A Mixed Reaction

IMG_5731I look at my canvas and think that Liberty is a bitch.  She has a decidedly European face and means freedom but not for all.  What if I were to make her black with a hint of caramel?  Give her dreadlocks and a spear, a nose wide as the horizon, a red dawn of pain to be born upon? Keep her eyes green for balance?  I think of my own power and how I’ve been protecting others from it.  I think of my art as a guide to what I need to be paying attention to.  I find myself reeling, hurting, needing to see my grandmother as the world goes mad.  I need to see her and let her love me and let her know that I love her as the world goes mad.

 

We are veterans, she and I, in this war against hate.

IMG_5735I need her to know that our hard-fought-for-forgiveness still stands and towers over the harm she did before my life began.  I need her to know that I remember she tried to destroy my father and my mother’s love for him and that her family wanted to have me killed in the womb.  I need her to know that I remember AND love her still.

I need her to see the truth before she dies – the impact of her upbringing on her family and the fact that love can conquer even this.  I need her to know that I am here and I will hold her hand as she struggles over the stones placed in just the right places to be treacherous as her old feet seek a solid place to stand.  She will not fall because I am here, black and white and strong and forgiving all that has been done.

I also need to thank her for showing me hate and how it works and for making the journey to the half-way point where I could meet her.  Contrary to jaded belief, I did not need to defeat her.  It took listening to understand from both places on either side of the divide.  It took hearing the hurt beneath the hate, the love beneath the pain, the cry to be seen and accepted for us to be one again.  Because we weren’t born to be two.  Disharmony is learned and distrust is hard-earned.

IMG_5741My brown arm reaches out to steady her age-spotted once-white frame as she shuffles one uncertain foot in front of the other, reaching out unsteady, shifting weight slowly so as to allow the ground time to earn her trust – as she must have done with me.  I need to see her today so she can put a balm on my wounds, rub my scars with gentle hands now wise to the lie she was told and told herself.  We are not so different.  I need to clean the flesh wounds and bind the bones from the week spent fighting with her kin struggling to let the light into their dark thoughts.  I need her to remind me that the love on the other side is worth the war we wage today.  My own blood – her people – would care as little if it were me shot in cold blood in front of my children or my local supermarket.  My own flesh and blood would be fine with it if it were my blood spilled.  When those who love me cry out “her life matters!”  they will counter with “All lives matter.”  They would help the system find a way to say I’d asked for it – after all “she was no saint.”  They would care more about the police coming and taking their gun from their suburban homes than the white hoods or blue uniforms drawing me – their cousin – from my bed and hanging me from the nearest tree.  She was no saint.  She drove ten miles above the speed limit to work every day.  She never used her turning signals to switch lanes.  She was asking for it.  She was no saint.

IMG_5777I need my grandmother today.  For her I don’t need to be a saint.  She won’t say a word.  She won’t mention the news she’s been glued to immobile all week in her house alone.  She won’t mention the hurt on my face or the limp I walk into the house with.  She won’t even see the blood-red paint on my hands from the blood of Liberty that I’ve been moving around to keep my longing limbs coiled for a fight from adding to the harm already happening in the world.  I will have to show her.

She will be glad to see me, pat the arm I offer, and squeeze my hand as she draws me closer.  The best thing that ever happened to her, she says.  God gave me to her, she says.

May God give every one of my racist kin a black baby to love.

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I am serious.  May all the young of my family find love in smoothe black embraces and may they kiss the faces of the killers of their hatred.  May a beige-coloured love be our only fate as humanity faces the dawn of a new age.  As people picket, pretending that the line between them exists, I will raise my afro-hooded face and lift my green eyes to the sky and call the divide of race a lie.  The black spots of age bursting through the milk-white skin on my grandmother’s arms reveal the false god of white-supremacy.

In the end only the colors of love and wisdom win.

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INDEPENDENCE

Fifty years ago today a three-year old boy stepped off a ship from London and into a foreign land.  It had been his second ship that year.  The first was from Ghana to London, from all that he had ever known and ever lost.  His Daddy was a few steps behind, shoulders ramrod straight, big hands holding his baby brother.  He was only a babe.  The little boy didn’t speak English.  His baby brother didn’t speak at all.  All that they knew of life had changed overnight.

An air of grief clung to the party of three – the giant man and the two little boys.  The toddler’s eyes would have been as wide as saucers as he was prodded ahead down the gangway.  Trunks and cases would have followed – but not many.  Maybe just one.  Their Mummy did not come with them.

I can imagine him now, forgetting for a second that she was not there and searching the passengers behind him for a sign of her skirt, her hand, the sound of her laugh.  No one had explained to him but he understood – the knowledge broke his little heart as he remembered he would not find her here.  Or anywhere.  She was gone from him.

What greeted him at the end of the pier was another world, another life, another language, another people.  They were dancing in the streets.  His grief collided with their jubilation on this hot August day.  Colourful skirts would have been twirling, women with round figures and heads tied with colourful cloth would have been dancing around with bare-chested or cotton-clad men singing, lifting their arms in excitement, bawling out in prayer and praise.  He heard one word chanted over and over from the boiling masses on land – In-dep-end-ence.  Was it one word or four?  What did it mean?

It must have been something very special but he would not have known for a few more years.  It would not be his first English word.  That word would be “For”.  The first phrase he would speak in the language of his parents would be “For health and strength and daily food we praise Thy name oh Lord, Amen.”  He would learn to sing it from the woman standing waiting on the shore.  She looked a bit like Mummy had but tiny and with more wrinkles.  She wasn’t much bigger than him and she was a good deal smaller than Daddy.  As he walked down toward her she would have bent at the waist and wrapped her arms around him and lifted him into her embrace.

I wish I could tell him to be brave, this little boy, as Mama Birdie held him to her chest and reached for his sickly baby brother.  I wish I could tell him you will grow.  You will learn.  You will travel.  You will succeed.  You will play football with Bob Marley.  You will climb a mountain in Cumbria.  You will race go karts with your children.  You will meet Fidel Castro.  You will know God.  You will know love.  And you will have me.

A daughter who loves you and is proud of who you have become.

Happy Independence Day Daddy.  Happy Birthday Jamaica.

Little Sister

Little Sister,

I pray to God that
you remain in a
beautiful
peaceful ignorance.

I will take care of you,
I will keep you under
the veil of my adamant protection.

I will carry you where
you need to go.
I will look left and right
before you cross the road,
cross the city,
cross the world.

If you cross too fast,
I will pull the imaginary
umbilical cord
between
your head
and
my heart,

And drag you back
maybe kicking, or screaming,
or crying, or smiling,
but for your own good.

I make myself the
tree – old, wise-
knowing and
with endless branches
of experience
that explode in
different directions.

My hope for you is
that you will be
strongly rooted: my little tree.

Grow beside me,
never leave. Imitate
my branches of success.
This is my gift to you.

But you don’t want this gift.

You say
you cannot grow strong
so close beside me.

You say that you are
dying in the damp dark.
You say I block you
from sunlight.

So instead you choose
to be my leaves.
Surrounding my dark
branches, growing from
their so called magic.

You are all around
inside me.
You receive
your much desired sunlight
from all angles.
You careen in the wind,
but every night
you rest,
on me.

Okay.

Little sister,
you rise
and sway with me
every afternoon, and

as much as this
connection warms me,
as much as I grow stronger
in your
presence,

I know that one day,
you’ll start to change
colour,

Slowly – and maybe even
behind my back.

And everyone sees how gorgeous you are.

People want
to take pieces of you
home

And you let them.

I pray to God that
winter never arrives.

I know that by then you
would have
completely fallen away,
blown away,
floated away.

Not only would I have
been stripped of my
beauty
and purpose
by your chilling departure.

I won’
t
know where
you are.
I won’
t

be able
to pull
you back
to me.
I won’
t be able
to
pro-
pro-
pro-
tect-
you.

If you ever do
come back,
You won’t be
the same.

I beg you not to
allow the elements of the world
to pick
and pull you
away from my dark security.

For if you do
I know
that the
mi
se
ry
will be so great…

that I will pray
for the beautiful,
peaceful ignorance
I
tried
to give
you.

xo
Bushlette

Keli Thorsteinsson ~ THE GOLDEN HAT

THIS BOY HAD A GOLDEN HAT.

THE HAT WAS MAGICAL.  IT COULD TALK.

THE BOY DID NOT HAVE ANY VOICE.  HE HAD AUTISM.

HIS HAT WAS ALWAYS WITH HIM.

HIS HAT WAS LOST ONE DAY.

NOW HE HAD NO WAY OF TELLING THEM HIS STORIES.

HIS MOM AND DAD BECAME SAD.

THEY TAUGHT HIM SPELLING ON A LETTERBOARD.

IT WAS HARD.

END.

~For all the children of the world like Keli, Singlestreaming now features a link to The Golden Hat Foundation on the sidebar.  Please click on this box when you have a chance and learn more about the Golden Hat Foundation.

Haircuts

Last night I heard the story of how my aunt Lina cut her hair.

It was 1981.  She had had two children.  She had lost all the weight and was as fit as could be.  Had the look of shining health I imagine – even today she is the picture of a healthy life albeit with a cigarette.  She walked into the salon one day and said cut it off!  It was GORGEOUS she says.  I was HOT!

She was telling me how she wore a pair of those sexy jeans that had a zipper at the bottom and a lacy top the day she met Mick Jagger.  Her hair freshly cut.  That was the first tour she went on.  They became fast friends for life. She tells me that rock’n’roll keeps her young.  But if you sleep with anyone they never invite you back.  She’s glad she never crossed that line.  Sometimes frigid is a good thing.

It’s a beautiful thing, a haircut.  The best thing in the world to transition from one stage of life to the other.

Another thing she told me is that as a Scorpio I am a woman of power.  The seat of our power is in the genitals… therefore scorpios make great prostitutes (and here I choked because I thought she was gonna say lovers!) but she discourages that direction.  I am told that I will re-invent myself every few years (as I have been known to do to date).  I have the nature of the phoenix – rising out of ashes as good as new with the power to do great things and soar above it all.  She switched from astrology to numerology and made my head spin but there it was, the number 8.  Near the number of God (didn’t know before that God had a number).  But my allergy to numbers prevailed and the details left my brain as soon as it touched down.

At the end of it all I looked at her hair and I looked at mine and decided, there are worse things than being a woman alone.  We could do worse!

 

TEST: How Responsible Are You?

So… with my pet peeve on responsibility out there, I went in search of ways to test yourself.  Click here to try it out for yourself!

My result was 41.5 out of 44 and was explained as follows:

“Your score puts you in the highest category of social reasoning. You will see ethical and moral values as important to the needs of society and will appeal to basic rights or values. You might say “Honesty is a standard which everyone should accept” or “Life is sacred.”

Conformity to ethical norms is important to you, in terms of a responsibility, obligation or commitment for all individuals, although you may be willing to consider exceptions in some particular circumstances. You are likely to suggest that with entitlement or privilege comes responsibility.

You will appeal to considerations of responsible character or integrity in others, preferring a consistent or standard practice of behaviour in order to avoid damage to social institutions such as the legal system.

However, you will want to see an adjusted case-by-case application of standards for the sake of fairness to all people. Lastly, you are very likely to appeal to standards of individual or personal conscience, as well as of honour, dignity or integrity.”

 

The Age of Irresponsibility

I regret to announce to those who have missed the calls of the harbingers, the omens written in their day-to-day lives, and the signs in every newspaper in the known world – The Age of Irresponsibility is upon us.

Don’t get me wrong – there have been irresponsible people in every era of human existence.  They have been called by many labels – lazy, entitled, promiscuous, spoiled, dead-beat, and many other names that separate them from the norm of responsibility.  But in the subjective age in which we now live, we have been invited to consider and have heartily accepted and gone overboard with the consideration for the “other side”.  Psychology has pointed to reasons in nature and nurture that lead to characters developing along irresponsible lines.  Because we now have reasons we find ourselves excusing the behaviours.  And with the words “lazy”, “dead-beat”, “irresponsible” and “promiscuous” being classified under the headling “judgmental”, the responsible among us avoid calling it like it is.  What follows is that those with latent tendencies toward – yup I’m calling it – laziness and disrespect see the stigma removed and sign up to the growing list of the irresponsible at a rate of thousands per minute.

But what, I hear you wonder, is irresponsibility?  What does it mean?  What does it look like?

Bushy’s definition is that irresponsibility is a failure to fulfill one’s obligations and to keep one’s word.  It comes from a selfish, unnecessary and reckless disregard for the needs and the feelings of others.

I hate to draw a sexist example, but guys you make it so damn easy.  Ladies.  When was the last time a guy in your life said to you “I’ll be there at 8” and showed up at 8:30 without a phone call?  Or how about the last time a guy in your life said “I’ll be there at 8” and didn’t show up at all?  If you say nothing, isn’t it remarkable how your next conversation (and there are questions in my mind as to whether or not there SHOULD be a next conversation) goes without any apology for your lost 30 minutes or your ruined evening?  That, my love, is irresponsibility.

Let’s take another example.  We all have at least one ditzy woman in our lives who consistently does stupid things.  For example, sleep around.  Yes… I could have used a guy example here as well but some things are just TOO easy.  She lets herself intervene over and over and over as the rebound (“But he said he was over it!”) or she may have a tendency to go for the ones who are already quite married to someone else (“But his wife is SUCH a b****).  What refrain do you hear from her as a reason (**cough-EXCUSE-cough***) for her behaviour?  “But Busy you don’t understand.  I LOVE him!”, “I can’t help it if his wife is a bitter old woman”, and most common and bloody irritating “You can’t control who you fall in love with.”

Well I’ma call it.  That is BULLSHIT.

Everyone has choices to make every single day of our lives.  We choose what we eat.  We choose how much we exercise.  We choose when to go to the bathroom.  We choose whether or not to pick up the phone and cancel an appointment we cannot make.  We choose whether or not we spread our legs to this man or that.  We choose whether we will go out and find a job.  We choose whether or not we complete our studies.  We choose what behaviours and what people we expose ourselves to and what feelings we allow ourselves to dwell on.  We choose where we are every minute of every day.

If I were to make a practice of irresponsibility my world would fall apart.  My staff would suffer, my family would suffer, I would lose the roof over my head and be dependent on someone else for the food on my plate.  How is it that others escape this fate?  Have I signed up for that much more responsibility?  Is there something wrong with me?  Maybe I should try this out and see if life is easier that way.

This is the thinking that has led to irresponsibility being the new normal.

I worry for the next generation.  Irresponsibility doesn’t travel like an STD, passing on from mother to child and with exchange of body fluids.  This bad boy catches like the flu.

Have you been immunized?

Classic irresponsible statements:

“She told me she was ok with just sex.”  She’s a woman dumbass.  And you knew this.

“I can’t help it!”  Then who the hell can?

“You don’t understand!  Marriage is very complicated.”  I didn’t tell you to sign up for it.  But you did.  So deal.

“I fell asleep.”  Don’t wake up next time.

“Ohhh… you were waiting?”  Oh yeah… but never again.

“But his wife treats him so badly!”  I’m sure she knows why.

“She’s just a friend.”  Uh huh…

“You just want to control me.”  Actually no… I don’t trust you to control yourself.

“You just don’t understand what I’m going through.”  You mean what you’re PUTTING YOURSELF through?  No.  You’re right.  I do not understand.

And my favourite.  One line that, if said too many times for the same offense makes the hearer want to carve the words in stone and shove them down an irresponsible throat.

“I’m sorry.”

So am I, luv.  So am I.