My Country, America; My Father, the Heart of a Gun


I sat down and drew a picture of a gun.
After reading the news about the 250th shooting in America since January 1st, what was once quiet in me came alive. Which is, in plain terms, the point of art.
The revolver in the picture is, to my best memory, the same gun I found in my father’s bedside drawer one afternoon. I think I was six or seven years old, and I was searching for a flashlight.
I remember the look of it lying there, the gun, among the folded socks and underpants, a sea of white except for the silver barrel, and the black handle, the machine of it seeming too significant for the contents of that drawer.
I did not pick it up. Somehow, I knew better.
After, I wondered what it was my father feared.
The second time I saw that gun was when he pointed it at my mother, and then, at me.
That time, the gun seemed larger than my father. It was the size of his heart.
He did not shoot.
But I think he wanted to.
That night, I think he was afraid of himself.

For twenty fives years after, until my father’s death, not a day cruised by that I didn’t think about him pointing that gun at me, shooting me straight in the guts.
Do you know what I think stopped him? That my face resembled his. We have the same red spot on the tips of our noses, the same long-lashed eyes — the same crooked mouth. I think the love he had for me, in combination with my face gave him a glimpse of what it would be like to touch the part of himself that he loathed with radical fucking love.

I drew the gun with the knowledge of the terrible things that didn’t happen. I don’t know if I drew it right, if, with each line, I made out the correct proportions of the barrel to the handle. I don’t think that matters though. This is not an essay about the design of a gun. Nor is it an essay about my art.
It is about something else.
I drew that gun with the knowledge of the terrible things that could have happened.
And for the terrible things that are happening all over my country.
But I wanted to draw something else. I promise you, I did.
What I wanted to draw was a pistol out of flowers. Probably roses because they are my favorite. I intended to write some passionate thing about choosing love over violence, about creating beauty out of pain. But the harsh lines of this pistol were all that could come. It was the only way that I could respond to the violence that men who share the same skin color as me, the men who look just like my father, are perpetrating all over my country. If not to women’s bodies, then to each other, and if that isn’t satisfying enough, to themselves—which is and isn’t the same thing.
If I focus on the relationship between power and control at the core of intimate partner violence, then I can see the indisputable feedback of how power and control work in and through unhealthy forms of masculinity. Still, the men who shoot were once small children — little boys with mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, grandparents, and cousins. Like you, like me. Boys with big, beautiful dreams who played and cried and then played some more. Boys who were taught to behave and hush their emotions, to fear difference, to seek sameness, to silence themselves, and later women, and each other.
The pointed gun is only in service of self-annihilation.
Isn’t it?

If it’s something else, please tell me.

Jocelyn M. Ulevicus has a background in Social Work, Psychology, and Public Health. Her work focuses on exploring the terrain of family violence and re-humanizing oneself after trauma, and has been published in magazines such as Mindful Matter, Entropy, and Life in Ten Minutes. Ms. Ulevicus currently resides in Amsterdam and is finalizing her first book, a memoir, titled The Birth of A Tree.

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