Beer and Pavement

What does it mean to build international coalitions through beer and Pavement?

Posted in Manifesto by SM on January 14, 2011

I am fully prepared to concede that this post does not make much sense, but in keeping with my goal of writing a Monday/Wednesday/Friday post, this is what you get. Also, I’m not sure I hyperlinked the right sites with the right words and phrases. For this, I apologize. As always, leave a comment, pour a beer, put on a record. We’ll talk. No big whoop.

I don’t know that this is my manifesto[1], but I’ve experienced some tense moments lately. These moments were discussions or debates that grew heated, usually on Facebook discussion threads, sometimes on cable news networks[2]. Some I participated in; most I watched from afar. All could have used some beer and Pavement to lighten the mood.

Take last weekend’s terrible tragedy in Arizona. Many of the mentioned conflicts took place over this event. In an environment of borderline hate-speech and violent rhetoric, one dude who was already off his rocker, Jared Loughner, couldn’t tune it all out and had to take action. What he took were lives and judging by his mug shot, he was pretty cool with that. This guy was plenty deranged, but the political rhetoric of the times helped fuel his crazy to the tune of six dead and another twelve injured[3]. You probably know what happened, so I’ll stop with the details.

And swirling all around this terrible moment is a debate over the role violent rhetoric plays. Some, mostly those on the right, think the vitriol spewed from politicians and pundits mouths has little to do with a kook pulling a gun on a crowd. Others, mostly on the left, are calling for an end to the violence – verbal and actual. Folks are taking sides, drawing lines. The partisanship is about to get worse, not better.

Of course, what we have is a failure to communicate. I won’t mince words. The right is wrong. The left is histrionic, spineless, and just not as good at violent rhetoric as the right. The facts are that the political right is fully to blame for the nastiness in politics reaching violent heights never thought possible. It’s their supporters (mostly Tea Baggers) who eat this shit up and spread it like wildfire. Sorry, but that’s what’s going down. And those on the left will make this same argument for a moment, realize no one’s listening or that being critical may cost them votes, and let it slide[4].

So, the debate ends with a lot of angry folk. Conservatives somehow feel victimized and liberals feel powerless while independents hate both sides even more. We’ll be worse off than we were before. We can’t talk to each other. We can’t be civil toward one another. We no longer relate.

Conversely, there are moments when we find some commonality and seriously talk without pretense or bias. Take Wednesday here at Building Coalitions. The coalition exploded. I’m talking over 2000 page views, nearly ten times my highest total for an entire week happened in one day! I wrote about the struggles of growing older and losing touch with the music scene. A pretty simple concept, really. The post somehow made it onto WordPress’s Freshly Pressed feature and things rolled from there[5].

Many, many people joined the coalition that day. People gave advice, shared their own experiences, and simply participated. No one was nasty. No one was condescending. It was one of those moments where it actually felt cool to be human, nice to be connected to so many intelligent people.

What I do here is talk. It’s not out loud, but it’s published and here for your viewing pleasure. I’m open to comments and, like I said, we keep it civil[6]. Of course, we mostly talk about beer and music, but what do we all talk about on a daily basis? Jared Loughner? Sarah Palin and her crosshairs? Nope. We talk about the things that interest us, the things that make life enjoyable.

This blog is about commonality. Sure, not everyone is into craft beer or indie rock, but this blog isn’t for everyone. I once blogged about things that appealed to a wider audience and sometimes it blew up in my face[7]. So, I started this blog to focus on things I like to talk about (beer and Pavement). I even tend to take a little more time, put a little more thought with each post.

What does this have to do with the Arizona tragedy?

The point is that we need to fix how we talk to each other. Maybe instead of talking at each other with hurtful rhetoric, we can begin to listen to each other and find those commonalities. I prefer to center all of the conversations in this blog around beer and music. We all enjoy a good beer now and again and everybody loves music. This practice in talking civilly to each other is just a start to an improved world view.

As far as the rhetoric of the times, none of us likes violence. Some politicians love to use its imagery in order to win votes, but none of them (at least I hope) really wants harm to come to their opponents. That’s a commonality from which to begin. I don’t want you nor I nor any of our loved ones to be hurt. So, let’s talk about that.

That’s what Building International Coalitions Through Beer and Pavement is all about. We’re building a coalition around the things that make us alike, not taking aim at the things that make us different. And even if we have different takes on those commonalities, there’s space for debate and comparison. Understanding different perspectives on commonalities helps us develop our own ideals.

Maybe this is a stretch[8]. Maybe I’m a dreamer[9]. Maybe a stupid blog has no influence. I don’t know. I just want folks to stop by, read what I have to say, leave a comment, and know that we can talk to one another differently than our leaders do.

As always, tell me what you think below and dissect my footnotes[10].

1Although, the category for this post would suggest otherwise.
2Which I don’t watch. Thankfully, Jon Sterwart, NPR, New York Times, and Facebook give me all the “cable news” I need. What I mean is that half the stories are about what’s being said on cable news. Who needs to watch cable news when they make all the new for other outlets to report?
3I get the argument that this guy was crazy and no matter what politicians said, that had no bearing on the outcome. Still, the violent rhetoric has been building to a fever pitch. Use such images and words to describe what you and your supporters are going to do to opponents has consequences. Sure, free speech protects one’s right to say whatever, but shouldn’t our political leaders be held to a higher standard and not stoop to violent rhetoric? Why not win elections based on ideas? Where has that political system gone? Did it ever exist?
4If you can’t tell, I don’t like either party.
5At some point, I had to give up responding to the comments. I was barely even reading them before approving new comments. It got a little crazy, but I’m thankful for all the nice things people said, the “likes” I received, and members of the coalition who subscribed to my feed. Now, hopefully this post doesn’t scare them away.
6This is precisely why I moderate comments. Of course, someone could leave a nice comment once and then slip through a rude one, but I’m willing to take that risk. I feel like if you join the coalition, it’s hard to be an asshole. You want to participate not denigrate.
7Never write a blog that criticizes a beloved college town. It’s no fun. People get all heated about legitimate critiques and miss the point.
8No maybe about it, but after about a year of posts, I figured this blog needed a purpose and direction. Honestly, I didn’t know how to articulate it in the beginning and now it seems clearer.
9But I’m not the only one.
10Yes, the footnotes are a package deal. Sometimes, I don’t have time for them, but here they are.

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