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CREATING SPACE: Gratitude for Cucalorus 23 and Caylan McKay

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Mark Basquill and Gina Gambony cover a lot of ground, including Wilmington’s indie Cucalorus Festival and recent indie candidate for city council Caylan McKay.

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As accident allows, I spent an hour above it all with WHQR’s radio journalist Gina Gambony. We were both flying back from Charlotte;  Gina was returning from a radio conference in Chicago and I was recovering from running a Veteran’s Day half-marathon with my brother in Louisville. Serendipity assigned us seats across the aisle. We covered a lot of ground during our extended “Communique,” including Wilmington’s indie Cucalorus Festival and our feelings about recent indie candidate for city council Caylan McKay.

I spoke of how thankful I am for Wilmington’s artistic heart; a heart Cucalorus has helped keep beating for the past 23 years (before it was held in November, it used to be each May). I screened a couple of independent films at the different venues before flying to Louisville. I looked hard for the evil Hollywood elite. Instead, what I saw was young and old artists struggling to tell deep, complex and necessary stories. UNCW Professor Emeritus Maurice Martinez, from Watson College of Education, introduced “Davyeon,” a disturbingly beautiful study of an Arkansas 13-year-old whose older brother was shot and killed in gang violence. I hope the film finds a wider audience. I also hope the professor’s wisdom and lifetime experience makes its way through the generations to kids of “Dear Congress,” a 3-minute short visual letter to Congress from kids at the playground.

Shifting seamlessly from art to politics, Gina expressed how proud she was local businessman/artist Caylan McKay ran for Wilmington City Council. I told her how angry my son, Patrick, was about what he witnessed on Election Day. A lifelong friend of Mr. McKay, Patrick told me the story:

“A woman came up to Caylan at the polling place and said, ‘Why didn’t you put a ‘D’ after your name? I would have voted for you if you did. Next time remember to put a ‘D’ after your name.”

Such a tribe-minded comment created some in-flight turbulence for Gina and I. The integrity or ability of most candidates at most levels of government doesn’t seem to be nearly as important as which team or tribe a candidate is on. Is a candidate on the “D” team or the “R” team? How does our addiction to binary democracy help develop better government or solve our common problems more effectively?

Gina struck a chord when she said, “It’s not about creating space at the table, it’s about dominance.”

She’s got a point. Functioning democracies create space at the table. Allies, such as Great Britain and Germany, have about a dozen parties vying for seats at all levels of government. Canada even has a Marijuana Party! In the 2016 election, 65 million Americans voted for Hillary. Many reluctantly chose her because they saw her as the lesser of two evil turkeys. Three million fewer people voted for the present gobbler. “Yu-uge” amounts of those voters believed at the time he was the lesser of the two. And “no viable third-party candidate” is still echoing around polling places around our third-world democracy.

How can we have viable third-party candidates at any level when we put so much pressure on people to pick one of the two main teams—even for supposedly non-partisan city council seats?

Whoever told Mr. McKay to put a “D” after his name should put an “F” next to theirs. As much as I value Hillary’s contribution, and know she would have been a far better choice than our POTUS, the “D” team lost its mind when it rolled over Bernie and handpicked her. The “R” team hasn’t had much of a soul since Eisenhower, but it sold whatever soul it had to the devil when it nominated this tweeting bird.

I’m glad Mr. McKay ran so well without picking one of the two main teams in our dysfunctional democracy. If he runs again, I hope it’s as an independent. (And I also wish my brother luck in his quest to be elected county surveyor in Kentucky; he’s running Independent.) Both should take heart at what Gina said, “A hammer doesn’t break a stone with one swing.”

I’ll be eating turkey over-stuffed with gratitude this Thursday. I’ll savor the gratitude for independents, like Cucalorus, our political candidates and the chance to spend an hour above it all with WHQR’s Gina Gambony.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Sally Glenn-Howitz

    November 27, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    Encore, I greatly enjoyed this article. I’m a lifelong democrat, while my husband is a diehard republican. Somehow, we have managed a happy healthy 34 years together. We also both voted for Mr. McKay. We found his interviews contained actual answers, which was so refreshing to read rather than the usual political say-nothing fluff that so many others have perfected.

    I was upset to see him come up short, until a by chance encounter with him at a downtown taco joint. We had never met him prior to that night, yet he made us feel like we were old friends. When we told him we voted for him and how sorry we were that he lost, he enthusiastically thanked us for our support and told us how humbling it was to receive so many votes. His positive attitude and outlook was of a man who had won. Not a young man who came up short. Greg and I were very impressed by him.

    Whomever gave him that ultimatum needs to really evaluate the sad state of affairs in our country. Because we need more people like Mr. McKay in government representing us. I am confident that he will win when he runs again. However, I would be remiss to say that his time would be wasted at the city level. I pray he runs for something larger, lord help us if he doesn’t.


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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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