“This weekend marks the kick-off of the Coffee Parties across the country— which has been billed as the liberal response to the Tea Party movement — and I stopped by one of the Washington D.C. area gatherings Saturday morning at Peregrine Espresso in the Eastern Market area — only to find a small gathering of five activists huddled at a small table.

“Kathleen Frydl, a professor on sabbatical from Berkeley, led the discussion on topics ranging from Tea Partiers to the media. Frydl said that even though she finds parts of the Tea Party movement to be ‘nuts,’ there are a couple of things she agrees with the conservative activists on, like adopting a simpler tax code. She took issue with a recent Tea Party document of legislative demands called the ‘Contract from America’ as an example of how Tea Partiers are trying to ‘speak for America.’…

“They spoke mostly in generalities — not diving into the specifics of policy or really asserting positions on any topic — about health care, energy, poverty and climate change, though one participant said he feels strongly about immigration reform, explaining ‘everyone should live where they want to live.'”

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“The approximately 50 people in attendance ranged from students, young people in their 20s, a female military officer in her upper 50s who was an ardent pacifist, and many middle-aged people like myself who weren’t sure what they were walking into but were open to a new paradigm. Led by activist and entrepreneur Andy Shallal and CodePink founder Medea Benjamin, the meeting’s rules were clear: No bashing of the Tea Party and a willingness to talk and listen. The presence of a CNN crew lent a festive air as did the free (organic, free trade) coffee…

“I recalled the first time I voted in an election. I’ll never forget the excitement — even though I was out of the country and voted absentee. It was a seminal moment for me, the time I realized I played a part in the direction of my country. It was my Patriot Moment. Today was my second Patriot Moment. If ever there were a grassroots movement, this is it. But it can’t be portrayed as elitist or against anything because today I was part of something that had no boundaries. We may not have created an agenda for the future or a manifesto or a slogan. But we did create a sense of hope and purpose and conciliation.

“In the coming months, the Coffee Party may even begin talking to the Tea Party; perhaps we can jointly attend a Caffeine Party.”

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“‘Frankly, we are petrified by the tea party and what they stand for and what they’re talking about,’ said Monte Carmel, a retired business executive from West Palm Beach.

“‘I’m tired of all the misinformation, the cute little labels the fright-wing has thrown on everything,’ said a man named Russ.

“‘To me, government is the answer. I’m really sort of perplexed,’ said a man named Joe who said he had been a teacher for 44 years…

“Brownstein, who is white, said ‘white southerners in this country are going nuts’ because of the popularity of black figures like President Obama and Oprah Winfrey. He said he raised the issue because ‘you have to know who your enemy is.'”

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