Grassroots? Please.

The National Coffee Party has arrived in DeKalb, and if you missed the first meeting, do not despair. Visit the website where you can sign a pledge that you will not call other people bad names, and put together a “Sphere” toy in time for the next meet-up.

We are 100% grassroots. No lobbyists here. No pundits. And no hyper-partisan strategists calling the shots in this movement. We are a spontaneous and collective expression of our desire to forge a culture of civic engagement that is solution-oriented, not blame-oriented.

Solving the world’s problems in a sit-down with one’s neighbors is a worthy use of time and we should do it more often, particularly if it leads at least occasionally to action. However, I don’t believe a “movement” based on trying to act superior to Tea Party people is sustainable, and more generally I’m tired of national organizations generating gimmicks and trying to call themselves “the grassroots.” They’re not. It’s all top-down (and akin to ReNew DeKalb’s talking City Council into a skating rink and then hoping — or pretending — there was community-wide support for it just because they said so).

Why does it matter? It matters because these “grassroots movements” allow the illusion of home-grown activism without the risks. Tolerating such a charade is unacceptable when you know people who have paid a genuine price for trying to change the system — and who maybe wouldn’t have had to, if more grassroots were participating for real in the first place.