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We began a conversation about the idea of giving up apathy for Lent—and for other seasons of life as suggested in A World Worth Saving–when a guy came in and asked, “This coffee you serve—is it liberal coffee or conservative coffee?”

Ms. Anne Thrope showed her evil eye bead to him and hoped that would chase him away, but he stayed at the bar.

“What do you mean by liberal or conservative coffee?” I asked.

“Is it Fair Trade shade-grown on a small farm picked by people who make a living wage or is it mass-produced coffee meant to increase profits for shareholders? Is it liberal or conservative?”

“Coffee doesn’t have its own political philosophy, friend. It’s a substance that we enjoy. You’re welcome to have a cup.” I didn’t want to belabor the conversation, but we drink all sorts of coffee here. He ordered an Armenian coffee and added extra sugar to it and asked for a side of lokoum.

I’m not writing about coffee here. I’ve read about the complex differences between the production by small farms and corporate farms, and this blog is not a place to analyze those differences. I am far more concerned by the stereotyping or labeling or typecasting of people and issues. I participate in the social network sites and I am as guilty as the next person in liking positions with which I agree and dismissing positions that differ from mine. I’ve joined arguments on social networking sites. While the arguments are fierce, I haven’t seen anyone change positions.

We do a lot of talking, and no one is listening. Opinion polls show tremendous rates of disapproval for the nation’s leadership, but I don’t see evidence that leadership is paying attention to the polls or to a larger possibility of conversation surrounding political issues. They embody Shakespeare’s words mouthed by he who shall not be named:

a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing.

We shut out their noise lest it diminish us.

Moving down the line to smaller entities, churches are notorious for the living by the rule adapted from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: “There ain’t no rules in a church fight.”

And here you and I come together. I invite you to surprise other people by listening to their ideas and responding to the words spoken instead of reacting with a contrary position. If we follow the example of the coffee club conversation, maybe we can moderate the noise level and others will imitate us and then we may move forward

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