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Politics with my Cappuccino

My barista leaned over the counter today.  “What do you think of the MSNBC host who said she hoped it was a Tea Party member rather than a Muslim who set the car bomb in Times Square?”  His colleague at the cappucino maker edged closer to hear what I had to say.  “Well,” I replied, “I wish it was someone from the Tea Party.  It actually kind of makes me sick to my stomach every time I hear it’s a Muslim because I think the large majority of them aren’t radicalized and it just gets more difficult for law abiding Muslims.”  My barista rolled his eyes and got back to work.  My barista and I have been sparring politically for a while now.  It has become a regular occurrence. 

Standby for the great irony here.  My youngish, handsome barista who drives a sporty car (he says he married well) is wildly conservative.  Not what you’d expect.  Consider your barista.  Hip?  Trendy?  Teva Sandals?  Mine is a supporter of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party and is sick of all these bailouts.  Me?  I’m the middle aged suburban mom in an upscale Denver suburb, as liberal as they come, who believes government has a financial obligation to its people and coming to the rescue is necessary now and then.  His eyes light up when he sees me come in for my daily nonfat dry cappuccino fix.  “Vicky, what do you think of this?  Vicky, can’t wait to hear your opinion on this one.  Vicky, how are you going to feel when your taxes go up?  Vicky, come over here.  I need to ask you about something.”  Politics is part of my coffee ritual now. 

At first I was a bit surprised by his forwardness.  I couldn’t imagine our discreet back and forth was good for business or that his company or customers would approve.  After a particularly intense exchange, which lasted about five minutes and had his colleagues calling him back to work, I got downright uncomfortable.  We were discussing President Obama and Congress and health care reform.  He made sure I understood that my taxes were going up and soon my income would be shrinking.  I didn’t articulate my position succinctly.  Race came up.  I walked out of the store replaying the discussion in my head.  I talked to my friends about whether I should say something to him or stop visiting.  After thinking it through, I came to the conclusion that this exchange is good for both of us, but in measured doses.  Kind of like one cup of coffee a day.  After all, discussing politics at the local coffee shop is what we do in America.  Right?    

A while back I was listening to NPR and there was a discussion about Melinda Blau’s book “Consequential Strangers.”  These are the people on the periphery of our lives that matter.  They are not friends or colleagues, but rather the people who we intersect with over the course of our lives that have an impact nonetheless.  They are the lady at the bank who greets me when I come in, the woman I sit and talk to on the airplane, people I’ve never met on Facebook who intrigue me with their posts.  Our interactions make a difference in my life.  My barista is a “consequential stranger” and even though I think his politics are strange, I walk through the world more knowledgeable because we talk out our differences.  He knows what I drink, greets me by name, has my coffee ready before I get to the cashier and now he knows my politics and I know his.  I doubt we’re opening each others minds or mellowing each other out.  Most likely we’re just agreeing to disagree and entertaining the staff.  I’m hearing about the Tea Party with my cup of joe.  He’s hearing what I like about our President.  We’re not shouting each other down or holding up signs.  It’s rather civilized.  Like meeting over coffee.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.

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Kara’s Tea Party: Am I Missing Something Here?

Eddie is one of my very closest friends.  We have known each other since we were teenagers and knew of each other even longer.  Our fathers were best friends and Polish immigrants who met in London following World War II and came to America on the Queen Mary together.  When I lived in Connecticut and Eddie was in New York we hung out together every other weekend.  We attended each others weddings.  We love each others spouses and parents and the relationship between our families is continuing now for a third generation.  When I travel to New York I stay with Eddie and if he ever would go west of New Jersey I would roll out the red carpet for him in Denver.  Eddie and his wife, Mary, have raised two incredible kids and I hope my children will be as worldly and successful.  I am blessed to have Eddie and his family in my life.   

As close as Eddie and I are, we are on completely different wavelengths politically.  He is very conservative and admires Sarah Palin.  I am very liberal and support Barack Obama.  We love to debate and adore each other despite our points of view.  So I shouldn’t have been surprised when he sent me a message on Facebook saying “My daughter is KICK-ASS.”  He was proud because Kara attended a Tea Party Rally in Washington D.C. and made an impromptu speech.  She talked about the dollar and how it is losing its meaning because it is no longer earned but rather allocated (she said stolen) through government programs which we are taxed to support.  Kara standing up for the populist Tea Party and shouting out for fiscal responsibility has shaken me.  Until now it has been easy for me to ignore the protesters because they look nothing like me.  I cringe when I hear Sarah Palin’s braying and  see people who remind me of my father-in-law who lives in small town Iowa when I scan the crowds.  If Kara is jumping on the bandwagon it’s time to pay attention.  I need to ask if I’m missing something here?

Another good friend who also shook his head over my politics used to tell me “If you’re young and you’re Republican you have no heart.  If you’re old and you’re a Democrat you have no head.”  So what was Kara doing at a Tea Party Rally?  I’m not certain I can dismiss this movement anymore as a bunch of Republican extremists.  If the message is making sense to smart college educated kids like Kara then perhaps the Tea Party is gaining the kind of traction that will make a difference at the polls in November.  I hope other liberals like me who look at the Tea Party as a movement that clutters the airwaves with hate speak and reaches out to the disenfranchised few and their birther friends, ask themselves if they’re missing something too.  And when they start getting uncomfortable like I am now, when they start realizing that maybe this is a party to be reckoned with, then maybe they can stand up like Kara did and make some noise.

To learn more about Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.