Tim Danahey, Coffee Party USA Director of Public and Member Relations
In the year 2000, Robert Putnam wrote a book entitled “Bowling Alone”. The book contains data from twenty-five years of surveys and trends about American behavior. The book shows how Americans have become increasingly disconnected from each other. It tells how social institutions such as churches, clubs, recreational leagues, and even family dinners and playing games with friends are disappearing.
The book is still relevant as American socialization remains in decline. Every institution has been in decline. Union membership is down. Church attendance is in decline. Movie theater attendance is suffering. In fact, even television-watching among hundreds of channels instead of four or five has denied us opportunities to communicate about common topics.
All of this leads to a loss of social capital. Social capital is different from financial capital because social capital measures the factors that measure the quality of life and life expectancy. Financial capital measures profits and money. When we are working, playing, and discussing issues together, it is demonstrable that we live longer and we are happier. We have more social capital and we, as individuals and as a society, are richer.
Social media is not an adequate substitute for real socialization and involvement. Social media gives us a false sense that a “like” or a “share” is a suitable replacement for real participation in group activities. The false sense actually isolates ourselves from real involvement – real engagement.
The Revolutionary War's motto of “Join or Die” and Benjamin Franklin's statement, “We must hang together or, surely, we will hang separately” accurately addressed the need for people to be together and work for freedom, for justice, and even representation. Naturally, there are powerful entities who might benefit from a nation bereft of social capital. J.P. Morgan once said the equivalent of, “we must keep the people distracted and divided over silly social issues while we move our agenda steadily forward.” Concentrated financial and/or military capital will defeat social capital if people are not engaged and active – and that's how we will lose the fight.
If we are too distracted to participate, if we are too lacking individual self worth, or if we rely upon others to perform the tasks to preserve freedom and justice for us, then we will surely lose the fight for our rights – and those currently with power are okay with that result. Those currently with power will keep us distracted, keep us amused, tell us issues are too complicated, tell us we're just one person, and marginalize our voices. Those currently with power will deny us media attention and perpetuate the myth that people aren't rising to fight injustice. If we believe them, that is how we will lose the fight.
Thus far, this article has been totally defensive about how we will lose the fight. Instead, we must change the discussion to reflect how we will “win the fight” for social and economic justice. Winning the fight entails everyone – yes, everyone – being engaged in something – anything. It all counts. A book club, a political movement, a candidate, an issue, movie discussions, town hall meetings, a quilting club, a charity, Habitat for Humanity – it's all good. Just do something that increases this nation's social capital and your length and quality of life.
Join the Coffee Party USA. Volunteer with us through our many local community groups, issue groups, and media efforts. It will enable us all engage in discussions, activism, and voting to win the fight for our rights – and our career politicans and crony capitalists will hate you for it. And that's good.
Debilyn Molineaux, Coffee Party USA President
Remember asking questions when you were a child? Or perhaps you remember your own children asking question after question? This curiosity becomes a superpower when we allow ourselves to learn from others and perhaps, even influence our beliefs.
Here’s what I’ve learned with my superpower of curiosity:
A young woman I met on a plane was avidly pro-life. I’m pro-choice. When we shared our life experiences, I learned she had been born blind and as a result, abandoned on the streets of New Delhi. She was grateful for her life and the opportunities her adoptive family had given her. She wanted everyone to have the opportunities she felt blessed to receive. Had I not asked questions, I would have missed connecting with a phenomenal woman who was a double-major in college and wanted to be a lawyer.
A family member asked me to refrain from talking about politics...which as a political advocate is a large part of my life. My feelings were hurt! When I asked for more information, I learned that my family had two concerns. They believed we would disagree AND they felt ill-prepared to talk with me about my work or politics in general because my depth of knowledge was greater than theirs. So basically, they thought it would be an unfair fight to talk about politics. Who would want that? I offered instead to be a resource for them...someone they could call to get information. No discomfort or fighting! (Now we tease each other about shopping--or not--at Walmart!)
During a Living Room Conversation on criminal justice, I learned about the “criminal lifestyle.” A formerly incarcerated man shared his experience of choosing different life than the criminal lifestyle...and how that meant leaving behind his entire life…all family and friends, to start over. A single person, his pastor, believed in him and supported his new life. My compassion for the incredible challenges people face coming out of prison increased dramatically.
Engage your superpowers and share your stories with us. (The Superpower of Respect was featured in March 2015.)
It was a very long 2014-2015 for the Coffee Party USA. It was a year of rebuilding and the rebuilding was accomplished above and beyond expectations. As volunteer organization with a working board of directors, all functions are hands on. The board of directors, the group chairs, and volunteers came through above and beyond.
We rebuilt our website from scratch. It is much more user friendly as we have incorporated more features of NationBuilder. We keep our members and prospective members informed consistently with our revamped newsletter.
Our newsroom has a growing complement of posters and original content bloggers. Our Facebook page has grown dramatically as we encourage a real dialogue of differing opinions, values, interests, and issues. It reflects the mosaic that is America.
We have added several new radio shows to the our repertoire. The book club was reactivated. We brought authors to our BlogTalk Radio platform to speak to our member who read their respective books. Movie nights were a resounding successes.
Coffee Party USA members have participated in actions throughout the country wearing various hats. The one thing Coffee Party USA members take to every action is the tenet of fomenting civil dialogue interaction irrespective of the action.
So, if you want to help make a difference, if you want to have a people run organization as your backstop, if you want to help inform your sphere of influence with truth as opposed to manufactured news, if you want to be a part of the solution, consider becoming a part of Coffee Party USA.
Debilyn Molineaux, Coffee Party USA President
Jeanene Louden, Coffee Party USA Director & Treasurer
Vince Lamb, Coffee Party USA Director and Secretary
Tim Danahey, Coffee Party USA Director of Public and Member Relations
Egberto Willies, Coffee Party Director, Newsroom
Bobby Rodrigo, Coffee Party USA Director of Internet Infrastructure
Mark Gilbert, Coffee Party Director of Campaigns and Actions
Most of the time I go on Facebook and catch up with my friends, like memes about good deeds, kindness and videos of cats. I like to think I’m an average Facebook user.
Of course, being involved with politics, even bridge building within politics, means I am alternately praised and questioned by my friends about my work. And then, there are emails that challenge me to walk my talk. Today I received a response from a self-identified moderate conservative who asked me to post a story that represented her perspective. Inside the story was a narrative blaming the President for the shooting of a Houston police officer. And a large dose of anger.
Was I being trolled?
No. We all have different interpretations of current events. I know my journey has led me to be able to “try on” another person’s viewpoint for a few minutes or days at a time. This started when I was a child of divorce, moving between my conservative and liberal families, trying to fit in with both. I had no idea how valuable this skill would be in my later life. Down deep, I really wanted everyone to stop fighting and be friends...or at least friendly. I still want this for our country.
Fighting over who’s right and who’s to blame will never result in a functional family. And make no mistake, we are a big, raucous, bickering American family.
As a self-governed people, it is my hope that we develop shared understanding wherever we can about what happened...not our interpretation of what happened. For example:
|What happened||Possible interpretations of what happened|
|A police officer was shot and killed in Houston.||The President’s failure to address racial issues has caused all police officers to be targets, killed in the street.|
|On 9/11/2001, two airplanes collided with the Twin Towers in NYC and another the Pentagon in DC, while a fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania.||The government knew in advance of the 9/11 attacks and covered up their involvement because they wanted to go to war in the Middle East, which would reward the military industrial complex. Many people got rich.|
What happened is just the facts...no interpretation and no drama. Our interpretation...what we decide it means and why we care...that’s where the drama and dysfunction live. Our ability to separate facts from interpretation would go a long way to restoring a shared understanding within our American family. Giving up “being right” is the single biggest step we face right now. And we can only change or transform ourselves. When we stop playing the “I’m right” game, we open up our capacity for transformation.
I’m reminded of a poem I read years ago. I have seen it attributed to an unknown monk (no stated religion) and a Rabbi. It resonates deeply for me.
When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.
When I found I couldn't change the nation, I began to focus on my town.
I couldn't change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family.
My family and I could have made an impact on our town.
Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.
I invite you to “try on” a different viewpoint for a few minutes. What questions would you like to ask? Be curious and consider the possibility of changing yourself.
Ted Cruz took to the Senate floor Friday and charged that Mitch McConnell told a “lie,” escalating his campaign against GOP leaders and challenging the traditions of the usually decorous chamber. In a scathing floor speech, the Texas firebrand accused the Senate majority leader of breaking his word to him and the rest of the GOP conference over McConnell’s plans for the controversial Export-Import Bank, the country’s chief export credit agency.
This Atlanta journalist exposes the inner workings of ALEC. This is how we begin reclaiming our republic and representative democracy.