Coffee Shop Anarchists vs. Police

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Dan Savage posted to The Stranger’s Slog a snippet that led me to their sister-paper’s blo (Portland Mercury) about the Red and Black (Anarchist) coffee shop asking a uniformed officer to leave after he purchased his coffee, due to the fact he was uniformed. My personal feelings on the matter is that I don’t believe asking a uniformed cop to leave further’s their “cause” – why is the cop coming into that shop? Could he be a closet anarchist? Could he be a cop AGAINST police brutality? Could he be wanting to bridge the divide? Does kicking him out serve to continue the divide? Would letting him sit there, join in a dialog, perhaps make things better for all parties? I don’t have the answers, but I admit to wanting to be generous here. I know that this asks courage for people who are afraid (some reasonably so) to confront their enemy, which perhaps no one wants to do over a latte. Perhaps people shouldn’t have to confront discomfort/fears/assumptions/traumas. Then again, maybe that’s what it means to be out in the world, and a coffee shop is the best place to do it.

One of the commenters, Snagglepuss, had a few comments on the subject worth noting, here’s an excerpt of one:

Then, a startling thing happened, right around my 20th birthday. Instead of just blindly believing everything I read in the liner notes of Ebullition and Profane Existence releases, the sloganeering lyrics of my favorite bands, and the regurgitated and half-formed quasi-political gibberish my friends spouted, I picked up some books with different viewpoints, and (gasp!) read them…

You’ll never guess what happened. It dawned on me that my friends, and virtually everyone else I’d met in the crust-punk scene, were flat-out wrong about some very basic notions regarding political philosophy, humanity, and governance.

Not only were they wrong, they were utterly unable to consider a viewpoint that was different than their own (unless it was endorsed by one of their cool punk-rock heroes), and immediately hostile to ideas that contradicted their beliefs.

One of my peeves lately is that every corner of the Internet seems to have a willingness to step onto a soap box and proclaim right vs. wrong, often without the courage to sit, contemplate and consider the opposing viewpoint they’re rallying against on the oppositions terms: in their shoes, and within their world-view. The world is not sinister in the way that I think we may be inclined to believe it to be, but is rather a cluster of people operating on different classes of assumptions, with only a few with truly malevolent designs. It’s not to say there aren’t disastrous consequences of decisions made without malice, but until we can be generous and sit in the other person’s/group’s experience, we can’t bridge the divide to communicate in terms of peace.

Some may say that the opposition isn’t deserving of such generosity. Who says that we are deserving of theirs?