By Harlan Garbell
If you are a movie buff, you may be familiar with David Mamet’s great screenplay for “Glengarry Glen Ross.” “Coffee is for closers” is the iconic tagline for that movie, one that has also seeped into the popular culture.
Now that I have your attention: If you like coffee, but are not a “closer,” yet interested in politics and current events, come join other like-minded people for lively conversation on the second Friday of every month. We meet at the Dunn Bros. coffee shop in Loring Park at about 10 am. We generally finish up around noon, but you can stay as long as you want. Although I host the event, I don’t consider myself a facilitator and there is no need for you to prepare in advance to participate. However, it does help to be familiar with the issues of the day. If you would rather listen than talk, that is okay too.
Essentially this group is a “coffee klatsch” for those who are politically aware and eager to share their opinions. In referring to “lively conversation,” I am not exaggerating. Participants can be very passionate about their views. And, in my opinion, that is terrific. About the only rule I have for the group is that attendees be respectful of other people and their opinions, even if they strongly disagree. We insist that this be a “safe space.” (In other words, throwing your panini at someone who calls Stormy Daniels a liar is not cool.)
This Humanists of Minnesota Coffee and Current Events Meetup group started about three years ago and we have had consistently good attendance. There are so many people in our organization who are politically aware that I thought this would be a natural addition to our Meetup programming. I also give huge credit to our president, Audrey Kingstrom, for finding this location in Loring Park. It is just about perfect and I believe the secret sauce behind the group’s longevity. We have (1) our own space (the “stage”) at the back of the coffee shop— right across the street from a beautiful park; (2) the Dunn Bros. staff is great; and (3) there is ample parking in either the lot next door or on the street at that time of day.
Our editor asked me to describe how we decide what to discuss. The answer is simple: we don’t. Everything discussed is generally spontaneous and usually generated from the “hot” issues of the day. This is the original format and I have stuck with it, notwithstanding suggestions to change it. The most typical suggestion is that I serve as a moderator and give each attendee an opportunity to express their views in order. This may work for other Meetups, but it is contrary to my vision. Perhaps this is the result of growing up in a family where, in our excitement, we often interrupted each other at the dinner table (like that scene in the Woody Allen movie where his family lived under a roller coaster in Coney Island).
I am truly amazed at the scope of issues covered during a typical Friday. At recent meetings we have discussed immigration, Tim Pawlenty’s run for the GOP nomination for governor, the CIA overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953, and whether Melania actually loves Trump (yes, really). So, if this is your cup of tea (or coffee), and you have time on a Friday morning, please join us to share your views on the issues of the day. You can find us at the Humanists of Minnesota Meetup site. The next meeting is Friday, June 8. Just remember to keep the paninis on your plates.