
In other words, authentic patriotism is not about you, what you believe or what you think is right. Authentic patriotism is about the United States of America, its well-being, its future, its adherence to founding principles. Authentic patriotism is not an opinion. It is an action.
Kiernan gave the assembled crowd, aged between 15 and 96 years, a handful of stories of those who are authentic, successful patriots, regular folks whose love drove them to act, rather than waiting for the government or an organization to solve the problem for them. Inspiring! (Kiernan was quick to add, this doesn’t mean that government shouldn’t change or that we shouldn’t work for changes in public policies, but that we can’t afford to wait.)
Also on stage was Harvard University (nowadays) Constitutional Law Professor, Lawrence Lessig, who has called for a Constitutional Convention (though not a baby-out-with-the-bath-water one). This is a fairly radical idea, one that often finds progressives and conservatives in agreement. Lessig calls for constituents to press their state legislatures to pass resolutions calling for a Constitutional Convention—not to rewrite the entire Constitution—although there was plenty of chatter about pie-in-the-sky, if we could, what would we do?—but to consider specific amendments to address simmering Constitutional issues like corporate personhood and money in politics, both things on which the right and left can often agree.
Eric Byler spoke unscripted on Friday night. Mr. Byler is a co-founder of the Coffee Party and co-director of the documentary 9500 Liberty about the fight over immigration in Prince William County, Virginia. Byler captured the essence of why I believe in this movement when he spoke. Members of the Tea Party are often hoppin’ mad. They shout and wave their arms, and they intimidate those of us who are the mild-mannered middle, those of us who are conflict averse, and who have no interest in challenging angry people. This effectively silences the mild-mannered majority. What Byler, along with film co-director and Coffee Party co-founder Annabel Park, did in Prince William County was give the mild-mannered middle a way to have a voice: Anonymously through their unfolding YouTube documentary, then publicly. Once good people felt the strength of their numbers, they were able to come together to change an unjust policy. There is a lesson for all of us here; no matter what it is we are undertaking, joining with others enhances our strength and gives a better shot at success.
Also at the podium, was Annabel Park; as the likable Professor Lessig described her, “a truck stop waitress who started a movement.” (During her adolescence, her parents owned a truck stop where she contributed many hours.) Ms. Park doesn’t eat or sleep much—no time. She is too busy working to bring the country things like fair elections, and to return civility and mutual respect to the table. In March Ms. Park was upset by the divisive rhetoric of members of the Tea Party. She made a post to her Facebook page calling for a Coffee Party, a party of civility. She was surprised by the way it lit up her page. By February groups were forming in coffee shops all over the country to talk civilly about things like citizen engagement and the future of democracy. The movement has ballooned. Rumor has it, the Coffee Party website now boasts upwards of three million page views and 350,000 unique visitors a month. Several hundred people just turned out in Louisville for the first Coffee Party Convention and you mark my words, Readers—next round there will be a hundred times that number.
In closing, I’m calling on you, Readers, to do two simple things right now:
- Help get big money out of politics by contacting your reps to tell them to call Speaker Pelosi to ask her to schedule a vote on the Fair Elections Now Act. If you’ve never done it before, it’s easier than you think. The Coffee Party isn’t a movement of experienced community organizers who have these numbers plugged into their iPhones. It is a movement of regular folks, many of whom have never been involved in politics, but who are fed up with being excluded from consideration in the decisions which affect them directly. If you follow this link and put in your zip, a screen pops up offering potential scripts. It took me three minutes to make three calls. We need Speaker Pelosi to schedule the vote by TOMORROW. Do it. Now. (Dang, that redhead can be bossy.)
- Support the Coffee Party by “liking” their Facebook page, by checking out their website, and by donating to their efforts. Suffer me lightly here, Readers, while I pontificate briefly: If we are passive and just let things unfold, I promise you, Readers, it ain’t gonna be pretty. There are others with power and money who aren’t sitting by and letting things unfold, and if we, the mild mannered majority, don’t get together and say something, they will shape our future for their interests—not ours.
Additionally, please come join us for Coffee for Sanity in Washington DC on October 30 and attend the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rally! (We’ll just refer to them as Stew-bert from here on.) Annabel Park should have some real estate on Stew-bert’s stage, don’t you think? After all, they are poking fun at the Tea Party—they should give the country’s new voice of sanity—The Coffee Party—a breeze in her sail. So, um… yeah. If you know Jon Stewart or if you ARE Jon Stewart (my fluttering heart), Get Coffee.
Thank you for suffering me, Dear Readers. Next post, back to the (overly) intimate details of my bronc bustin’ life.