…but then I’m hardly the only one. This came across my Facebook stream a little while ago…
Count your blessings straight boy, and be nice to the one you can’t love back. Painful unrequited love is probably waiting patiently for you too, somewhere down your road…
by Bruce |
Comments Off on I Hate You Cupid…
January 2nd, 2014
To Whom It May Concern…
by Bruce |
Comments Off on To Whom It May Concern…
December 19th, 2013
The Atheist And Christmas Music
I’m sitting at my desk listening to Christmas music. Specifically, to my Pandora app on my iPhone. Pandora has a “Peaceful Holidays” channel and I love it. The music lifts me, soothes my soul, brings back old and very pleasant memories of Christmases past. Back in the day I would set the family manger scene under the Christmas tree. I was the good Baptist boy. Nowadays if I bother with the tree (the holidays aren’t the best of times for us single people) I use my manger figures to make a little middle ages town. (Funny isn’t it, how the people of Jesus’ day all dressed like people from middle ages Europe.) But even if I don’t put out the decorations, I have Christmas music playing softly on the stereo. I inherited all mom’s LPs, and treasure the Christmas ones especially. So how does the atheist I’ve become in my old age listen to this essentially religious music and still enjoy it so very much? See…there’s a thing about music: it’s not about the lyrics. Let me reach back into my blog archives, and tell you a story…
It is 1981, and I am a longhaired twenty-something out for a hike along the trails around Sugerloaf Mountain near Comus, Maryland. I am alone, with one of the new Sony Walkmans as my only company. I am well into my Bruckner phase, and in the Walkman is a cassette I’d recorded the previous day with his Symphony 8 and the Te Deum. Some say that title was a tad redundant for a Bruckner piece…that everything he ever wrote could have easily been subtitled, as he had in the dedication to his ninth symphony, To My Beloved God…
It is September, my birth month, and the air is clear and crisp as it only gets in the Washington D.C. suburbs during the beginning of spring and fall. The sky is a deep cobalt blue, flecked here and there with threads of high cirrus clouds. I walk lightly with a branch I found at the trail head like a staff, my hiking boots clomping over a narrow trail that winds through the woods, around and up the mountain to a little park on it’s summit. As I walk a pair of headphones fill my world with wonderful, evocative, richly textured symphonic classical music. I am in love with my Walkman. It lets me fill my world with music, yet bother no one else. Years later, I would rediscover that love in a little white iPod.
I reach the top of the mountain. The little park is empty. It is just me and Bruckner. I plop myself down on a rocky ledge that faces south toward the Shenandoah valley. It is a lovely view. In the distant haze I see the northern end of the Shenandoah mountains reach toward the horizon, and go over it in a procession of gently curved peaks. Several turkey vultures are in the sky below me, circling idly on a random updraft. Through the rolling hills of the Maryland Piedmont the Potomac river glistens in the late afternoon sunlight. A ribbon of smoke floats eastward from the smokestack at the Monocacy river power plant.
I take it all in, and Bruckner’s deeply spiritual music seems to make the very air around me sing. Life is good. It is awesome.
The music ends, and I take off the headphones. There are people behind me.
I turn to find that my quiet spot has been invaded by a crowd of picnickers. I figure them for a church group, since the boys still have their Sundaywear on, and their hair slicked down. Only somewhat more disturbing than the fact that a crowd of people were able to get behind me while I was listening to the music, is this kindly older lady sitting only a few feet from me: she is looking straight at me with that expression that at 27 I’ve come to know and love…
She smiles a sincerely transparent smile at me, and says, “That must be very nice music you’re listening to. What is it?”
I am dressed in cutoffs and a Hudson Bay Outfitters t-shirt. My hair is about as long as it gets, almost halfway down my back. I have my blue bandanna tied around my head, 70s fashion with the ends of the knot trailing down just behind my left ear. I am in my golden earring and lambda necklace stage of outedness. My friends tell me I have this perpetually bewildered look on my face when talking to strangers, and I know a hook when I hear it, but I look her in the eyes and answer her question seriously. “The Te Deum, by Anton Bruckner, Zubin Mehta and the Vienna Philharmonic.”
Her eyes glaze over. We stare at each other for about a second. Then the kindly smile reappears and she says to me in all seriousness, “That’s very nice, but I think on the Sabbath we should listen to music that praises God…don’t you?”
That does it… I get up, nearly dropping the walkman, and start walking back to the trail. Behind me I hear the woman say, “Where are you going?”
“Into town to buy some.” I reply, walking faster.
I’d seen the lyrics to that Bruckner piece once on an album back cover and they disappointed me, Christian though I still identified at the time. And I think it was then that I resolved never to read the lyrics of classical music pieces that I discovered and loved. I still try to avoid it. Michael Nesmith once said on one of his album covers that the lyrics were only the logical part, that the meaning was the music itself.
I am not an atheist because I have a grudge against religion, I’m an athiest simply because I discovered I’d reached a point where belief had stopped making sense to me. But many things I learned and experienced in church I still hold close to the heart. I still find myself humming some of the old hymns while doing chores. And Christianity has produced wonderful, deeply spiritual music. When it’s done from that place of love and awe, all art, even the darkest, speaks a universal language, deep, soulful, and spiritual. It is a place where we can recognize one another, and our common humanity.
If the lyrics add something to the music for you, then fine. If not, then never mind the damn lyrics. They’re just the logical part, for those of us who have trouble sometimes, seeing the heart.
by Bruce |
Comments Off on The Atheist And Christmas Music
October 19th, 2013
This came across my Facebook stream just now. Some days you read crap on Facebook that just makes you want to write off the human race. Then there are things like this…
@Sherman_Alexie: “#2 reason for divorce: Belief in “soulmates.” #1: shagging someone else’s “soulmate.””
I guess he hasn’t seen very many long lived couples. I have. Soulmates is a real thing. But not everyone has that temperament for monogamy. People who don’t should leave people who do alone, and vice-versa. I would submit that a big cause of divorce is our culture places too much emphasis on monogamy and not enough on trustworthiness. But before you can be honest with others you need to be honest with yourself. You need to cultivate that habit of truth telling internally. The culture that discourages that is cutting its own throat. Not everyone is heterosexual. Not everyone is innately monogamous.
Some of us are. And we who are and those who are not seem always to be staring at each other in disbelief and fussing with each other about all the wrong things. Belief in soulmates isn’t a problem…soulmates are a real thing…belief that only monogamy is moral is a problem. Cheating is immoral. Lying just to get inside someone’s pants is immoral. Sex for its own sake is not in and of itself immoral. You live long enough and you will see lots of long lived happy couples and lots of thoroughly decent moral trustworthy people who’ve had lots and lots of lovers. Monogamy is a temperament, not an ideal.
by Bruce |
Comments Off on Belief In Soulmates
September 19th, 2013
Grief comes in waves, and those relatively peaceful times when you think it’s past and you’re finally done with it are only the troughs between them. You get yourself through it by letting it happen and eventually you find the waves do get smaller. Or you’ve just become use to it being there.
In friendship you want your reflection, but in love you want your complement. This came across my Facebook stream the other day…
When arguing for the legitimacy of homosexual relationships and same-sex marriage you hear a lot of talk from the other side about the complementary nature of the sexes. But there’s the gender you’re attracted to sexually and the one you are emotionally comfortable with and in the best of all possible worlds those two are the same, because that is where the soulmate and wholeness are.
It isn’t always precise, lots of people are completely comfortable in the company of both men and women, and some people fit more in the middle of the Kinsey scale than at its extremes. But sometimes there is a disjointedness. You see the heterosexual male who is sexually attracted to women but dislikes them emotionally, prefers the company of his buds and treats women as nothing more than sex objects. And I’ve encountered gay males who are more emotionally secure in the company of women and do the same thing to other gay men.
I feel sorry for those. Life is so much sweeter when your emotional needs can be met by your attractive sex too. There is wholeness. And because heterosexuals mate to their opposite sex, it’s very easy for them to mistake the complementary nature of their relationships for gender. But the complement isn’t gender. The complement is the person.
So sometimes you see a same-sex couple and one seems very masculine and the other very feminine and you think ‘a-ha…this one’s the man and that one’s the woman..’ But then you see a pair and you can’t rightly tell and it’s confusing.
Forget about gender. See how they, as individual people, complement each other. That is how it always works.
As I have said many times here, this is a life blog. Nothing more or less. And sometimes life gets a little heavy. Not to scare anyone…I’m fine now…really…but this first quarter was about the worst I have ever had. Every winter it seems the period between Valentine’s Day and April just gets worse and worse. But I think that’s over now. As they say, what has been seen cannot be unseen.
I was in that chilly gray sky of the mind state all morning long yesterday. I’d been that way for weeks and it just kept getting worse and worse. Things went badly at work. Things I should have been able to shrug off that I took to heart. My co-workers were noticing, which only made it worse. It fed on itself. And it wasn’t about nothing either. I’m 59 years old and never had a boyfriend. You can’t walk that far in a life without time spent in the arms of an intimate other and not be damaged by it. We were not made to be solitaries. And I have been betrayed by people I trusted deeply. Or maybe it was my congenital naivety. People who look like that…
So it was deep in that feedback loop that I randomly chanced across that Hemingway quote in my Facebook stream and naturally the first thing that came to mind was a kind of despair that, no this isn’t why I feel the way I do because I have no courage. I do not take risks, I run away from them. Just ask Tico. I am not a good man wounded, I was damaged goods to begin with. Unworthy. The child who was never meant to be. And right then it was as if something tapped me on the shoulder and showed me something about myself that I’d never really looked at before, that through it all I have lived an honest life, because I never thought doing that was something to pat yourself on the back for.
A feeling for beauty…the courage to take risks…Yeah…actually I’ve taken a few haven’t I? And so it goes. I felt right then as though a terrible fever was breaking. Seriously, it was like a smothering curtain had been pulled off me and I felt alive again. Life was good again. The road forward clearer, and…enticing. Then I remembered what had happened to Hemingway. You try to be rational about things, but for a moment I felt like I’d been given a lift up, from a hand that would have known the need.
by Bruce |
Comments Off on Better…Like A Fever Broken…
March 27th, 2013
Courage And Self Esteem
The Mad Hatter: Have I gone mad? Alice Kingsley: I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers.
But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.
You get into these depressive ruts and you start being critical of your every fault, real or perceived. Nothing within you is good enough. Everything is rotten. Yesterday I was tearing myself up inside for not having the nerve to just go ahead and go down to Washington and with my cameras bear witness to history being made. So just for good measure I took stock of every failure of nerve I ever had in my life, starting with the biggest one of all, that of not being able to tell a certain someone back in 1971 that he had made my heart skip a beat. By the end of the day I knew exactly what a sniveling coward I had been my entire life.
This came across my Facebook feed this morning…
…and I could see in it everything about me, except the courage part. Hemingway wasn’t talking about me. I have the feeling for beauty…it drives me mad sometimes. The truth telling part, yes. Just ask anyone who knows me. The capacity for sacrifice, yes. I can do that. I have done that. I have all of that within me. And I know how vulnerable it makes me. There are times it still surprises me how vulnerable. That is me. I have all of that. But not the courage. I have no courage.
And then it was like I swear a little voice inside said wait just a minute… You’ve been living as an out gay man nearly all your life. You came out to yourself when you were 17 years old, accepted yourself for what you are, two years before the shrinks decided homosexuals weren’t mentally ill after all. You kept it low key for most of the 70s but you never dodged a direct question and never lied to anyone about it, back in a time when you could be, and were, multiple times, fired for being a homosexual. Remember that day when you were still a teenage boy and you stood in front of the bathroom mirror and said to your reflection “I Am A Homosexual” after you read some crackpot who said admitting it was the worst thing a man could do? That day forty-seven states still had sodomy laws on their books. You have spent the past few days…no, weeks…digging up every failure of nerve you ever had. Now remember all those times when you were blind-sided by a question and you had to make a sudden snap decision about being closeted or not. Remember how afraid you were? And you never held back. What the hell is that if it isn’t courage?
Fear. Maybe that’s what’s always at the heart of a depression. Fear of being alone all my life. Fear of dying alone. Fear of walking through my one life never knowing a lover’s embrace. Friends With Benefits is the cheap shelf booze. Once you’ve tasted the real thing you never settle for faking it. The best or nothing, as Gottlieb Daimler once said. Courage. I’m depressed because I am afraid. That doesn’t make me a coward. Anyone with that discipline to tell the truth, and capacity for sacrifice, and feeling for beauty, cannot also be a coward. It just doesn’t compute. I forgot lately, all those times when I did what I had to do even though I was scared shitless. I forgot something I began telling myself in later years when I began looking back on those moments. T.E. Lawrence once said, “The trick is not minding that it hurts.” For me the trick was always not minding that I’m afraid.
And…a bit bonkers…in the way the best people generally are.
by Bruce |
Comments Off on Courage And Self Esteem
March 26th, 2013
Second Thoughts That Tend To Come A Bit Too Late
Today is going to be murder to get through, but it’s my own doing. I let my depressed state screw me over. I should have planned to go down to the Supreme Court marriage Proposition 8 protests/counter protests regardless. I actually took the days off well in advance. But then I cancelled because I have been down ever since Valentine’s Day and I just didn’t want to deal with that part of me. Ironically, that not wanting to deal with the emotional creative part of me is what got me into computers, and making the very nice living I am making now. But there was a big drawback to all of that. This path I chose, has led me to a cliff. Now that the day is here I really want to be down there with my cameras photographing it but management wants not. Ever have one of those conversations with your boss, where the boss looks at you, smiles and says “It’s your call” and you know goddamn well what the call is supposed to be? It was one of those.
Maybe that would have been the reality anyway. So many things are happening at work now. Launch is in 2018 and while that seems like a long way off, there is a lot of up front work that needs to be done. A lot. Probably, it’s no fooling, I really have to be here and stay on top of my work. Maybe making it up on the weekend really just doesn’t cut it. Maybe it wasn’t a question of my boss telling me I could not have divided loyalties in his workspace. Put that artsy fartsy stuff away, you’re an adult now, live in the real world… But this is really stabbing me in the heart now.
Sometimes I wish I could just surgically remove that emotional creative part of me that keeps wanting to make imagery. I hear this thing inside of us drives other artists insane too and it’s been this way all my life, particularly as it’s become lonelier and lonelier and because of that, sometimes I really don’t want to look at what comes out of me. And while it’s had its rewards it cuts me to ribbons too. It is right now. I could have done without it. Life as an emotionless cog in the machinery wouldn’t be so bad.
So now, at fifty-nine, I think I know why the stereotype of the starving artist exists. It isn’t because they can’t find decent work, it’s because they know what will happen when they do, so they stay in their little slumtown lofts and hovels because any work that pulls them away from the creative urge makes their inner lives a complete mess. Well…more mess then what would be normal for them anyway. In the end the choice isn’t live a very low budget life but get to do your work whenever you want to, verses get a good job and appease the creative urge in your spare time…it’s follow your heart or slowly go mad, pick one.
Wish I’d been brave enough to take the poor scrappy starving artist path. Who knows, maybe the boyfriend would have been somewhere along that way. But nerve was always something I had trouble with having enough of. Just ask Tico.
Anyway…to those confronting the haters today and tomorrow…be proud. You are writing new lines in the history books. Wish I could be there with my cameras to get some shots of it happening.
by Bruce |
Comments Off on Second Thoughts That Tend To Come A Bit Too Late
August 23rd, 2012
Even Nice People Have Limits…
…and I am not the nicest person I have ever met. That would be mom. Mom loved everyone, tried to see the best in everyone and everything, and was a ray of sunshine everywhere she went. My Baptist grandma was another story, and proof that the fruit actually does fall very far from the tree every now and then. Misanthropy was her hobby. She frowned at racists not because they were racist but because they thought their own race made them something. She didn’t think black people were good for nothing because they were black. Black people were good for nothing because they were people. And I was especially good for nothing because I was dad’s son. Dad didn’t give a good goddamn what anyone thought. Mom loved him until the day she died, but often said he couldn’t walk past a mirror without looking in. Sometimes I think grandma loathed dad more for that then that he was a crook. If homosexuality is the biggest sin of all in some Fundamentalist circles, vanity was the unforgivable sin in grandma’s. Not knowing you were good for nothing was wicked in the eyes of the Lord.
I like thinking of myself as having all their genes.
So I drop folks from my Facebook “friends” list advisedly. Who am I, a stinking rotten good for nothing Garrett just like my pap, to set myself above all the other good for nothings in this wicked sinful world? It isn’t exactly a list of friends…there are friends in there, but there are also family members, co-workers, fellow travelers in the Militant Homosexual Conspiracy, and folks who’ve stumbled onto this blog, or my cartoons and friended me on Facebook because of that. It’s all good. But every now and then someone in there will piss me off and I have to let go. I love all the good for nothings in this life that is but a mere vale of tears but I will not endure cheapshit prejudices for very long, especially when they’re flung at people who get kicked around a lot as it is. All us good for nothings need to be rays of sunshine for each other, and if you can’t be that at least try not to spit in the other guy’s mirror.
by Bruce |
Comments Off on Even Nice People Have Limits…
July 2nd, 2012
Sometimes You Get To Do One Worthwhile Thing
A friend from back in the BBS days recently posted a photo of the Names Quilt panel of his very dear and still very deeply missed friend. It reminded me of something I need to keep close to my heart whenever I wonder if my art work matters much at all in the grand scheme of things, and why should I even bother. I was given the task of designing that panel, after the passing away of the one it was to be in tribute to. His name was Chip.
I was not as close to Chip as the friend who brought me the work, and I was deeply honored he even thought I would be up to the task. His friend made a few suggestions as to how to proceed, gave me some needed pieces to start with. I thought about it, about the person it was for, and about all his friends, and their love. What I was being asked to create was a pretty simple design, but I was afraid of getting it all wrong. Chip was much beloved in his circle of family and friends and I wanted more then anything to give them something that let them remember and heal.
There is an utterly non-verbal place inside where there are only feelings, and images that are feelings. I have no words to describe it…it’s just how that most creative part of the work happens. There are no words. I don’t even try to find words in there anymore. But there are images.
I drew a rough sketch and presented it for approval and the friend was so taken with it he insisted that was it and no more needed doing. He organized a gathering of Chip’s friends and the sketch was projected onto a canvas sheet and we all worked on it. I’d included a spot organic to the design where friends could sign their names, and perhaps leave their own memories, thereby completing it…making it the perfect tribute I alone never could. Basically all I did was create the setting. But it had to be something that put them instantly in mind of their friend, so all those feelings would come out of them, and they could do the rest, and make it their own. It worked. They put their own hands on it, and made it their tribute to their friend.
It’s part of the larger Names Project Quilt now. Time passes, the universe expands, and decades later that panel is still very much a place of remembrance and healing for Chip’s friends. It was a small enough task, but I will never feel as though I’ve ever done anything more worthwhile with my talents, such as they are. All artists want recognition. But even more what we want is to touch hearts, and maybe, if we’re good enough, lift them up a little. I can go to my own grave knowing my art was able to do it that one time when it was needed. Just a little sketch, but it did its work.
“All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart.”
-Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me
by Bruce |
Comments Off on Sometimes You Get To Do One Worthwhile Thing
June 15th, 2012
Visit The Sins Of My Parents On Me If You Like, But I’ll Be Dammed If I’ll Accept Punishment For The Sins Of Yours Too
Fischer’s political activism, however, began years before the advent of same-sex-marriage laws. In fact, his preoccupation with family dysfunction seems to have started with his own…
Fischer didn’t volunteer anything about his mother, but, when pressed, said, “My parents divorced when I was about twenty. It just rocked my world.” His mother, who worked as an interior decorator at a furniture store, was “chronically late,” and the bus driver on her route to work would always hold the bus for her. Eventually, he said, “my mom fell for the bus driver,” deserting him, his father, and his younger sister. “I don’t want to go into it,” Fischer said…
A former leader of the religious right in Boise who was friends with Fischer for twenty years before Fischer cut him off…a common theme in Fischer’s friendships apparently…said that Fischer, “had a deep-rooted disappointment in his father, for not being strong enough”, which Fischer denies. But over the years Fischer has been relentless in his belief that women should have no power or even a voice in church matters, time and again either leaving a church or being forced out over issues of gender and women’s role in religious life. It may seem too pat to lay all of this on Fischer’s inability to let go of what his mom did, but the obvious connection isn’t always wrong either.
I could sympathize with Fischer…after all I’m also the product of a “broken home”…except that he’s made a career out of punishing other people’s families for the sins of his own. I made peace with dad long ago. He was not the best of examples but mom loved him all the same and she did her level best to raise me as well as any kid ever got raised despite the scorn and contempt self righteous moral scolds like Fischer heaped on her. All in all I am very glad it was mom who raised me and not dad after the split. But for all his faults and crimes I loved him and only wished he would let mom show him a better way to live after all. But mom did her best for me, not just telling me that better way but living it in front of me every day, and everything I am today I owe to that.
Still, let me say absolutely that if I had to choose between being raised by dad or by the likes of Bryan Fischer I would without hesitation choose to be raised by the thief rather then the bully.
by Bruce |
Comments Off on Visit The Sins Of My Parents On Me If You Like, But I’ll Be Dammed If I’ll Accept Punishment For The Sins Of Yours Too
May 13th, 2012
Cold Feet, Warm Heart
If my mother’s rule was right I was already thinking pretty well. But she also said, “Cold feet – warm heart” and that’s a different matter. -John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley.
Male libido is assumed to be a constant, quivering thrum. For some men, maybe it is. But for me, as much as I enjoy the old in-n-out, the rubba-dub-dubba, the squeak-n-bubble, I have never craved it the way our culture has led me to believe I should, not even during my fabled Horny Years from ’91 to ’95. Except for those moments when I was in the first throes of a new love, sex has never subsumed me. Yet every cultural message I receive has led me to believe it should. Consequently, my lack of nymphomaniacal tendencies has always left me feeling embarrassed and emasculated.
That’s me. When I was a teenager, and still had not admitted to myself that I’m gay, I was mostly turned off by what I regarded as the oversexed conversations of my friends. On the one hand I was too polite to say anything negative about their preoccupation with girls. On the other, I understood perfectly well that if I didn’t at least make some effort at joining in I would be regarded as a weirdo. I decided to just go with the weirdo thing and make friends with other weirdos. Problem was, they were, or at least seemed to be, just as horny as everyone else with a Y chromosome.
Then I came out to myself as gay. Fine. Okay. This explains why I wasn’t all about tits and ass. Well…at least female ass. But it wasn’t long before I came to realize I still wasn’t all that horny compared to my fellow gay males either. Yes, yes…I liked the look of comely guys. And there were times when the very thought of having sex with some of them would drive me completely nuts. But those were mostly guys I was crushing on. Random pretty bods would turn me on after a fashion, yes, but quite soon after coming out it became clear to me that my sexual thermostat was set several degrees below that of my gay male peers.
And even in the gay community, or perhaps especially in the gay community, if you aren’t 100 percent horny, 100 percent of the time, people think there is something wrong with you. Something, of course, that getting laid will cure.
I remember way back in the BBS days, the Gay bulletin board I frequented, and did volunteer work for, GLIB (for Gay and Lesbian Information Bureau) had a guest columnist on sexual health. Questions posted to the doctor’s forum were anonymous. One day a fellow glibber, male, wrote that he was concerned that his libido was too weak. He needed he said, lots and lots of gentle foreplay just to get a head of steam up for it. The doctor assured him basically what this heterosexual columnist is saying here: human males aren’t all as sexually charged as the stereotype says we are. There’s nothing wrong with you, find a boyfriend who understands your sexual needs, relax and enjoy the extended foreplay. Reading this exchange, I was tremendously relieved. It was, I am not kidding, one of those Wow…I’m not the only one after all moments gay boys are supposed to have when growing up, but for an entirely different reason.
To me, sex isn’t even about sex. Fundamentally, it’s about acceptance, having somebody desire you enough to allow you to envelop them and wanting that person to envelop you in return.
This. What Steinbeck’s mom said, presumably about women, is true of a lot of men too. It’s true of me. You could never get me into the sack at a moment’s notice. But I could be coaxed. Perhaps this was always for the best anyway. A guy who thinks coaxing is superfluous would obviously not be dating material either.
I do political cartoons for my local gay paper, Baltimore OUTLoud. Being published regularly allowed me to gain membership in The Associate Of American Editorial Cartoonists…a dream come true. Cartooning was the first love and political cartooning, what was called the Ungentlemanly Art, is a form of expression that I’ve been attracted to since I was a teenager, growing up in the Washington D.C. suburbs with Herblock and Gib Crockett in my daily newspapers. In high school my cartoons were in the student newspaper and on the walls of a few select social studies classrooms.
Jacob Bronowski once said that great art doesn’t set out to preach, but to shine a light in which the outlines of good and evil are “are seen in fearful sharpness of outline.” The best political cartoons are like that. It’s very easy, and most fall into that rut of being preachy. But the best ones shine that light.
I try to do that with my cartoons. When I see myself getting too preachy on the drawing board I start over. But I get angry too and sometimes I just let the anger out and my viewers can take it or leave it. Like this one I did after California Proposition 8 passed…
That’s all done on the paper by the way, only the lettering is done in the computer. I still draw my cartoons with “traditional media” and scan it in, not so much because I am a throwback as I just work intuitively with those tools better then with a digitizer pad.
That angry metaphor of the severed ring finger works for me artistically, and at some deep level it gets out of me something that just needs getting out. I hate saying this about myself because it sounds so pretentious but I am an artist. The way I know that about myself isn’t that I like to draw or that I like it very much when my drawings get looked at, it’s if you put me on a desert island with no tools to make imagery with I would cut me some sticks and twigs and draw in the sand because I just have to get it out of me from time to time whether it makes any sense to anyone or not and even if nobody else ever sees it but me. I have to do this from time to time or I will go nuts. It’s just something I am. And maybe I’m not really that good at it either. Lots of times I will look at my stuff and think I really stink at it. But I know I can’t stop doing it. Drawing…painting…photography….it’s all about the image. It’s a language I need to communicate in…much of the time just to think my world and my life through.
For my political cartoons, unlike a lot of cartoonists, I don’t do many rough sketches first. I do the drawing first in my head, and when I can see it clearly in there, then I sit down at the drafting table. Yesterday I had one ready to go, concerning the vote against same-sex marriage in North Carolina. I’d been drawing it in my mind the moment I laid eyes on the advertisement Billy Graham placed in a bunch of North Carolina newspapers. Where there any chance of that amendment not passing, Graham effectively killed it with those ads and I was angry. And immediately when I saw the ad the image for a cartoon about the likely outcome of the vote came immediately to my mind. I thought about it for days and it changed very little in my visualization of it. I was angry. The image was angry.
Yesterday morning I read the news and even though I had been completely expecting the outcome, it hit me hard. Every fucking time one of these votes happens it feels like a kick in the stomach. And you know that’s exactly the purpose of having these votes…to make gay people hurt. Because if we don’t bleed they aren’t righteous. And I did hurt. I walked around all morning long carrying this lump of grief like a stone in my gut. Reading the streams on Facebook and Twitter I could see others did too. But I did notice something that lifted my spirits even so. This time…This Time…that stone in the gut was being carried by a lot of heterosexuals too. This was what I knew would eventually win this thing: when enough of our heterosexual neighbors began to see this struggle as theirs too…feel it in their gut the same way we feel it in ours. Even as I grieved I could see we were winning this thing. But it felt so painful…so very very painful. But I had my outlet. I was going to go home from work that day, and right to my drafting table, and out would come the cartoon I had visualized so clearly in my mind’s eye for days.
…and all of a sudden Billy Graham didn’t matter anymore. And something happened to me that made me realize how much anger I have been carrying with me all these years. I stopped being angry. It almost literally felt like a weight had been taken off me.
I don’t know if I’ll do that cartoon now. I might…it’s still something I think needs being said about him, about the people who put so much hard work into kicking their gay neighbors in the face. You can shine Bronowski’s fearful sharp light at evil, but you can also shine it at the good, and I am not so very angry anymore. Life is good. Hard sometimes, but good.
Time was the haters could make us hate ourselves as much as they hated us. Then that time was over, and they could no longer make us hate ourselves and that made them angry. It made them angry and so they had to make us angry too. And being angry all the time can be a stone around your neck too. Not as big a one as hating yourself, but big enough all the same to keep you from having a decent life. Perhaps anger, unlike self hate, is a necessary thing. Perhaps without that righteous anger we would not have worked so hard, and come so far, so fast. But the day is coming when we don’t have to be angry anymore.
by Bruce |
Comments Off on Freedom To Not Be Angry All The Time
This blog is powered by WordPress and is hosted at MomoWeb. Some custom design was done by Winters Web Works. Some embedded content was created with the help of Adobe Photoshop for MacOS and/or The Gimp. I proof with Firefox on either Windows, Linux or MacOS depending on which machine I happen to be running at the time.