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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We Gives and We Takes

 

Yesterday afternoon, Sunday, I was sitting in a gay and lesbian self help group (of sorts). I was welcome, I’m always welcome there, though I’m neither gay nor lesbian. One of the group topics cyrynehxuaaomdibeing discussed was the idea of self care. I didn’t have anything to say during the meeting, but I did do a lot of thinking, and sometime within that hour I came to the realization that my level of self care — usually pretty darn good — has dipped considerably since the night of November 8. My usual countenance of joy and possibility and wonder has, in large part, been replaced with a profound sense of sadness and disgust and ongoing judgement, with equal parts depression and anger added for taste. Soul sickness. I left the meeting determined to be better to and for myself, and be nicer to myself, without sacrificing any of my ongoing commitment to fight the powers that be now, and are coming to be more, the racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic bullying meanness that Donald Trump and his legion of darkness represent.

Anyway, just a little Dear Diary stuff there. What I want to talk about here, a powerful response to any mote of sadness or feeling of disempowerment, is all the potential action we can take, as Mario Savio said so eloquently back in the Berkeley day, “… to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop.” So, how can I protest? – Let me count the ways. Here’s an old high school cheer – “Stand up, sit down, fight, fight, fight.” There’s that.  For this piece, though, I want to focus on the suggestion that we give – we give to all those who oppose the Dark Lord; and that we take – we take from all those who stand with him, with bigotry and injustice.

Donate money to those who fight the good fight, those in need more now than ever of support and solidarity. Thankfully, the list is long. Here are a few I suggest:

Planned Parenthood – The war on women is going to ramp up in a big way, now, under the leadership of those who chuckle at sexual assault and believe only God and their righteious selves know what’s best for you and you and you. This isn’t pro or anti abortion, but about providing young women, all women, with information and assistance and support. Back when I was doing youth work on the streets there were many times when I referred, and sometimes drove, tennage girls to Planned Parenthood in their effort to not need an abortion, to need need treatment from one STD or another, to have someone to talk with. War was declared on this organization all through the Republican primaries and now beyond. You can help.

The American Civil Liberties Union – Attempts at voter supression and voter disempowerment are likley to have a field day under the emboldened “if you’re white it’s alright” legislators and judges, including the Supreme Court, these next four years. The ACLU will stand up for the otherwise voiceless.

The Southern Poverty Law Center – This organization, founded back in the 1970s by a couple of lawyers who have been receiving death threats since then, tracks and reports on white supremacist and paramilitary and other hate groups, including the father of all hate groups, the KKK, and when the opportunity presents itself, usually and most sadly when someone has been killed, takes individuals and organziations to Court and, oncw_ivhwwqaaekfp occassion, bankrupts them. It’s a certainty with Steve Bannon whispering in Trump’s ear, with Jeff Sessions in charge of “justice”, the Law Center will be more in need of support than ever. Like the people it defends.

The Human Rights Campaign –  As the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, HRC has vowed to continue its fight to press for and defend equality for all. The group currently represents more than 1.5 million people in the LGBTQ community, many of whom feel more threatened than ever by a Trump-Pence White House.

Yes Magazine – Describing itself as 20 years of Solutions Journalism, Yes Magazine publishes in depth news stories and features about the ongoing needs of marginalized people everywhere, as well as the creative solutions that individuals, groups of people, organizations, and communtiies bring to those problems. This month features a story on where to make a difference in each of the 50 states. The magazine is an encouraging and informativimagee collection of hope, and buying a subscription will help.

These are five options, opportunities to do something and feel good doing it and stand up for what’s right. Here is a link to these and other worthy organizations, and the way to contribute to their efforts:   http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/11/how-to-donate-to-planned-
parenthood-and-other-charities.html
   You can go to  YesMagazine.org  for a subscription.

The past week I have made small donations to the Southern Poverty Law Center as well as to The Trevor Project, about which you can read in the New York Magazine link above. They weren’t for much, because that’s my story at the moment, but it felt good to do something good.

Now, as for the Taking, it seems I’ve run out of space. Clearly a direct way to take is to boycott — goods, services, businesses, corporations, sports teams, etc. I have a few in mind, but as I’ve run long, I’m asking readers of this blog to offer their own suggestions. Please leave your boycott plans and opportunities in the comments section for all to share. You will be taking action.

I’ll close with a quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estes“I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.”not-in-our-town_final

We keep on keepin’ on
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en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Poverty_Law_Center


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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.