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Cary Brunswick

March 20, 2010

Good to see Americans venting frustrations

If the state of politics nationally and in New York state gets any worse, we’re going to need parties with drinks stronger than tea and coffee. What am I thinking? It already has gotten worse. Beer parties, anyone? Let’s hope we don’t have to hit the harder stuff. But I’m sure there will be a few kinds of parties with other refreshments before we get to that point. You can’t blame people for reaching such a high level of frustration that grassroots meetings are being organized so they can talk about how bad things are and how helpless they feel about doing anything about them. The tea partiers figuratively started dumping leaves into the harbor a year ago, mainly in reaction to Barack Obama being elected president, which meant the Democrats had control over the government _ and the new so-called liberal platform. They were fed up with big government and high taxes being used to finance an agenda they viewed as straying more and more from the core values of individualism and free enterprise on which the nation allegedly had thrived for so long. They’ve latched onto a conservative litmus test in which it appears many Republicans and so-called conservatives won’t be able to produce the correct tint. The key word for the tea partiers is ``reaction,’’ for conservative is too mild. They want to return to some idyllic though mythical past where government was small and people were left alone to pursue happiness. Unfortunately, few achieved it and many were left in destitution. Enter big government, not stage left, but center stage. Now, launched last weekend, we have the coffee parties, whose participants appear just as frustrated as the tea-baggers, but with a desire to stop the nasty name-calling and with a goal of getting money, scandal and dysfunction out of our governments. And New York state is a prime example, a microcosm perhaps, of what the hyped-on-caffeine people are talking about. From former Gov. Eliot Spitzer to former Senate leader Joseph Bruno, and from former Sen. Hiram Monserrate to former Rep. Eric Massa, it’s clear we’re in trouble and our leaders are not getting the job of governing done right at a time when we’re facing such critical issues as budget cuts and health care reform. It is no surprise that we have growing numbers of people afflicted with both reactionary and progressive hopelessness. But those descriptions can’t account for everyone. What types of beverage parties are likely to be organized next? Surely someone will try to duplicate the coffee people by using Facebook to coordinate a movement of latte or cappuccino parties to represent those who believe that what our lawmakers need to do is tune in to a ``new age’’ perspective. A little yoga before congressional sessions, Buddhist meditation on the House or Senate floor, a toss of the yarrow stalks before important votes and we’ll be on our way to a government on a wavelength with the spiritual energy that pervades all things. I can picture a few legislators getting into it right away, and who knows, if they all tried it as standard procedure, we could have a new era of bipartisanship unimaginable today. And the legislative action taken probably couldn’t be any worse. At least the wars would be halted and the value of everyone having access to health care would be appreciated. Then the espresso drinkers would emerge, hyper all, stressed out about the environment and energy policy. The trouble with their parties, however, would be the difficulty in getting a word in during the intense and rap-like debates. They do have an agenda worth its weight in small cups of black coffee, with the issues of natural gas drilling, the renewed interest in nuclear power, food safety and environmental pollution. No, congressmen wouldn’t be encouraged to recite haiku over those problems. Probably attracting the largest crowds, however, would be the beer parties. The arguments might get a bit out of control when the issues are debated over a keg, but before long most participants would get tired, take a nap and then have to start over. I’m not sure how much would get accomplished. For the over-50 crowd, there has to be a series of wine parties where discussion would be dominated by dwindling investments and retirement accounts. Though the markets have come back, many will remember with bitterness the president’s suggestion that people should be able to drain their 401(k) accounts without penalty. The grassroots origins of these beverage parties is a positive sign that people do care about what’s happening to their country, and have reached a severe stage of frustration about what they can do to change it. Of course, more involvement in elections and more people actually voting in them would be a good step. Meanwhile, if our politics gets any dirtier and more stagnant, let me know when there’s a party for the harder stuff. Cary Brunswick of Oneonta is a former managing editor of The Daily Star, editor of oneontatoday.com and a freelance writer. He can be reached at brunswick@earthling.net.

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