Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy


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I Am Not Your Honkey

Obligation.

Please keep this word in mind.

In the last week my wife Susan and I have watched three movies, two in the theaters and one on a DVD at home. The movies were, in order, Hidden Figures, Moonlight, and I Am Not Your Negro. Each presents, in its own way, a view of the black experience in these United States of America. You already knew that. Moonlight, clearly, and I Am Not Your Negro, less so, also shine their light on the experience of growing up gay in the USA.

Honkey 1Last night, driving home in the cold Portland rain, having just watched the James Baldwin penned I Am Not Your Negro, Susan and I took turns discussing how we felt about the movie. You’ll have to check with her about her opinion. It will be worth your time. For me, as I sat in the nearly all-white audience in nearly all-white Portland, I was reminded of a thought I had had earlier in the week. Regarding my writing – my fiction. And I explained the connection to my wife as best I could.

I have been trying to market my first published book – “Ring Around the Rosy” – and I have been actively promoting it on Twitter, with, realistically, poor results. In terms of sales anyway. I’d been thinking, earlier in the week, that I was getting very little response from the many LGBTQ and Trans folks I follow on Twitter, and to whom I fairly regularly comment and like and retweet and do all the twitter things to do. Then I had this clarity – why should they? There are no gay or lesbian or trans or questioning characters in my novel. There are characters with what are considered disability – down syndrome (2) and cerebral palsy (1), and as such I have had a some positive response with folks connected to that population, and have sold some books. But, in Rosy, there was and is no gay/lesbian/trans character to be found.

Then I began, the middle of last week, thinking about my second book, currently in what I hope will be its final editing stage and therefore ready for self publishing within the next four to six weeks. That book will be titled “Astoria Strange“, an interwoven collection of 11 stories that live in the genres of supernatural and horror. honkey 4And, lo and behold, narry a LGBTQ character there either. I am neither gay nor trans but this isn’t a case of the admonition to write what you know. It’s me not coming to my writing with what I’ll call “Big Mind.”

Anyway, last night on the drive home I told my wife of the earlier-in-the-week conversation with myself, the smallish “aha” moment, and that sitting in the theater I was feeling that feeling again. James Baldwin’s crystal clear conclusion – the trouble in the United States is race trouble – and it was and is therefore everyone’s responsibility – No, the word was Obligation – it was and is everyone’s obligation to work hard at understanding the other experience. Or else. That was how the movie ended – You have an obligation, white people, to do everything in your power to commit to and thoroughly understand the black experience in America. Or else.

And for me, sitting in the theater, I had the clear awareness that, as a writer – certainly as a Blogger like right now, but as a writer of fiction – I have the obligation to be more expansive, to write with Bigger Mind, to read and study and learn and hang out with and experience and do everything I can do to know more, within the reality of my white skin and heterosexual template, and to get that more-ness into my writing.

It’s my obligation.

I am happy to say, well, it makes me feel better somewhat, that my “Rosy“, within its 14 characters, has three who are black – Marvin, his mom Bonnie, and latecomer Greg. That’s better than no gay, lesbiaJames-Baldwinn, or trans characters. And three characters with disabilities. And that the forthcoming “Astoria Strange” has as one of its primary characters, a black man – Sergeant Rennie Moss. As does my story/novella waiting for me to get back to it – “Bennie’s Berkeley“. Plus, thinking about my obligations, and I shared this with Susan, I am going back into stories in progress, including a collection of short stories and one not yet complete novella, and see where I can be more inclusive, more expansive, more commited to my obligations to help the planet, and in particular help my badly bleeding Country, and to do that the best way I can now, in March of 2017, with my writing. My stories. The stuff of life I sit here and make up out of my imagination and therefore, in a rare instance, have virtually complete control over to create whoever and have them believe and do whatever, whenever they feel like it.

Because it’s my Obligation – capital O – to do my part, to shine my little light, to keep my eyes on the prize, to hold up my sign that says “I Am Somebody (and so are You)” and keep marching to the freedom land.

I’m a writer. I write. I’m a published author. I publish. And I can make a difference.

I might be a straight old(er) white guy, but you know what? I am not your honkey. I can bring Big Mind to my otherwise White writing and do my best to be part of the solution.

Because not trying to learn more and understand more and be your best at empathizing more means something else – that you’re part of the problem.

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Scatttered, yes, But Clear.

There aren’t many people I feel connected with these days. As I make my day through the world – my world anyway. It’s accurate to say that there are very few people with whom I would want to spend any time. I have some friends – not many – but I do have some, and I cherish them. I think that at this point in my life, with many more years behind me than ahead, my choices, the way I’ve lived my life, my gypsy lifestyle, how I am as an introspective, comfortable being alone, re20140817_090403latively asocial character — well, that has resulted in very few friends, almost no one calling me, writing me, emailing me, texting me. I say this as, Walter Cronkite use to say, that’s the way it is. If you hear a “poor, pitiful me” in this then I haven’t written clearly, I haven’t said what I want to say.

And what I want to say – and saying it right – is a thing for me now, as a writer, a pretty big thing. I’m not always clear about it, exactly what I want to say or why I want to say it (for instance, I spent a long time yesterday writing a post for today’s Blog and then woke up with some doubts and after asking myself – What’s the goal? – I decided to throw it away. I’m not sure it was what I wanted to say, and clearly it wasn’t how I wanted to say it.) But it’s the goal.

The title of the post I wrote yesterday was “Not My Tribe”, and the point I was trying to make, in a rather deluded meandering way which including calling out all my Portland friends and fellow artists for not showing up at Saturday’s family Art Show, but that really wasn’t my goal and it is what it is, because what I was trying to speak to was my complete sense of distance from most of the people in this Country today and in particular people who support and voted for Donald Trump. As in, at this point in my life, the accumulation of all the experiences and all the people and all the feelings and perceptions, the whole stew, I have nothing in common with, other than the giant USA zip code, those people. They are not my people. They are not My Tribe. I wouldn’t want to sit next to them at a bar-b-que, I wouldn’t want my time at a coffee shop messed with in some casual conversation, even an overheard conversation. I have no use for bullies and racists and people insensitive to the joy of difference and the bedrock principal of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all, the idea that people have a right to live their lives and love who they want, the crazy notion that its possible there’s not an even playing field for everyone in these here States, despite what the haters and the venture capitalists and hedge fund managers and white supremacists and the ‘Christian Right’, and the legion of poor white people who have been hoodwinked all these years to believing that it is “us against them”, when in fact they’ve got the “them” wrong.

Anyway, this post is how my mind is working, barely, these last two weeks. Disorganized, unfocused, a particle collider of thoughts crashing through my head. Crying sometimes, infuriated more, helpless and hopeless and then all positive about sticking it to the man. The Man.csnbly0waaagpqo

Only a few things feel clear. I love my wife, my best friend. I cherish the few friends that I do have, and the larger group of people in my life, a bunch on Facebook, that I was lucky enough to meet and get to know along the way. I’m grateful I grew up in the town I did, with its large percentage of people of color, so I didn’t have to grow up despising or fearing people who look or act different from me because that’s what someone told me I was supposed to do,  and through my whole life I’ve been too lazy and stupid to bother to figure it out for myself. I’m thankful I’m not one of them.

I’m clear about my Tribe. Crystal. And about doing my part to stick it to The Man. Every day, in every way. To wrap my arms around liberty and justice for all. Yeah, I might be scattered these days. Wicked. But, I know right from wrong.


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Stop, Shout, Work It On Out (The inherent flaw in feminist reasoning that to not vote for Hillary is an act of sexism, or a bully by any other name.)

I’m weary. Really weary. Weary of so many things. And one of the things of which I am weary is the implication, spread widely with more than a hint of belligerence, that as a male who considers himself a leftist, to chose not to vote for Hillary Clinton for President of The United States this year is a conscious act of sexism. That there can be no other reason to make that choice.

I see those posts on Facebook. I see those tweets on Twitter, and links everywhere to blogs using lots of big words and calling forth a litany of inherent historical sexism in society, of which I am now choosing to be part of – to participate in, to swath myself in that cloak, to fall on the always wrong side of “if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem”. Because of who I won’t vote for.

It’s lazy. It’s plain, unadulterated, small picture, blinded by the light lazy. And it is weak, and, for sure, it’s stupid.

To think that someone with a willingness to acknowledge and despise sexism in our society — personal, familial, institutional, educational, in levels of society way beyond what I, as a white male, will ever be able to understand — and at the same time to make a constitutionally guaranteed decision to not vote for a party’s choice who happens to be a woman, that those two thoughts are somehow contradictory, and therefore an act of conscious sexism, is not only wrong and lazy and stupid, it’s also arrogant. Because in the end it denies my right to make a decision on who I think the ethical, moral, spiritual leader of our Country should be, based on the facts that I take the time to learn and understand the best I can, and make my decision based on that, and my inherent sense of what is right – and who is wrong.

This isn’t about bashing Hillary Clinton, who in my mind doesn’t merit the label of ethical, moral, spiritual leader, and who I believe is entirely bashable, as will soon be made evident over the next three months. It’s about being called a sexist because I choose not to support her. So, let me offer these two thoughts.

In Presidential elections in the 80’s and 90’s I wrote in Joan Baez  -twice – and Chrissie Hynde once. If Elizabeth Warren was this year’s nominee I’d be more than happy to vote for her. Ditto Barbara Boxer, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, and Patty Murray. I’d be thrilled to vote for Susan Collins, Republican Senator from Maine. And I’d stand on the corner every weekend between now and November holding up a sign if US Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii was the nominee. Never mind about 10,000 nurses (see Aug 21/2014 blog post, “Please Give the Keys to Florence”) and small business owners and women’s shelter Directors and US forest rangers and so many others from all over the Country who would do a magnificent job steering our ship, ethically and with moral vision, and all of whom who check off the questionnaire gender box “female”. I’m not not voting for this nominee because she’s female. I’m not voting for her because she’s she.

To my second thought. What if the Gods up there in Olympus, or whoever throws the dice and calls the show, what if they decided that Joe Biden’s son wouldn’t die, so Joe ran and he became the Democratic nominee, which could have happened. And with those last pair of die rolling over to snake eyes, and a few giggles in the background, what if it was Sarah Palin who was the standard bearer this year for the white-tinted, angst-ridden, dystopian-hugging Republicans. And so at the end of this very week the election for United States President was between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. Would everyone of those posts and tweets and blogs and frustrated, agitated coffee shop confrontations, would every one osarah pf them state, for the record, that to not vote for Sarah was an act of sexism?

I wonder.

As it is, frankly, I’m weary hearing myself think about all this crap and write about it, knowing full well how important this election is for children and seniors and people of all colors and gay and lesbian and transgender Americans and soldiers, men and women, and the disabled, and artists, for that matter everyone over the whole granite planet who’d prefer not to be incinerated in an ever more likely nuclear roll of the dice, still, having said that, I’d rather be thinking and writing about art and science fiction and community building and team development and the Red Sox.

I could care less what someone calls me. Why do we collectively like and sing along with songs like “I Did It My Way” and “I’ve Got To Be Me” and “Climb Every Mountain” and songs that celebrate each one of us, we like and believe in them until someone isn’t happy with me doing it my way. With me having to be me. Then there’s something wrong. Something wrong with me.

I was getting my picture taken by the FBI picketing for Angela Davis in front of the Federal Building in Boston’s Government Center in 1971 when many, not all, but many of the women posting and tweeting and blogging about my sexism weren’t even a blink in the cosmic dust. That doesn’t make me better than anyone and it’s not a get out of jail for free card. But it’s one of the ways I can look in the mirror if I’m lucky enough to still be walking around the planet in November, and be okay.