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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Santorum, Stelazine, and It Takes All Kinds

Here’s something I never thought I’d hear myself say. When I woke up this morning.

I’ve got to agree with Rick Santorum.

I know, I 20140817_090403know. Quick to the medicine cabinet and break open the bottles of thorazine and stelazine and melaril, and every other anti-psychotic medication I still have lying around from the good old days. Maybe one of my neighbors has a syringe, and I can shoot those babies in stat. Quick now, like a bunny, shoot up, tune out, remember it’s only a bad dream – Santorum, Santorum, Santorum.

Anyway, here’s what Rick had to say this morning after the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage – “Stakes are too high to cede marriage to unelected judges.”

Bang! Pow! Shazam all over again. Ricky got it right on that one. Absolutely, positively, unequivocally, one hunnerd percent right, Ricky.

Normally I don’t agree so much with Mr. Santorum. I’d say – hmmm – about zero percent of the time. Hey, we’re just two cools dudes in loose moods that happen to look at the way of the world through different eyes. S’why we have that saying, “It takes all kinds.”

But I agree with him this morning, on this particular statement, concerning this very subject. Because there is absolutely no reason on this God-given planet for nine people in robes to be deciding for anyone who can and cannot speak to their own special particular quality of love and do what’s been going on since before even the Tigress and Euphrates became popular vacation spots, and propose marriage and become married. None. Zero. All wrong. Couldn’t be wronger.

I’ll mostly quote Johnnie Mathis here, who, coincidentally, is a big fave with a long-time-ago-lesbian-friend-who-I-had-a-wicked-crush-on-but-she-just-chuckled-at-me: “It’s not for them to say.”

Cause it isn’t. Why should any two people on the face of this gray and granite planet need a law to say they can speak to their special love with the act of marriage – a union between two people who want to spend their lives together, two people lucky enough to find someone to make them feel that way. A law? That says okay? I guess it’s alright? Go ahead? If you feel you must?

Please. When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?

I don’t know how many of the millions of people jumping up and down and celebrating today, with real tears of joy and thanks, thinking free at last, free at last, holding hands and kumbaya-ing all over the place with each rainbowed other, have thought, for instance, if that old Great Powhatan in the sky had seen fit to make just one change of lifespan on the planet – say, Ruth Ginsberg – which meant that President George W. Bush had the chance to pick another justice and picked someone like, say, Michelle Bachmann (and I’m a big fan of hers, I’m just using her as an example, really), so that today, therefore, the Supreme Court of The United States ruled 5-4 that there was NO constitutional right for two people of the same sex to enter into holy wedlock – well then, kids, WTF then? Are we still dancing? And romancing? Are we still ringing it around the rainbow rosy? Is everyone chiming in with their same two cents (quite like me now) with hallelujahs or dagnabbits or god will get evens or whatever? So that, if aliens are tracking our progress on big screens in the sky, they would get to watch the one hunnerd percent exact opposite of what is happening, and whose saying what and, even, whose zooming who, today?

Would that make the marriage between two people who want to get married – regardless of their sex, color, orientation, political party, religious affiliation, place of birth, date of birth, choice of favorite ice cream, Red Sox-Yankee fan, or any defining characteristic you can think of – would that make that marriage any less right? Any less sacred?

Would it?

So those who celebrate today – and, just for clarity, I’m a tea-totaling left-leaning hippie yippie cowsills lovin’ the flower girl Joan Baez for President one of them – think about it. You could just as easily, within the whimsicalness of life in the big city, been crying.

Stakes are too high to cede marriage to anyone other than the two people deciding to do it.

In other words – right wing tea party white supremacists religious morons and lefty leaning save the planet gluten-free-only liberals – get the hell out of my big church.

Ah yes……you gotta love it when the stelazine kicks in.