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Our National Beverage

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Dawn broke early and well over the Cape Fear River one morning last week before the sun officially rose on the circus—the 2020 presidential campaign season—and just before our beloved Fourth of July tourists hit town. Dawn is beautiful every morning I have the privilege to wake up and greet it, partly because the sun rises on Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Democratic Socialists, tourists, locals, even Ol’ 45.

After my morning workout, I stopped for a cup of what should be our national beverage at my favorite coffee shop on Market. I ordered a medium Black Mountain brew and bagel, and waited by the accessories counter to observe the crowd.

“He’s abusing email and social media, and making it difficult for everybody to get work done,” said the woman sitting in the booth by the window. She was in her late 20s or early 30s, enjoying one of those morning creamy coffee-house specialty drinks that old guys my age call “milkshakes.”

“Just ignore him,” her friend said. “Handling distractions is part of everyone’s job.” Her friend sat opposite, drinking what resembled actual coffee.

As I looked at the many people chatting, working on laptops, turning the coffee shop into an office suite this pre-Independence Day week, I recalled how the vibrant café is a proud part of our nation’s political history. It served as an early office for political activist and organizer Billy Rinehart. The public gathering space helped Billy and his committed crew of Wilmington citizens turn Barack Obama’s “Yes, We Can!” into “Yes, We Did.” I wondered if any of the hard-working, early-morning folks were aware of that historical fact, or were politically aware and active.

“But,” the woman persisted with more passion, “he’s dangerous. It’s irresponsible not to pay attention.”

All I wanted was a cup of coffee and to keep my dawn workout mojo. I didn’t want to hear about the poor woman’s dangerous coworker. I’m tired of psychopath next-door stories.

“I know.” Her friend leaned forward. The man was about the same age as his friend, broad-shouldered, articulate and fit, with reddish brown hair. When he leaned forward, I recognized the insignia as the 30th Engineers Unit on the back of his tee. The young Army veteran continued. “It’s like America is living a four or eight-year episode of ‘The Apprentice.’”

“Eight!” said the woman. “He needs to be impeached … now.”

I hoped my coffee and bagel would arrive quickly. Part of me is sure Ol’ 45 actually wants to be impeached. He is an attention hog. He may be thinking if he were impeached and got re-elected in the same year, it would be awesome! He would prove slicker than Slick Willie and trickier than Tricky Dick. The process might destroy the Republic but think about the ratings! “Winning!”

“Look,” the man said. “Don’t get me wrong, I disagreed with almost every policy of Barack Obama.”

“How could you possibly?” the woman protested.

“I’m Libertarian,” the Army veteran interrupted. “I encourage you to read Milton Friedman. I could go into the details about Obama’s latent Marxist tendencies and naïve foreign policy, but at least he was a real president.”

My coffee and bagel arrived. I wanted to ask to join their discussion, but I was late for work. I nodded and encouraged them to keep the faith. I walked to the car and hoped that new generations of politically active keyboard warriors would cut through the virtual anonymity and still meet for coffee face-to-face like these two citizens. Americans met in coffee houses after the Boston Tea Party in 1773 to frame the revolution. Only those loyal to the petty narcissism of the crown and opposed to the values of our Republic stayed in the safety of their homes and drank tea. Coffee probably should be our national beverage.

I started the engine and savored my Black Mountain. The words of the intelligent Army veteran echoed in my head, “At least he was a real president.”

Huzzah to you, sir!


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