Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy

Leave a comment

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream

the scream

Harlan Ellison, the famous writer of science, speculative, and other fiction wrote a story/book with this title back in 1967 — “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”.  You have to go farther back for Norwegian artist Edvard Munch and his 1893 painting of “The Scream”. For me, they both resonate too well today.

Two years after Ellison’s story was published Neil Young gave us these lyrics: “Blue, blue windows behind the stars. Yellow moon on the rise. Big birds flying across the sky, throwing shadows on our eyes. Leave us helpless, helpless, helpless, helpless.”

I woke up this morning, staying up late last night with the network news, and felt that my duty – my job – was to write words of comfort. To comfort. Like St. Francis, not so much seek to be consoled as to console, that where there is despair, bring hope. That where there is darkness, bring light. I sat in the blue recliner that belonged to my mother and felt very strongly that my job for this day was to make my best effort for being a channel of peace.

And yet, it feels like there are shadows on my eyes, that my ability to see clearly, and by seeing understand and come up with a solution, is clouded, smudged, diminished. That I want to scream to stop it – everyone just STOP IT – but that I have no mouth. No mouth big enough and large enough and smart enough and brave enough to shout over the sickness, the division, the on-slot, landslide, the tsunami of bad and badder and still badder yet news that floods our collective view as a Nation, as a Planet. The horror of our everyday that leaps from the screen on ABC and CNN and The New York Times and The Dallas Morning News.

I feel like the person in the painting. Helpless, helpless, helpless, helpless.

And yet – again – I can’t give up. I can’t give in. I can’t say “No thank you” to the moral imperative that was waiting for me upon awakening. To be a channel of peace – tsunami or not.

In my case, where I’m at in my 68th year on the crying planet, I’m left with my writing and my painting. My mouths, as it were, with which and through which to scream. For common sense, for compassion, for plain old fashioned kindness and decency, for tolerance, for to each their own and it takes all kinds and we’re all bozos on this bus, for let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

I think that is part of it, and maybe a lot of it, even possibly all of it. The let it begin with me. I knew a guy named Kevin in AA back in Chelmsford, Massachusetts back in the 1990’s. Whenever he was struggling he’d turn to one or another of a couple of older women who served as mentors and comforters to him. He’d moan his particular moan of the day and their reply would always be the same. “It will get better.” No matter his degree of discomfort and psychic pain. “It will get better.” One day, his story went, he’d had enough and confronted them both about just what this “It” was. He was told, the “It” is “You”. You will get better. You will get better, and then it will get better.

I believe that. And I believe that with the right leadership, with true leadership, and with the insistence by leaders that we come together to talk and to listen and just maybe learn something about it takes all kinds and to each their own and, yeah, all of us being bozos on the bus,  maybe then I could get better and You could get better and even We could get better. And then just maybe It would get better.

It’s possible. Harlan Ellison wrote another book, “The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World”. Neil Young wrote “A Heart of Gold.” And if you look carefully at that Munch painting you’ll see a couple of figures in the background. Who knows, maybe they’re angels, honest to God angels, just waiting for that scream to yell itself out, ready to step in and bring comfort and hope and light. It’s possible.

I’ve got some ideas, some very specific ideas, about how we could begin to fix the mess we’ve become. I’ll write about them another time, soon. I guess me writing this this morning is opening my mouth and making even just a tiny noise. It’s the best I’ve got today.




Everything Is Broken

Here I ignore my most solemn advice, in which I tell myself never, never, never write about politics and my opinions about politicians. And, yet, at the serious risk of alienating family members and long-time friends, almost, as if I cannot help myself, I offer: “Everything Is Broken”.


Were someone to ask me my political affiliation, to which party do I belong, to whom do I swear my allegiance, I would answer “the Yippie Party”. Same as it ever was. The point being that I am not a Democrat – nor would I want to be – and I am not a Republican – nor could I be. Just to be clear about that up front.

Many of my friends and family members are in some degree of mourning regarding Tuesday’s mid-term election results. I have seen their posts on Facebook, I have heard their sobs and moans from afar. But I am not. At this later stage of my life I clearly understand the meaning behind the title of the song “You Get What You Give” by New Radicals. That the Republicans absolutely cleaned house all across the country – despite the incredulous dismissal of that fact by The President – should have come as no surprise to anyway. Anyone with at least 17 brain cells still firing. That this country – the workings of the country, the governmental responsibilities and obligations, services provided, opportunities afforded – is almost to the point of beyond repair is clear. Crystal. Democrats and Republicans alike are to blame, in equal measure, and the person holding much of the blame is The President.

In the last six years of the history of the country we have gone from the giddiness and hopefulness of “Yes We Can” to the depression and bleak acceptance of “No We Can’t”. And the President is primarily to blame. He has done almost none of the thing his election offered the promise to do. To lead, to inspire. To find a way. Barack Obama’s presidency had been a disaster. All the promise, all the hope, all the opportunity to truly lead has somehow slipped away. I do not have to look any farther than yesterday, and the President’s – excuse me but I’m due back on the planet Earth – news conference, where his denial of the reality of what occurred Tuesday was bad enough. The press corps was, like, “Seriously?” But his unwillingness to admit – at all – that things are broken, that he has a lot to do with it, and that we absolutely need to find a new way – and so I am going to take the lead – was truly depressing. I just stopped watching, because all I was doing was watching another politician do their thing: talk around everything but the truth. It wasn’t even slick. It was sad.

The Republicans, to their credit in this election, shied away from running a collection of right-wing imbeciles – “Some rape is okay”, “Vote for me, I’m a witch” – and so had little problem collecting the votes of people just saying no. But from one end of the country to another you had Republicans promoting and pledging and promising absolutely not one thing other than just say no to Obama. That’s it. There has been no leading by anyone, anywhere, anytime in the last 20 or 30 years, especially the Republicans, and the collection elected Tuesday offer not a smidge of encouragement. Joni Ernst? Scott Walker?

There just isn’t anyone to be excited about, or proud of, anymore. Look at  the faces of the Democrat party: Harry Reid? Nancy Pelosi? Come on. Or Mitch McConnell? Ted Cruz? Really? Where have all the leaders gone? Where are the people to inspire us, encourage us, move us up and out from the TV and into community gardens and volunteer opportunities and Big Brother Big Sister programs? What happened to the Peace Corps? What happened to Vista? To the sense that those things were important, the selfless helping of others was important?

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Please Give the Keys To Florence

There are eight million artist stories in the city. This is mine. This is “Please Give the Keys To Florence.”

What do my friend Dr. Doug Martin, Iraqi artist Hazhar Rasul, and Florence Nightingale have in common? Let me tell you.Nurse 4Hazhar paintingDoug

Not long ago I upgraded my long-standing T-Mobile service plan for a family plan, including my wife and step-daughter, and in the process Susan and I upgraded out 1947-like cell phones to smart phones. I have long said, in no attempt to get laughs, that I am not smart enough for a smart phone. Now that I own one I prove that statement every day. But I have figured out how to look at my time line on Facebook, even add stuff to my page. And two nights ago I scrolled down to the latest posting from my Facebook friend Hazhar – a most beautiful watercolor painting of a multicolored landscape scene. I called Susan over and showed it to her. Then I told her that I had commented on it, with one word: “Beautiful”. My comment was the only comment of many that was in English. The rest were in some other language, I guess Iraqi. It made me laugh. Then I noticed that further down in the comments was another in English: “thank you so much Buddy Cushman”. It was from the artist.

We have been “friends” on Facebook for a couple of years now. I thought about that and said to Susan that artists from Iraq and America could just be artists, liking and commenting on and being inspired by the others art, that the wars and ongoing struggles, the political backs and forths, all of it didn’t matter. I said, off the top of my head, that the planet would be better off if artists were running every country.

But that didn’t feel right. You know, artists, can be a little flaky, a tad obsessed. What came out of my mouth a few moments later – “No, nurses, it’s nurses who should be leading every country in the world” – that felt right.

I have long felt, all the way back to the 70s at least, that nursing is one of the most honorable professions to be found on the planet. It just is. The caring of people, the nurturing, the skills, the training. Registered nurses, R.N.s. Male nurses here and there, but mostly women. And women who are often subject to the whims and the authority of Doctor’s. Often men. So I had the instant thought that if I had all the power in the universe I would place a nurse in the leadership position in every single country on the planet. Or a committee of nurses. And all legislative bodies would be abolished, a group of nurses put in their place.

Can you imagine the changes? Decisions would be made based on common sense, the next right thing to do, care, and compassion. No agenda other than healing, and care-taking. Making the rounds of people being served, people in need, and providing them with the things they needed. Just that. Keep it simple. I’m telling you, it would work in ways almost unimaginable. Wars would cease – less work for the nurses. Health care everywhere would be free, a right along with life and liberty, provided sensibly, proactively. Intolerance of difference would fade away. The playing field of wealth and abundance would become more even, more fair. Trust me here. This is how it would go.

My good friend Dr. Doug Martin, and I have written about him in my previous blog posts “67Blondies” and “Hunter”, had a saying. He would haul it out every so often, particularly if something wasn’t working, something was going wrong, somewhere in California, or in The United States, or in the world. This was his saying – “White men in suits.” I have said it often to myself since the time I first met Doug in 1977, and since he passed in 2002. White men in suits. I get it. It actually covers a whole grouping of people, of bosses, of various persuasions and enthnicities. Leaders. But not nurses.

I looked up Florence Nightingale on Wikipedia this morning. I did not know that she is considered the founder of professional nursing. I did not know that she established the first school of nursing in a London hospital in 1860, or took a group of nurses she trained to care for the wounded and sick in the Crimean War. Or that she earned the nickname “The Lady With the Lamp”. Check this out:

She is a ‘ministering angel’ without any exaggeration in these hospitals, and as her slender form glides quietly along each corridor, every poor fellow’s face softens with gratitude at the sight of her. When all the medical officers have retired for the night and silence and darkness have settled down upon those miles of prostrate sick, she may be observed alone, with a little lamp in her hand, making her solitary rounds.

As reported in The Times of London.

“Every poor fellow’s face softens with gratitude at the sight of her.” You think that is how people, people anywhere, react to the sight of their country’s leader, or legislative body, today, their images appearing on the television set, the computer monitor, the newspaper, the smart phone? I think not. But a nurse? A group of nurses? Come on. You know in your heart it’s a good idea.

The whole planet needs a designated driver. Please give the keys to Florence.