A decade ago, right after buying property in my new state and city, I read about the millions of dollars my city was accumulating in lawsuit damages awarded to residents killed and injured by city police officers. A federal investigation found that for years we’ve been shooting mentally ill people who behaved strangely, even though unarmed and not committing a crime; they couldn’t follow barked orders by petrified and adrenaline-pumped officers. However, investigations and prosecutions cleared nearly all the officers involved. They believed their lives in danger; even a few who did fail to follow policy and were fired eventually got their jobs back after arbitration of police union contract terms.
I empathize with the cops’ fears of such “welfare” calls and lack of backup and need of a union; I empathize as well with the street demonstrators angrily protesting each failure and holding the cops personally responsible for such discriminatory treatment. I certainly feel for family members who love and can’t find safety for ill relatives. I was one of those paying high property taxes, and I realized that the entire citizenry was responsible and negligent, along with the police, and thus paying the consequences. We as the “body politic” hired the officers, signed the union contracts, asked cops to risk their lives, and failed the residents -- together! So we pay the costs. We don't have a way to respond to the families of the mentally ill and suicidal who are appealing for shelter and treatment, and we’re responding to their meltdowns with guns. And we still haven’t managed to change the training and culture of our police force, or to provide enough trained de-escalators for them to call in as first responders.
If I were a city council member, I too would direct counsel to settle the lawsuits. We’re all in this together, all responsible. We must proactively persuade our representatives to prioritize the effective, long-term investments instead of everything else we demand.
So this is today and that’s democracy, and where civil/civic dialog matters. In my opinion, the only way through is to agree on the highest common good and proactively articulate to our city employees and representatives where to put our tax dollars. We can see ourselves as members of a body politic most readily in these local community issues. We know where people are hurting, though not so readily articulate what priorities and expenditures to turn toward and away. We see emotional reactions that aren’t helpful but are understandable, and plenty of unhelpful blame to go around.
There are so many perspectives to combine, so many reactions to forego, so much trust to develop, so much to tackle. It takes great listening, persuasion, patience, and constructive dialog to plan for the community to solve problems and thrive together. Civic discourse is a muscle to start exercising locally in personal encounters, drawing out multiple perspectives of who is affected and how, finding common ground for government choices most people can buy into. Our government employees can only carry out commonly recognized decisive choices.
Coffee Party USA supports groups for local civic discourse. Click here to start a local community.
Coffee Party Voices
offered by Charlotte Coyle
Treat others the way you would want to be treated.
We call it the Golden Rule and its wisdom shows up in most every world religion.
So why has the human race never really figured out how to live by this rule of life? Maybe because throughout history most people just flat don’t agree with it.
Other rules of life are much more popular:
Whoever has the gold, makes the rules.
Do unto others before they do it unto you.
Might makes right.
The end justifies the means.
The greatest happiness is to vanquish your enemies. (Genghis Khan)
These are the rules that have ruled human existence since our earliest beginnings. This is the reason human history is so screwed up.
But even in the dismal darkness of our past, some humans found the wisdom and the courage to live life with an alternative vision: a way of seeing and being in the world that is up-side-down and inside-out from the conventional wisdom. A golden thread of kindness, forgiveness and grace.
Nelson Mandela was one of those people.
July 2018 has been the 100th anniversary of Mandela’s birth and President Barack Obama delivered the annual lecture at the celebration in Johannesburg. It is a remarkable speech in honor of a remarkable man.
We know the story of Mandela’s thirty years in prison: his years of solitary confinement, of breaking stone with a pick axe in the heat of the day. We know how history reversed itself and saw him elected president of this nation that had once persecuted him. We know that he shepherded healing and reconciliation against impossible odds.
But my question is how? How was Nelson Mandela able to overcome the betrayals and bitterness of his past, move past them into healing and wholeness and life?
The only answer I come up with is the up-side-down power of the Golden Rule. The mysterious energy of love.
President Obama said:
When he got out of prison, he extended a hand to those who had jailed him, because he knew that they had to be a part of the democratic South Africa that he wanted to build. “To make peace with an enemy,” he wrote, “one must work with that enemy, and that enemy becomes one’s partner.”
Treating the other as we ourselves wish to be treated is a subversive act. We turn the tables on our adversaries and surprise them with respect.
Is this hard? Oh yeah. Immensely hard. Unimaginably difficult. But it is only this power of grace and generosity that has the real, authentic and lasting power to overcome greed and hatred.
Like rocks in a stream, shaped into smooth, sculpted pieces of art, the hard, sharp ways of an enemy can be softened into something beautiful.
Life water on rock, the forces of love can move mountains.
It seemed as if the forces of progress were on the march, that they were inexorable. Each step he took, you felt this is the moment when the old structures of violence and repression and ancient hatreds that had so long stunted people’s lives and confined the human spirit – that all that was crumbling before our eyes.
And then as Madiba guided this nation through negotiation painstakingly, reconciliation, its first fair and free elections; as we all witnessed the grace and the generosity with which he embraced former enemies, the wisdom for him to step away from power once he felt his job was complete, we understood it was not just the subjugated, the oppressed who were being freed from the shackles of the past. The subjugator was being offered a gift, being given a chance to see in a new way, being given a chance to participate in the work of building a better world.
Mr. Obama’s speech was not all joy; he reminded us of the current challenges here in America and around the world. They are legion.
Strongman politics ridicule servant leadership. Tribal mentalities resist inclusion of anyone who is perceived as “other.” Fear rises to meet the fearmongering of manipulative con men. Trust is invested in walls and arsenals while distrust divides friends and families. Democracy has taken a detour.
But Nelson Mandela reminds us: there is another way.
Even in the dismal darkness of our past and the confusing fog of our present, there continues to be a golden thread woven throughout our human story. Whenever people choose the alternative vision of love, grace and compassion, that golden thread becomes more powerful and more brilliant.
Whenever people choose to weave our human story with the golden thread of love, we help craft a better world.
WE must be the weavers of this better way. This is ours to do. This is our time.
Read President Obama’s 2018 speech here.
Watch it here. (1 hour 24 minutes)
Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. She is national president for Coffee Party USA and contributes regularly to the Join the Coffee Party Movement Facebook page.
(It would be wonderful if you would share your thoughts in the comments section below.)
Of all the words of wisdom left behind by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the ones that struck a deep and resonating chord with me were those in the passage in which he used the words “flotsam and jetsam.”
With “flotsam” being the wreckage of a ship or its cargo drifting on the sea or washed ashore, worthless things, and making the association to unemployed people ... and with “jetsam” being that part of the cargo thrown overboard to lighten a ship in danger, the famous quote in which these words were used said much about how society and our rulers viewed us then...as now.
“I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.”
Those words capture our struggles against tyranny and injustices of all kinds. This is why I fight for fairness, because I refuse to accept the view that any humans should be seen as mere flotsam and jetsam. #iRefuse
My “political life” was launched in the 60s as I watched Dr. King stand for the dignity and the decency of humanity. He pointed to cultural habits that denied equality and equity to too many and he spoke of a road to a future about which I, too, could only dream.
I admired those who were inspired by his words (and their own moral compasses) to actually live the words that end the Declaration of Independence to “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor.” Many of them did in fact sacrifice their lives and fortunes in service to the dream.
It is no accident that all these years later I find myself engaged with Coffee Party, an all volunteer band of folks who serve a commitment that Dr. King would recognise.
Coffee Party USA envisions a nation of diverse communities sharing a culture of informed public engagement where our sacred right to vote is the only currency of our representative democracy.
Today and every day I stand in awe of and live in tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
How often do you think about serving others? Your partner? Kids? Parents? What about the wider community? For me, turning MLK Day into a day of service makes sense. We can serve others with kindness in our hearts -- not obligation. We can choose to listen a few minutes longer and make eye contact to renew our connections. For me, MLK represents this spirit of service to a cause larger than ourselves and the courage to do what is difficult or seemingly impossible.
How has the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. impacted your life? What still needs to be done? Please respond (briefly) by commenting below.
I am a part of a Coffee Party USA team of volunteers we call “The Newsroom”. We come from different states, many walks of life, and have varying political perspectives – true to the Coffee Party notion that Americans can discuss anything “over a cup of coffee”.
On Monday, January 8th, the meme below was posted on the Join The Coffee Party Movement Facebook page by a seven year veteran of the newsroom team.
After hundreds of thousands of views, hundreds of comments and thousands of shares the meme was deleted because there was a recurring comment theme: Snopes debunked the meme. But did it?
The newsroom has done an extensive review of this meme and its content. We found one small error: the decision date was February 2003, not February 2004. The downstream consequences of the decision are accurate. IMHO an inappropriate Snopes article was referenced. And Coffee Party took the credibility hit.
Judge the meme for yourself: the actual decision of the Florida court of appeals can be found at http://caselaw.findlaw.com/fl-district-court-of-appeal/1310807.html
If you would rather not read through a legal opinion, the series of events that led to this decision was well summarized (below) at Fox News Wins Lawsuit To Misinform Public – Seriously By Randy LoBasso at 2:28 pm on Monday June 29, 2009Read more
Jeanene Louden, Vice President of the Board of Directors
I will be the first to admit that I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I said “yes” to the Coffee Party founder who invited me to run for a position on the first member elected Board of Directors.
I was in Washington, DC, attending the Coffee Party rally, “Enough is Enough: Citizens’ Intervention”. A terrible storm had frozen us all to the bone (notice the blue lips), so I cannot say I was in my right mind!
That was me October 2011. Today, I have five years of serving the board under my belt. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. And now I am inviting you to join me.
The grand experiment of an all volunteer organization with a member elected Board has evolved over time. Today’s directors are hands on as leaders, participants, and the wheels that turn behind the scenes that keep a private nonprofit organization legally compliant and corporately healthy. Our journey as an organization has been an exciting ride!
One lesson was that folks who have volunteered make the best Board members. When it comes to volunteering, there is room for every skill set. And, your skill set may matter less than what you are willing to learn to do. I had no idea I would be posting in Facebook and Twitter, hosting an internet radio show, or making digital art. Who knows what you might do?
If you find yourself a little more curious now than you were when you opened this email, links to all the details are below. But here is the key intel: if you are considering running for the Board you must be a member and signed up as a volunteer by Jan 1, 2017.
Thanks for all you do,
Jeanene Louden, Vice President of the Board of Directors
Austin Wykes is our Volunteer of the Month. Originally from Worcester, Massachusetts, Austin now lives in Windham Connecticut.
Austin has been a volunteer with the Newsroom for around 18 months. He was attracted to the Coffee Party because of its broad inclusiveness and the goal of encouraging debate from a reasoned perspective. He wanted to volunteer because he wanted to help encourage calm, critical debate on a broader platform. As Austin says, “I’m a nerd, and with great nerd powers come great responsibility, I tend to research for fun, so why not do something with it?”
The Newsroom work group finds articles, or writes original articles, to post to the main Facebook page. Austin chooses articles that he thinks will encourage real participation amongst those who visit our page. The aim being to inspire critical thought, along with political passion. Austin feels that “there seems to be much of the latter these days, without the former. Hopefully, we can affect some positive change there whatever a person’s political viewpoint. Personally, I don’t mind if people hate what I post, as long as it encourages healthy debate and conversion I’m thrilled.”
One of the things Austin really enjoys about volunteering for the Coffee party is the camaraderie and working with people whether or not they disagree. He appreciates engaging in discussions about any topic. If he’s wrong, he wants to know.
When not volunteering for the Coffee Party, Austin is a gamer, movie watcher, and exerciser. He likes to read, and occasionally write poetry. He also likes to write sometimes but has yet to do it for the Coffee Party.
Thank you, Austin, for all you do!
To become a volunteer go to www.coffeepartyusa.com/volunteer
Tim Danahey, Coffee Party USA Director of Public and Member Relations
In the dead of night, during a holiday, and without prior discussion, the Republican Party in the U.S. House of Representatives voted 115 – 74 to dramatically weaken the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (“OCE”). The vote was tallied but no record was kept of how individual Republican Representatives voted.
The vote was part of a package that would have defined Congressional rules for the next two years until a new Congress was elected. Ordinarily, the rules and procedures have been a fairly routine matter over the past 114 Congresses but this 115th Congress decided its first official act was to politicize and gain Republican control over who gets investigated for ethics violations.
It's not ironic that several members of the Republican-controlled Congress who are currently under investigation supported this measure. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy opposed the rules change. President-Elect Donald Trump supported the rule change but said it shouldn't be at the top of Congress' to-do list.
This is where we should be proud as Americans. This dead of night scheme was caught by a couple of citizen watchdog organizations and the media. The resulting spontaneous outcry among ordinary citizens was so swift and so loud that the Republicans immediately backed-off their attempt to politicize justice.
The outcry was shocking to Republicans and should be heartening for all Americans. Why? The outcry was too fast to have been organized or coordinated by organizations supporting citizens' rights and government transparency. The flood of calls into Congressional offices was too diverse to have been programmed by robo-calls from special interests. In other words, the free media revealed the plot and the citizens responded.
The 115th Congress will be forever defined as the Congress that made elimination of ethics oversight their number one priority.
As citizens, there are a number of lessons we must learn:
- The government will always try to do their worst work during holidays when media is relaxed. Procedural aspects of proposed trade policies were released the day after Christmas a few years ago. Allowing China to violate trade sanctions against Iran was revealed on a July 4th. Many unfavorable news stories are announced on Friday afternoons to allow the weekend to buffet the media storm.
- The Republicans in the House of Representatives were not so brazen as to eliminate the OCE. That would create too much outcry. Instead, the procedure is to keep the department but eliminate its authority. This happened with IRS investigations of high-income taxpayers. The government kept the department but slashed its funding. This makes less news. The same process will be attempted for all oversight groups such as the EPA, SEC, and the IRS. The departments will remain but their corporate oversight powers will be slashed.
- The importance of citizen watchdog groups cannot be overstated. Government is an over-sized and complex business. Individual citizens cannot be expected to monitor all of government's activities. Political checks and balances often work on partisan issues but some issues such as financial regulation, defense spending, and pharmaceutical protections result in abuses that transcend political parties. Citizen watchdogs such as Public Citizen, the Project on Government Oversight, Move to Amend, and Coffee Party USA need active members and financial support.
- When politicians blame the media and proclaim the media is biased, they are right. It's up to each citizen to gather their news from diverse sources. In 1800, when John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were running for President in the nation's first brutally contested election, they used all the dirty tricks politicians use today. However, in 1800 the newspaper industry was vibrant and diverse. The city of Philadelphia alone had twenty-eight newspapers and the people knew fifteen of them were Federalist (today's Republican) and thirteen were Republican (today's Democratic). The people read both points of view and developed their own opinions. The lesson is that today's consolidated media is not free in the financial or political sense. Free needs your support even if it's on the internet. Fight donor fatigue and give a couple of dollars to each of the outlets you read and support investigative journalism.
The citizens won this round of Congressional shenanigans but, trust me, there will be many more fights ahead of us. Get involved, make the process joyful, listen, don't try to do everything, don't get overwhelmed, and make a small difference. That is all it takes to have a huge impact to keep our democracy.
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”- Thomas Paine
Clinton and Trump Played Different Games
I like to describe our country as “the big, raucous American family.” And there is hardly a better opportunity to build family connections than with games. Or a more revealing way to understand each other and ourselves, than by the tactics we use within the game.
My dad used to slip Monopoly money to my sister, because he couldn’t stand to see anyone ‘lose’. Our neighbor was outraged that my dad wouldn’t follow the rules of the game. Another card game we played with friends, ‘Nertz’ has a shared playing field and a private one… I was outraged when one of our friends refused to play in the shared field because it would benefit our team. He was in it to win...no holds barred. As you may imagine, I am accustomed to more competition than winner-take-all. (Thanks, Dad!) I learned much about people from playing games with them...and also tapped into my own hyper-competitive side on occasion.
How do you play games? And is there a connection to how you treat others in day-to-day life? What are your internal markers (or conscience) that allow for some actions but not others? And are the rules you use the same as the person with whom you interact?
In our recently concluded election, the Clinton campaign played with the objective to “beat the other team”. Kind of like the rules for “Pictionary”. The Trump campaign played to “win it all”, similar to the rules for “Risk”. The resulting chaos of playing by two different sets of rules within a single election has left us feeling uncertain as to what the social fabric or the social contract, of America, is. What would have been different, if the campaigns had played by the rules of “Pandemic” where the goal was to save the country by working together? We last saw this type of cooperation after the U.S. entered World War II. Does it take a threat to end the world as we know it to change the rules of the game? Cooperation like that ended with the war.
The politics of fear are alive and well… engaging our reptilian and emotional brains, where decisions are actually made. If we demonize and name-call our fellow Americans, how can we see their value in our shared society?
What do we, as a nation, value in each other? And how often do we visit our neocortex to challenge what “we know to be true?” Less often than we think we do. In a country that values it’s “rational mind”, we often fail to examine the rules of the political games themselves and the impact on our day-to-day lives. Our willingness to use fear to “get out the base” has consequences.
Living in constant fear will keep the reptilian brain active. And not in a good way. Extended periods of anxiety and stress (fear by other names) result in a breakdown of mental health and on a larger scale, our social fabric. Trust in a shared reality is missing. There are techniques to counteract the fear...but we must choose to use them. We must choose to use our neocortex (rational) brain. Deprogramming from constant anxiety takes vigilance. It’s not automatic.
Similarly, choosing to identify the rules of the games we play, demonstrating our values when interacting with others is another conscious choice. So is our willingness to abide by our stated values. One of my rules is to treat everyone with dignity. Another is to honor the gift offered by each person.
What is your go-to game? And what rules or values do you play by?
Depending on what results you want, you can choose to play a different game. Our country is divided when we play “Risk” or “Pictionary” in real life. But what if divisiveness - that divide between us - is the actual “Pandemic?” Can we work together to save ourselves?
Debilyn Molineaux is a transformation partner. She works with visionaries and movements in support of a new national and global social contract focused on personal dignity and sovereignty. Her work highlights the relationships between individuals, institutions and governments for conscious transformation. She is the Managing Partner for Living Room Conversations, President of Coffee Party USA and Co-Director for Bridge Alliance, representing micro to macro system approaches. She’s an advisor to Ingenuity Innovation Center, Allsides.com and the Alinsky Center.
Families, friends and a clash of worldviews.
How was your Thanksgiving? I had a wonderful gathering with family and friends. At the end of the holiday week, I was exhausted. Not just by the extra effort of cooking, cleaning and entertaining. Also by the extra effort to not upset the worldview of my family members. They are very uncomfortable talking about politics or any national issues. And of course, that means that most of my life is “off-limits” for discussion. AARGH!!!
As I relayed my holiday story to my friends, I realized that what my family is protecting is their worldview -- because they live a “Mayberry” life where everything is nice, predictable and safe. Everyone knows their place and hard work has gotten them a comfortable life. They believe (or want to believe) the whole world is like Mayberry. Any intrusion of a different reality may cause them to re-evaluate their worldview -- and risks losing Mayberry for them.
And this leads me to a quandary. I want my family to be curious about the world and explore multiple world views with the same curiosity and wonder that I have. And I’m completely unable to change another person’s behavior. How can my family actually KNOW me without talking about this?
The truth is, they might never know me fully. I love them too much to insist...and I won’t risk our relationship. Remember that decisions are first made in our lizard brains...assuring survival of the species. And when our survival is assured, we add nuance and texture with our emotional brain, increasing the quality of our relationships. Only when we are physically and emotionally secure, can our rational brain engage in a meaningful way. The rational conversation is the one I want to have… but I know that unless they feel completely safe, my reality and accompanying facts are off limits.
What about you? Do you have folks who react to your “facts” with fight/flight or blame/shame stories? These are the responses from the lizard and emotional brains, respectively. Facts will never convince others when they feel their survival or relationships are at risk. So where do we start? I would go for empathy and compassion as the first step.
But I don’t really know what comes next. Or how long it might take. I do know that it is the only hope we have of healing our country and building a shared narrative to the future.
Originally from New York, Elisabeth Parker has spent time in Boston, San Diego and San Francisco and now resides in Tacoma, Washington with her husband and 14 year old daughter. Elisabeth met her husband in California, and last year, they moved to Tacoma. Elisabeth is an artist, a techie, a web designer and a blogger for several online liberal news sites.
Elisabeth joined the Coffee Party in 2014. She was attracted to our Join The Coffee Party Movement Facebook Page and was drawn to the idea of a safe place where people with different perspectives can meet and have real conversations about the issues. Elisabeth notes that most of the other pages on Facebook have a lot of trolling and tension and it’s hard to tell who just has a different point of view. The Coffee Party is a place for everyone to stay connected as long as they are civil, respectful and thoughtful. Elisabeth feels that is important during challenging times like these.
Elisabeth is part of our Newsroom work group and as a blogger, this was a great fit for her.
Elisabeth explains that, with the Coffee Party, she is able to share articles written by herself and others that shed light on complicated topics, issues, and challenges that we may face. Elisabeth loves having this platform and admits that the articles she is most proud of are the ones she shares on our page!
The Newsroom is responsible for providing the content for our Facebook page, both through original content from bloggers and through curating: researching, organizing and collecting articles from other sources. Elisabeth is impressed with the work of all the volunteers in the Newsroom. They are creative and passionate about what they do. The volunteers either write articles or look for and suggest articles on current events or issues of personal interest that also align with Coffee Party’s goals. They also try to find and post articles that are being overlooked by the main news sources.
Elisabeth really enjoys interacting and working with the volunteers in Newsroom and is also the Newsroom’s Volunteer Liaison and says it is one of her favorite things to do. Elisabeth helps welcome new volunteers to the Newsroom and helps them learn the ropes with writing ledes (introductions to the articles), understanding what Newsroom is looking for, providing feedback and making sure they are heard. Her favorite newsroom projects have been the Social Media events such as Twitter storms and live debate discussions and hopes we do more in the future.
When not volunteering for the Coffee Party, she likes to spend time with her family. Elisabeth and her daughter are also artists and her husband is a musician. Sometimes, Elisabeth will join her husband singing. Elisabeth also enjoys reading, going to the ocean or art and music events with the family and watching Supernatural and anime with her daughter. Her daughter is also learning how to be an activist.
Thank you Elisabeth for all you do for the Coffee Party.
To find out more about volunteering for any of our work groups, go to www.coffeepartyusa.com/volunteer