Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy


2 Comments

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.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Yo Honkies, Blame This Guy

o-LINCOLN-MEMORIAL-facebook

 

If I were sitting in a coffee shop, and someone came and sat at my table and said this to me – “Black Lives Matter” – I’m pretty sure what would fall from my lips, without thinking about it, would be one of these statements: Yes. Of course. Of course they do. No kidding. No shit. Duh.

It’s a given. If I didn’t know why it was being said I’d figure that the person making the statement, the black person, probably knew why it was important to make it more than my pale self. One thing I do know – hearing it wouldn’t make me angry.

But it has obviously made a lot of people angry in the country, and if you watch the news and read the news and look at posts on social media, etc., etc., etc., it clear that it’s made a lot of people really, really angry. And really angry, to be clear and factual, long before the senseless, horrifying murders of the policemen in Dallas and Baton Rouge this last week. Long before that.

The question, or a question, then, is what is it about those three words that make so many people, most of them Caucasian, so frazzled and discombobulated and flat out pissed?

What if we had never heard those three words, had that statement burned into our collective mind, but instead, on the news and on social media, began hearing people say this – Italian Lives Matter? Would the response have been the same? Would yours? Or would it have been one of mine listed above? — No shit. How about Japanese Lives Matter? Especially remembering the earthquake and the tsunami and the terrible, terrible loss of life. Do Japanese Lives Matter?

I’m from Massachusetts, originally, so how about Irish Lives Matter? Or Portuguese Lives Matter? Would those make you pissed?

Now I could throw out there that Syrian Lives Matter, and seeing on the aforementioned news/internet the heartbreaking tragedy of war and trauma and homelessness I think you’d probably agree, even if it feels a tiny bit weirder, that, yeah, Syrian Lives Matter.

But Black Lives Matter? Somehow that’s been something else, the response to it. It has initially and loudly generated this response – All Lives Matter. As if the two statements don’t coexist. Donald Trump has been a big cheerleader for All Lives Matter. Of course Mr. Trump said a few months back that if he had his way he would kill the families of terrorists. The wives and grandparents and kids. I guess it’s All Lives Matter usually. Pretty much all the time. Mostly.

It hasn’t always been this reactive/angry way. George Harrison said the Lives of Bangladesh Mattered. Willie Nelson and Neil Young said Farmer’s Lives Mattered. Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie and lots of others said that African Kids Mattered, remember www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9BNoNFKCBI and no one yelled out All Kids Matter! Different peoples needed help to bring their lives back to an even playing field, just that, no better no worse, and no one got angry about it. People, in fact, asked “What can I do?”

Who knows what it’s like to turn on the aforementioned news, week after week, and watch someone of your color die in a most distressing way, in a way that seems entirely wrong, not real, not the same. If the “Don’t taze me, Bro” goof at the Florida University had been black, would that have played out the same? In an isolated part of the campus? At night? Just think about South Carolina. Dylann Roof, murderer of nine Charleston Church goers, American citizens, was taken into custody with pretty much kid gloves. Tim Scott, one of two Republican South Carolina United States Senators, a black man, described being stopped while driving to the US Senate seven different times.

“I have felt the anger, the frustration, the sadness and the humiliation that comes with feeling like you’re being targeted for nothing more than just being yourself,” Scott said in a powerful floor speech reflecting upon the killings of police and by police that have shaken the nation. He implored colleagues to “recognize that just because you do not feel the pain, the anguish of another … does not mean it does not exist.”

Or as Bono said, in the Bob Geldof Christmas song, “Tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.”

Do people of this country have a right to talk about their experience of day to day life, and death, in this country? You’re damn right they do. I believe that’s made pretty clear in the First Amendment.

And to my white Caucasian Honkey sisters and brothers. Black Lives Matter? — The guy up there in the picture started it.