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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Why Do I Cry

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Saw this posted by my niece Sarah on her Facebook page this morning and it was the tipping point for me to go ahead and do something I don’t like doing at all — write about politics.

Somehow, incredulously, mostly unbelievably, in these times of terrible pain and suffering, the seeming disintegration of the planet upon which we live, right before our eyes, when every living cell in The Universe cries out for compassion and love, for decency and humility, for a grateful and kind heart, the voters of our country of these United States, the voters that voted, have arrived at the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as our next President. Door A. Door B. In a shocking collective, mass-created behavior that must be listed somewhere — IN CAPITAL LETTERS — within the DSM-IV, that collection of all things mental illness.

There is nothing funny about it, not one damn thing, and if the two paragraphs above come off as glib, I apologize. Because the world needs help, the world needs love. As so vividly, achingly illustrated in the mantra that has become a reality in our daily lives, in the words we speak.  Je suis Charlie. Je suis Paris. Je suis Orlando. Je suis Dhaka. Je suis Newtown. Je suis Baghdad. Je suis Brussels. Je suis San Bernardino. Je suis Mogadishu. Je suis the West Bank.

I am tired, sick and tired, of being someplace.

And yet, here we are, when the world needs love, when our Country needs to celebrate all that we are that is good and decent and kind, here we are with Hillary and Donald. I almost can’t even talk about them, about the myriad of such troubling realities with each.

Hillary will win, notwithstanding some wickedly nasty surprise, because Donald’s inherent bigotry and mean-ness and difference-baiting will, in the end, be too much even for so many who, right here on the eve of the Fourth of July, are waving their assault rifles, yelling that someone’s gonna have to pry their cold, dead fingers off their DSM-IVs. Hillary would not win, however, against another Door B, say a Lindsay Graham or a Susan Collins or a John Kasich. Because she is so thoroughly complicit with all that is wrong with our politics, interwoven with the corporate greed-heads and power junkies, with the Boards of Directors of poisoners and, yes, rapers, those that desecrate our wonderful natural landscape. Who diminish our opportunities.

It truly sucks.

I’m not voting for either one. You couldn’t pay me to vote for either one. For a long time I thought I would write in Deborah Harry, but I’m not gonna, why would I wish any of it on her. Have lunch with Paul Ryan? Nancy Pelosi? Harry Reid? Mitch McConnell? Really? No, I’ll let Debbie rock on. As of today I’m leaning to Tulsi Gabbard, and if you don’t recognize the name please go ahead and give her a google. She’d be a great President. Or possibly Aimee Allison, an author and activist in Oakland, CA, someone I worked for in a City Council seat losing cause many years ago, a flat-out, right-on strong and caring woman. Or the aforementioned Lindsay Graham, Senator from South Carolina, who is a decent guy, who actually laughs  — at himself, at us all — and who strikes me as an actual leader. And boy do we need us a leader, because the Country and most likely the whole damn planet is woefully short in that supply today.

Right now I feel like the kid in the picture. Crying for our Country, crying for our planet. And truly not liking most of these people.


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Oh, Massachusetts

There was a time, a while ago, when driving along Route 128 through Burlington, down the Southeast Expressway through Quincy, on Route 6 in Eastham on The Cape, anywhere, in fact, in The Commonwealth, where you could find yourself behind a car with this affixed bumper sticker — “Don’t Blame Me, I’m From Massachusetts”.

1972It was 1972, and a few months earlier Massachusetts had voted for George McGovern for President. The other 49 states in these United States of ours had gone the other way, for one Richard Milhouse Nixon, who a couple of years later found himself on a fast helicopter out of Washington D.C., leaning out the side door yelling “I’m not a crook” to the six or so people still listening.

Forty-Nine states voted for Nixon. But not Massachusetts, not us. You couldn’t blame us.

And then last Tuesday the great state of Massachusetts, The Commonwealth, the “Don’t Blame Me” state, went to the polls again and voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump and more closely for Hillary Clinton. The people of The Commonwealth went to the polls and voted their approval and support for the two most deceitful, insidious, arrogant, ego-driven, lying candidates on the two ballots.

Oh, Massachusetts.

Donald Trump is the worse kind of hate monger, a term defined as “a person who kindles hatred, enmity, or prejudice in others”. His rallies are cauldrons of boiling anger and vitriol and, more and more, violence. ( http://www.vox.com/2016/3/2/11146110/donald-trump-rally-push-shove ). He’s the head cheerleader for this, encourages it, makes outrageously unbelievable provocative and demeaning statements for someone seriously running for the Presidency of our United States. He looks into the news cameras day after day and lies and lies and lies — obvious lies, contradictions for which no amount of “flexibity” can suffice to explain. And yet there is a percentage of people in this country, and nearly 50% of Massachusetts Republican primary voters, who turn a clear eye for a deaf ear and continue to support him.

At the heart of it all is racism.  That’s what it is — flat out demeaning, denigrating racism. Do I believe that every individual who supports Donald Trump is a racist at heart? No. Lots are no doubt, and maybe most, but not all.  Just like I don’t believe that every German citizen in 1939 had it in mind to mark an entire race of people for extermination. But things have a way of getting out of hand. As it is, Donald Trump would be nothing more than a clown if he wasn’t so scary, and if the legions of the semi-conscious citizens (including a number of my close friends) who support him didn’t continue to prop up and encourage his bitterness. His ugliness.

And then there is Hillary. In the 2008 Democratic primary in South Carolina, Hillary Clinton, with the collusion of her highly respected husband, brought the ugliness of racial hatred and fears, she played on this, to her campaign against then-Senator Barack Obama. She flat out attempted to stoke racial hatreds to cop some votes, and I was so incensed by this that I wrote a letter to The Boston Globe that the paper not only refused to publish but red-flagged as inflammatory. I wouldn’t have given a rat’s ass if the FBI had showed up at my North Truro door as a result. That’s how disgusted I was.

It hasn’t gotten better. The woman is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and a consummate denier, truth-evader, politically-animalized Washington insider, ever waiting for the never-ending handout and pinky-swear of tit-for-tat support from the likes of Monsanto and all the big boys up and down on Wall Street. She’s a whatever it takes kind of girl, and speaking of girl, the idea that she should receive your vote and mine — and triply so if you’re a member of her gender  — simply because she is a woman and it’s long overdue time for a woman President is the same kind of call for lemming mentality that Donald is fostering regarding all the members of the Islam faith of the world. It’s bullshit. Run someone like Elizabeth Warren or Tulsi Gabbard or Bernadette Devlin or Joan Baez and I’ll be right there with all my sisters.

But not now, not this time, not with this woman.

The idea that the citizens of this country, you know, the ones of all colors and all faiths and all heritages and all personal choices and all dreams for the future — the tired, the poor, the wretched yearning to be free — are on the edge of a 2016 choice for President and leader between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is beyond shocking, beyond the last edge of disbelief and dismay and discouragement, beyond anything I think the likes of Salvador Dali and William S. Burroughs and Ursula Le Guin could even have imagined.

But we are closer to that reality today, thanks in some small part to the primary voters of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Where we use to be able to shed any blame. But not anymore.

Oh, Massachusetts.