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Oct 17, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life: Political Assassination

An Atlantic news story just broke about a 5-second moment 30 years ago that changed US history. I shake my head that it involves an old friend of mine. I can't explain the Forrest Gumpy principle that puts me so close to some of the stories I print here, but that's not the point; which is that a totally innocuous moment that any of us––were we witnesses to it––would pass unremarked, could so change the course of history!

The moment was when the Democratic frontrunner of the 1988 presidential election, Gary Hart, was sitting on a piling at a dock waiting for a boat when a woman ran up and sat on his knee. Any witness would not be alarmed that a famous man would be so accosted by a fan. But the next day a picture of the incident appeared on the front page of the National Enquirer, with a boat moored nearby named "Monkey Business", which became the name of the "scandal". That moment killed Hart's bid for the presidency and his political career. (Note to youngsters of the pre-pussy-grabbing era: time was when body contact, like sitting on someone's knee, was seen as a blantant sexual act.) What's even more shocking is that the whole incident, including the photo and headline that screamed Hart was having an affair, was a set-up by the Bush campaign, revealed only now! At the time everyone just thought it was a streak of bad luck for Hart. But when the then head of the Republican National Committee lay dying years later, he confessed what he had done to kill Hart's campaign to Ray Strother, the media man for Hart's campaign. Rachel Maddow describes the chain of events that this hit job created in US history.

Strother is a good man. He and his wife Sandy were friends of mine from the days of my political satire group, the Montana Logging and Ballet Co. At the time I stayed at the Strother's house in Washington DC whenever we performed there. It could be I stayed at their place while all this was going on, though of course the truth didn't emerge til all these years later. We've lost touch years ago, but when I heard his name in the news I knew him right away.

I hate how the GOP, which once proudly upheld good, solid values, has sunk into anti-constitutional meddling and outright criminality to seize power. These days it seems Trump is trying to make crime not seem so bad, probably so that when his chickens come home to roost, he'll be just another guy in the lineup. America deserves better than that. Please vote!

[Illustration from Paul Spella, the Atlantic]

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I'm a sculptor/filmmaker living in Montana, USA. I am using art to move the evolution of humanity forward into an increasingly responsive, inclusive and interactive culture. As globalization flattens peoples into a capitalist monoculture I hope to use my art to celebrate historical cultural differences and imagine how we can co-create a rich future together.

I see myself as an artist/philosopher laboring deep in the mines of joy. I've had a good long career of exhibiting work around the world and working on international outreach projects, most notably being the first American to be invited to present a one-person exhibit in the Hermitage Museum. Recently I have turned my attention from simply making metal sculpture to creating films and workshops for engaging communities directly, tinkering with the very ideas and mechanisms behind cultural transformation. I feel that as we face tragic world crises, if the human species favors our imaginative and creative capacities we can cultivate a rich world to enjoy.

For me the deepest satisfaction in making art comes in engaging people's real life concerns rather than providing simple entertainment or decoration. Areas of conflict or tension are particularly ripe for the kind of transformative power that art uniquely carries. I invite any kind of challenge that serves people on a deep level.