Friday, March 12, 2010

The Unspecified Beverage Party

So a left-wing activist and video blogger walks into a Facebook status bar, and...

I know. Sounds like a silly joke, right? Read on:

Furious at the tempest over the Tea Party -- the scattershot citizen uprising against big government and wild spending -- Annabel Park did what any American does when she feels her voice has been drowned out: She squeezed her anger into a Facebook status update.

let's start a coffee party . . . smoothie party. red bull party. anything but tea. geez. ooh how about cappuccino party? that would really piss 'em off bec it sounds elitist . . . let's get together and drink cappuccino and have real political dialogue with substance and compassion.

Friends replied, and more friends replied. So last month, in her Silver Spring apartment, Park started a fan page called "Join the Coffee Party Movement." Within weeks, her inbox and page wall were swamped by thousands of comments from strangers in diverse locales, such as the oil fields of west Texas and the suburbs of Chicago.

I have been searching for a place of refuge like this for a long while. . . . It is not Us against the Govt. It is democracy vs corporatocracy . . . I just can't believe that the Tea Party speaks for all patriotic Americans. . . . Just sent suggestions to 50 friends . . . I think it's time we start a chapter right here in Tucson . . .

The snowballing response made her the de facto coordinator of Coffee Party USA, with goals far loftier than its oopsy-daisy origin: promote civility and inclusiveness in political discourse, engage the government not as an enemy but as the collective will of the people, push leaders to enact the progressive change for which 52.9 percent of the country voted in 2008.

Anybody else struck by the irony that a group of people claiming to want civility and inclusiveness in political discourse was started by a woman who suggested "cappuchino party" as one of the early names, solely because it would irritate her opponents with its elitist sound?

Of course, two other things strike me--one, that "Coffee Party" lacks the historical connotations of "Tea Party," since the original Boston Tea Party was not a blue-blood Daughters of the Mayflower social event, but an uprising against confiscatory taxation; and two, that some of those 52.9 percent of the country who voted, not for a progressive agenda, but for Barack Obama, didn't realize exactly what he'd intended to do in regard to health care, but thought that somehow he was magically going to give them free health care with their regular doctor and their preferred providers of additional services, all with no wait-time, friendly, smiling service, and patient rights and satisfaction at the top of the priority list.

Why, exactly, some of that 52.9% thought any such thing when "government health care" conjures up not images of a trendy spa or popular restaurant, but a trip to the post office or the DMV, is a mystery. Some of it may go back as far as the Summer of Love and what was ingested at that time, but it would be unkind to speculate. Suffice it to say that some of them have since suffered the political version of buyers' remorse, and have turned to Tea Party outlets, voting in Massachusetts, and similar reactionary actions to make their feelings known.

In other words, the Tea Party thing, whatever else one thinks of it, is not easily and tidily sorted into the "Right vs. Left" template that is so often used when our political struggles are discussed.

Moreover, it's hard to see this sort of "Coffee Party" enduring. Suppose, for instance, that a Republican wins the next presidential election, with 54% of the votes. Will the Coffee Party still stand up for civil discourse and for getting out of the way to let the Republican initiatives be enacted? It is not very likely.

And why stop with a Coffee Party? The Christian Science Monitor suggests a few more parties, here; I like the Mead Party, myself. In fact, in the spirit of the Monitor's post, I'll offer a few more parties up for consideration:

1. The Organic Imported Wine Party--this party exists to promote an agenda based, ultimately, on the notion that civilization is long overdue for a collapse, but that with the proper preparation in terms of backyard gardening, the pursuit of sustainability, the preemptive purchasing of plenty of good spirits, and at least one gifted writer capable of chronicling the collapse in a witty, self-deprecating, angsty-cheerful way, the fall of civilization doesn't have to be completely uncivilized.

2. The Beer Party--sure, civilization is collapsing. Who cares? We've got beer.

3. The Punch Party--civilization is not collapsing at all. Things have never been better. Life is as sweet as a bowl of punch, the kind made with sodas and sherbet, the kind containing the same amount of sugar as is annually consumed by the citizens of a small country. Politics are dull; come and have a slice of cake and a glass of punch, and let's forget all that nasty political stuff.

4. The Espresso Party--it doesn't matter whether civilization is collapsing or not. What matters is activity. Use your energy! Do something! Get involved, sign a petition, buy a smarmy bumper sticker telling everyone else they're wrong, join a group, go on a protest march, sign up new voters--do! do! do! Just so long as you don't stop long enough to wonder about the issues, or anything.

5. The Milkshake Party--we'd really like to shake things up! That is, actually, we'd rather that other people get out there and shake things up. We're mild as milk when it comes to political confrontation. We take all kinds of political stands, in the comfort of our own homes. Sometimes we're really brave on the Internet, too, under appropriately martial-sounding nicknames or pseudonyms. But in real life? Not so much.

6. The Unspecified Beverage Party--we care about politics. But only the right side of things. And we only know the right side because it's what the right people think. And the right people are whomever is a) richer or more powerful than us, and b) actually in the room with us at any given moment. To our liberal Democrat boss, we seem like a liberal Democrat in every way. To our conservative Republican wealthy grandmother, we are the epitome of conservative Republicanism. To our world-weary apolitical friends (a step or two above us on the social ladder, of course) we are world-weary and apolitical. It's all about change--and being willing to simulate political change on a moment's notice.

I'm sure you can think of more--feel free to add them!


Anonymous said...

The Mavericks - have more fun as a gadfly! Belong to any party and drink whatever your want, as long as it's not what the other members drink.

The Party Party - Elect members of the party to public office. In our Big Tent, it doesn't matter what you drink, as long as you vote with your fellow members. This is the party that's really in charge most of the time.

Anonymous said...

Annabel Park did what any American does when she feels her voice has been drowned out: She squeezed her anger into a Facebook status update.

let's start a coffee party . . . smoothie party. red bull party. anything but tea.

Look who's reacting now. It stings when "Question Authority" boomerangs, don't it?

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I like all of your proposals. Soon, the Tempest in a Teacup Party will be lost in the sauce of all these other beverage parties, and then we can take a serious look at our politics.

The original Tea Party was in fact run by New England Mayflower bluebloods. They were the wealthiest shipowners and merchants of Boston, who were worried about the profits from their smuggling business, which paid for their fine mansions coach and four, etc. History never repeats itself with any precision, and it is generally arrogant to claim anyone's mantle out of the past, as well as inaccurate.