Dr. Linda Dean: Stop Gun Violence--What Artists Can Do To Make the Point for Sensible Gun Laws

Linda Dean has been a licensed family and child counselor for nearly 40 years, and received her training and education in both the U.S. and Switzerland. Her study of art, and her training at the C.G. Jung Institute has impacted her viewpoint.

My life has been about helping children and adults find healing, from either abuse or other difficult experiences, so speaking out against unneeded gun violence is something I must do. As a Jungian Psychologist and Artist, I had an idea I shared with Jim Eason at KGO Radio in 1972. But news about the Watergate break-in prevented him from airing our interview. I’ve never let go of this idea: to communicate, through art, that our militaristic culture, now through our gun laws, is killing Americans. With renewed student activism, now is the time to bring this idea back to the public by exploring deeper thought through artistic expression instead of superficial thinking.

Artistic expression has taught us about racial conflict, economic divides, the reasons for revolutions and even great optimism. Artists with a political purpose have created both figurative and realistic images, finding that in their expression, they can motivate and inspire action. Since Valentines Day, 2018, we have reached a tipping point in the fight against the gun lobby. Most Americans are against the NRA’s viewpoint; their hearts are aching for change. We need the power of artistic expression to fuel social activism.

Long before the Renaissance, art reflected and impacted human kind in depth above and below consciousness. Notice the cathedrals, the murals, sculptures which still move the souls of people at a depth below ego consciousness. Even before writing, cave art told us something about our existence. 

By then I was in college studying art. Conceptual art and political art was a big thing back then. My husband had his masters in art history. Both of us knew how art impacted the world, for at least as long as the reformation.

Right now, here in the United States, we are beyond the crisis point. Education is harder to find, let alone achieve. The dumbing down of America has reached unbelievable heights. Many communities have teachers who must pay for school supplies. Book shortages are rampant. Politicians keep cutting budgets and ill prepared elected officials (check out your state) are reluctant, even unwilling to help. Now these same officials support arming teachers, locking doors to schools, without a thoughtful strategy limiting guns in the arms of dangerous individuals. Sadly, what is happening has more to do with power than ever before...that is power for a few.

Few gain from our irresponsible access to weapons. We know the few: Investors and, of course, representatives to both the House and Senate are financed by gun lobbyists and billionaires who want to keep what they have and get still more.

Too many representatives are willing to sacrifice the public for self gain. Meanwhile, they actually work very little. They are provided the very best health care and retirement benefits. My dear Americans, it all adds up to millions of people going hungry or dying from illness, many of whom work hard. The founders of our country did not intend for this to happen.

But a few very gifted students in Florida are making waves, bringing the issue of profit versus safety to the front of our minds. But we need to go deeper. We need to activate the depths of our bodies and minds, reach for creativity--we need to go to a level that is not subordinate to the lure of power and profit.

Action Based on Fact

We need people to FEEL so deeply it becomes impossible not to act. We need everyone to care and then VOTE!! We need every man, woman and child to know the facts about gun violence. There is already so much data that shows the harm that comes from our current gun laws:

Compared to 22 other high-income nations, the U.S. gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher. (CBS NEWS)

Although it has half the population of the other 22 nations combined, the U.S. had 82 percent of all gun deaths, 90 percent of all women killed with guns, 91 percent of children under 14 and 92 percent of young people between ages 15 and 24 killed with guns. (CBS NEWS)

In 2010, gun violence cost U.S. taxpayers more than half billion dollars ($516 million) indirect hospital costs. (URBAN INSTITUTE)

A study undertaken in 2011 indicated that in states where local background checks for gun purchases are completed, the suicide as well as the homicide rate are much lower than those without (HEALTH POLICY JOURNAL).

Using Art To Make A Point

Do you remember the Oklahoma murders? Were you moved by the display of those empty chairs? Do you remember the AIDS Quilts? These works of art moved our culture into action. I call on the artistic community to create works of art that will speak to these despicable crimes—and—to the necessity for sensible gun laws. We have had too many deaths from guns. Our so-called congress and senate will not act in our favor. The gun lobby, among others, pay them too well. Can we call these bribes?

When the small children at Sandy Hook were murdered, mental illness was blamed. My dear Americans, these acts are not caused by mental illness—they are caused by the political financial gains politicians have received.

Artists, I call on you to make a plaster of each person murdered because sensible gun laws are not in place. Your art should reflect the many years of neglect. Then we should come together to display them on the Congressional Mall. If we could place chairs there—the many thousands of chairs, for both the children and grown ups who have died due to inefficient gun laws we could communicate a powerful message. Let us share our ideas so that the victims are represented and continue to share their voice. We need to experience the impact of so many human beings now mourned by their families.

Given the urgency of this problem, I hope Artists nationwide will act now.

 

My Timeline: A Look at How History Repeats Itself

1967

By then I was in college studying art. Conceptual art and political art was a big thing back then. My husband had his masters in art history. Both of us knew how art impacted the world, for at least as long as the reformation.

My sister is a senior in high school. Nearly all of the boys will be drafted very soon. Last year’s graduates are already serving in Vietnam. I am living in student housing where each of a hundred families has at least one child. We are all living on a ‘wing and a prayer.’ But at least then, tuition is only 54 dollars a semester.

One of my neighbors has a younger brother who is in the Coast Guard. She tells me they are bringing back hundreds of coffins at a time. She tells me the government is lying about how many are killed.

1970-71

My husband has graduated and we now live in our first home, one we bought. We have neighbors and now we have a second child. Across the street lives a woman whose brother was killed in Vietnam. Folks are now beginning to protest the war. But my neighbor says her brother would have died in vain if we stop before we win.

Next door my neighbors have two little boys. They do not protest the war because the boys are so young. Surely it will be over before they are of draft age. Besides, ending the war would cause a big recession, even a potential depression. Our economy could not survive losing the war.

My milkman (yes in those days milk was delivered at the front door) had two little boys in grammar school. He was not worried about the war because his boys had asthma and would be 4F and not able to serve.

By then my sister was married to a Vietnam vet. Larry had PTSD, although we didn’t have a name for it then. She would waken during the night to find him crawling on the floor with a large curved knife in his mouth. He was back in the war. We all loved Larry, but he was an emotional wreck. Before he was drafted he was accepted to Stanford University but didn’t attend because of the draft. His service in Vietnam ruined him emotionally. He never did go back to college.

By then I was in college studying art. Conceptual art and political art was a big thing back then. My husband had his masters in art history. Both of us knew how art impacted the world, for at least as long as the reformation.

 

A Modest Proposal by Swift

Have you read it? If you took English Lit as a freshman in college, you probably did. Swift commented on the Irish Potato Famine and England’s refusal to send aid to the ‘Catholics” who had too many children and thus were poor by choice. Incredibly, he suggested having these folks sell their youngest infant for food.

Swift’s second advantage states that selling the young children as a “fancy delicacy” to the affluent people will give poor Irish tenants some valuable property in their children. He is basically mocking both the children and the parents because children already have value and no parent that cherishes their child would want to have their child eaten by the rich people. This proposal is basically stating that children have little to no value, and in order for them to be valuable they should be sold to the elite.

The Depth of Greed

In Swift’s day “the haves,’ the English’s richest, wanted to keep it all. So it is now. During the Vietnam war, an entire society, ours, benefited with a good economy. What we learned was that the soldiers and their loved ones paid the price. The gain was ‘shared’ by millions of US citizens. But most of us didn’t know until a few brave people began to protest the war.

1972

So with the attitudes of my milkman and neighbors I decided we were selling out a generation of wonderful men and women for economic gain.

I could not sleep, could not wait to make my point.

I remembered Swift’s Modest Proposal. I began to feel anger at the milkman, who I saw as most Americans. It was okay with my milkman to feed his family on the lives of those boys at my sister’s school.

SO I went to the army surplus store and bought a gun belt, with holes in it from bullets, a fatigue set and convinced my husband to be my model.

By then I was in college studying art. Conceptual art and political art was a big thing back then. My husband had his masters in art history. Both of us knew how art impacted the world, for at least as long as the reformation.

First I used plaster to copy him, all but his head. He was in a prone position. This plaster mold showed the weave of the fabric, the bullet holes with frayed edges, the gun belt. All of it.

Next, I needed to copy this mold with the wax used to create metal sculptures, because this mold made a positive image of a ‘dead, headless’ soldier. It was my idea to send this image to President Nixon. But I wanted it to be of food, not metal, to make the point that Swift’s modest proposal was rearing its ugly head once again.

To send it I needed a pine coffin like the ones our military were sent home in.
Then I went to a cheese company and purchased 200 pounds of grated cheddar cheese. I made a latex mold of the casting so to encase my soldier’s body in red paraffin like gouda cheese. Finally, I painted the latex with red paraffin and stuffed the cheese into my red paraffin mold.

By then the cheese was turning dark in places with mold of its own.

I took my dead cheddar cheese soldier to the student union of my college, San Jose State University, and covered a long table with a red tablecloth, on top of which I placed the top of the coffin to serve as a cheese board. Above my creation on the wall I had a poem citing Swift’s Proposal, quoting him: “A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends, and when the family dines alone, the four or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt, will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in Winter.”

The mother of radio host Jim Eason saw my piece and told her son about it. Hearing about it, he was going to use it on his program. That very day the news of the Watergate break in broke and Old Cheddar never made it to the news.

The poor guy was dumped in a dumpster, never to tell his story.

By then I was in college studying art. Conceptual art and political art was a big thing back then. My husband had his masters in art history. Both of us knew how art impacted the world, for at least as long as the reformation.