Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy


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Bad Gringo Hombres

 

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So this was yesterday.

I’m coming back from the center where I’ve dropped my son and a brief stop at Trader Joe’s for non-organic fruits and vegetables. Dinner’s my bag tonight and I’m already sweatin’ it. It’s just after 10 am.

I’m flying down Cesar Chavez/39th and way down there I see an old Chevy pickup slowing at an intersection as I approach, and here I am gunning it 45 in a 25 mile-per- hour zone and just as I get there the pick-up swings into his left turn directly in front of me, I’m jacking up the brakes and looking into a cab filled with four pale hombres who look to be casting rejects from “Deliverance” and meanwhile the driver looks like Donald Fagen from Steely Dan except here he’s been on a vicious meth run for the last two and a half weeks so my speeding-down-the-hill black Taurus is probably mistaken for some strain of mosquito, and since there are barely any mosquitoes in Oregon to begin with I take him and his cab-mates for Trump voters. As my Mexican wife would say – “Estupido”.

Good thing I make it back to the house, having swerved around Sheriff Arpaio or whoever he was, just in time for a traffic jam, my roommate Jannine crawling into the back seat of some road-trip pick-her-up in my parking place, so I’m facing down the street on the wrong side and coming flying in my direction, making my previous speed look lawful, are two small foreign jobs and there’s not much room between the Taurus and the Buick Regal picking up the roomie so I throw up my arms in the windshield in a slow-the-fuck-down you morons we got little kids on the street gesture, as if there are streets that don’t, and in the rear-view I see the tail lights jam to red and there’s screeching stops and out of both cars come the drivers, big scary white dudes both let me point out with Make America Great Again red caps, indicating in less than a half nanosecond that I’m dealing with morons and odds are bigoted pea-brains, and as Jannine’s about 50 percent of Jamaican heritage I slip out the 38 from the glove box and leap out the passenger side, whacking my nuts across the console which pisses me off further and the MAGA boys take one look at the piece of steel and my expression and skedaddle on back to their let’s- make-america-great-again Hondas and boot it around the corner. Which at the same time the Regal and roomie drive off so I can swing a half u-ee and pull in front of the house and unload the apples, raisins, and broccoli, fruits and veggie somehow unharmed after this decidedly trump-world danger driving home from the grocery. It’s 10:14.

Less than an hour later – I’ve been in the basement typing like there’s no tomorrow, which of course there might not be, listening to a YouTube collection of Brenda Lee and Zakk Wylde favorites when I hear some pounding on the door upstairs so I go up slowly – my cajones gently but persistently reminding of the less-than-ballet-like vehicle departure, so it takes a minute and I open the door to two millennials in white shirts and black ties with short hair and big smiles asking if I’d like to be saved, preferably today, never mind receive swell literature with only a monthly contribution to the great educational work going on at Liberty U over there in Virginia, and they confirm that yes in Lynchburg which I point out is surely always a welcoming vision for folks pigmented like my roomie Jannine, of whom they have no idea. But they morph into less than praise-go friendlies when I say no thanks I’ve just express mailed a check for two grand to the Southern Poverty Law Center, me and Morris Dees are tight bruh, and I see their hands curl into oppo turn-the-other-cheek fists, but I don’t think I mentioned yet that I brought the 38 into the house with me – ain’t America great after all – which I now produce in the hopes that even these trump voters (yeah, they got the red caps too, and one’s sporting a rather large button with the words “Goring was good”) so there’s another not necessary giveaway, anyway the 38 helps make the point that my abundance-filled self points in another direction from theirs.

Now get this. It’s not even 11 am on a Tuesday morning and here’s two MAGA imbeciles on the porch and one of them looks at me and quotes Eldridge Cleaver – “If you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem”. I have to laugh and it ain’t easy to laugh these days – though our laughter is a shield – but I’ve got to laugh that I’m being quoted Panther phraseology on a Tuesday morning by these two Liberty emissaries who are clearly not, like the Blues Brothers, on a mission from God, and after I’m done chuckling I unbutton my orange-hibiscus-on-blue Hawaiian shirt and reveal the Public Enemy t-shirt I’m wearing underneath.

Fight the power, kiddies.

And that was just the morning.

 

(Above photo contains no bad gringo hombres. But possible aching cojones.)

 

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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.


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Which Side Are You On

 

It has been hard to think these last five days, for me. To string together coherent, relatively connected thought. I haven’t been able to do it. I have found myself crying periodically, or on the verge. Mostly I have felt angry, that’s been the prevalent feeling, and I don’t like feeling that way. It is contrary to my very nature.

I was very fortunate to find myself in Oakland, California last Tuesday, 20161109_124252and for the two days after. I got to watch the election with maybe my closest friend, and another close friend, and some friends of theirs, my wife with her own friends up in Marin. Tuesday night it was disbelief sliding into fear. Wednesday morning I sat with my friend and we both had woken early, unable to sleep, and we both were experiencing physical pain symptoms, and we both had no clue how to proceed, how to go forward, what to do.  He was there when my wife called and I wept on the phone talking about the pain of moving away from people whose hearts have become heavy with anger and hate, even, and cold. Later that afternoon, Wednesday, my friend brought me to a trauma center to sit in a healing group, and I cried some more, and he did too, as did lots of people, taking turns going around the circle, many teachers, not knowing how to talk with their students, parents struggling with conversations with their children. The fear, the Big Fear, the suicidal ideation upon us. Being there helped. But not a lot.

Earlier in the afternoon, before the group, I had taken the BART from Oakland over to Berkeley, at Shattuck, and walked up through the UC Berkeley campus, finding a sit-in in progress in front of Sproul Hall, an echo of more than 50 years  from the time of the quote below, and I sat down on the concrete and stayed there for a while, and that helped too. But not enough.

And before that, even, on my way from the BART to the campus I passed a young Muslim woman sitting on the sidewalk, holding her daughter, a cardboard sign asking for food, and I walked past but then stopped and took out a dollar and went back and gave it to her. The next afternoon, walking with my wife who had been delivered to Oakland for our flight back to Portland, I told her about that incident, and as I did, talking about what I hoped was some degree of kindness and compassion, I also realized that my action was a direct affront to the new world, in fact, a Fuck You Donald Trump, and for me, then, came the realization that I would — and will — take every single opportunity going forward to say and do and feel and act and share Fuck You Donald Trump. (FYDT). That helped more.

My good friend who lives in Costa Rica sent me an email yesterday in which he noted that they were sending in the clowns. I wrote back this morning and said, in addition to the clowns, they were sending in the Nazis. And it brought me back, for the umteenth time the last five days, to the posts I’ve seen on Facebook, many written by friends, and newspaper stories, encouraging everyone now howling at the moon to lighten up, take it easy, tone it down, even, God forbid, give the guy a chance, he’s our President now, we’re all in this together. I can almost picture this group – Bannon, Gingrich, Palin, Giuliani, Ingraham – sitting around in the West Wing saying those very things. Kumbaya.

My friends and others urging restraint and toned down rhetoric and let’s all work together are coming from a place of White Privilege. Easier for them to say. And arrogant. The campaign was never about making America great again. It was about making it White again. Male again. Straight again.

Anyway, taqeykkzceaakupdhis is what I think, this is how I am feeling. Everyday, in anyway possible, my job is to FYDT. I recently read the autobiography of Cesar Chavez – La Causa – and it’s clear that while marches and picketing and lobbying all mattered, mattered a lot, what brought the grape and lettuce growers and their police force and political friends to their knees were the Boycotts. It’s the money, Stupid. I’m going to spend the next few weeks researching which companies and corporations are behind this clear movement toward “alt-right” fascism and do my part to boycott and encourage others to boycott. And I’m going to sit down and stand up and march and howl and, mostly, write, write, write. Not be a silent partner. Not be complicit.

All of my Blog posts for the foreseeable future will be about the ways I personally discover to FYDT.

 


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Stop, Shout, Work It On Out (The inherent flaw in feminist reasoning that to not vote for Hillary is an act of sexism, or a bully by any other name.)

I’m weary. Really weary. Weary of so many things. And one of the things of which I am weary is the implication, spread widely with more than a hint of belligerence, that as a male who considers himself a leftist, to chose not to vote for Hillary Clinton for President of The United States this year is a conscious act of sexism. That there can be no other reason to make that choice.

I see those posts on Facebook. I see those tweets on Twitter, and links everywhere to blogs using lots of big words and calling forth a litany of inherent historical sexism in society, of which I am now choosing to be part of – to participate in, to swath myself in that cloak, to fall on the always wrong side of “if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem”. Because of who I won’t vote for.

It’s lazy. It’s plain, unadulterated, small picture, blinded by the light lazy. And it is weak, and, for sure, it’s stupid.

To think that someone with a willingness to acknowledge and despise sexism in our society — personal, familial, institutional, educational, in levels of society way beyond what I, as a white male, will ever be able to understand — and at the same time to make a constitutionally guaranteed decision to not vote for a party’s choice who happens to be a woman, that those two thoughts are somehow contradictory, and therefore an act of conscious sexism, is not only wrong and lazy and stupid, it’s also arrogant. Because in the end it denies my right to make a decision on who I think the ethical, moral, spiritual leader of our Country should be, based on the facts that I take the time to learn and understand the best I can, and make my decision based on that, and my inherent sense of what is right – and who is wrong.

This isn’t about bashing Hillary Clinton, who in my mind doesn’t merit the label of ethical, moral, spiritual leader, and who I believe is entirely bashable, as will soon be made evident over the next three months. It’s about being called a sexist because I choose not to support her. So, let me offer these two thoughts.

In Presidential elections in the 80’s and 90’s I wrote in Joan Baez  -twice – and Chrissie Hynde once. If Elizabeth Warren was this year’s nominee I’d be more than happy to vote for her. Ditto Barbara Boxer, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, and Patty Murray. I’d be thrilled to vote for Susan Collins, Republican Senator from Maine. And I’d stand on the corner every weekend between now and November holding up a sign if US Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii was the nominee. Never mind about 10,000 nurses (see Aug 21/2014 blog post, “Please Give the Keys to Florence”) and small business owners and women’s shelter Directors and US forest rangers and so many others from all over the Country who would do a magnificent job steering our ship, ethically and with moral vision, and all of whom who check off the questionnaire gender box “female”. I’m not not voting for this nominee because she’s female. I’m not voting for her because she’s she.

To my second thought. What if the Gods up there in Olympus, or whoever throws the dice and calls the show, what if they decided that Joe Biden’s son wouldn’t die, so Joe ran and he became the Democratic nominee, which could have happened. And with those last pair of die rolling over to snake eyes, and a few giggles in the background, what if it was Sarah Palin who was the standard bearer this year for the white-tinted, angst-ridden, dystopian-hugging Republicans. And so at the end of this very week the election for United States President was between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. Would everyone of those posts and tweets and blogs and frustrated, agitated coffee shop confrontations, would every one osarah pf them state, for the record, that to not vote for Sarah was an act of sexism?

I wonder.

As it is, frankly, I’m weary hearing myself think about all this crap and write about it, knowing full well how important this election is for children and seniors and people of all colors and gay and lesbian and transgender Americans and soldiers, men and women, and the disabled, and artists, for that matter everyone over the whole granite planet who’d prefer not to be incinerated in an ever more likely nuclear roll of the dice, still, having said that, I’d rather be thinking and writing about art and science fiction and community building and team development and the Red Sox.

I could care less what someone calls me. Why do we collectively like and sing along with songs like “I Did It My Way” and “I’ve Got To Be Me” and “Climb Every Mountain” and songs that celebrate each one of us, we like and believe in them until someone isn’t happy with me doing it my way. With me having to be me. Then there’s something wrong. Something wrong with me.

I was getting my picture taken by the FBI picketing for Angela Davis in front of the Federal Building in Boston’s Government Center in 1971 when many, not all, but many of the women posting and tweeting and blogging about my sexism weren’t even a blink in the cosmic dust. That doesn’t make me better than anyone and it’s not a get out of jail for free card. But it’s one of the ways I can look in the mirror if I’m lucky enough to still be walking around the planet in November, and be okay.