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January 30, 2013

Your Turn: Reacting to Gabby Giffords

You really have to see the entire video of her statement to get a sense of the damage that was done to her. It’s profoundly sad to watch.  I understand nobody wants to go there, but her performance at the Congressional hearing today was closer to Shirley Temple than the woman in this video. She was adorable. Like a precocious eight year old. I wonder if anyone actually thinks about this, however.  That’s also why I’m so curious about the reaction of her former colleagues and staff. I don’t know if they smiled paternally/maternally at her success in reading her statement — getting through it — or if they smiled so as not to cry. I also don’t know, scanning those faces (and they’re certainly not all smiling, by the way), what other kinds of feelings and reactions (pity? horror? denial?) were in play.

For the sake of the gun debate, our political culture and ultimately, ourselves, I’m really trying to understand whether and how Gabby’s testimony makes a difference. I took a wide screen shot and sharpened it up a bit to give you the best sweep possible if you care to open and study it. I’m curious to know what impressions you get from these faces and questions.

(screenshot: CNN. caption (adapted from GettyImages): U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) (C) testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about gun control on Capitol Hill January 30, 2013 in Washington, DC. Giffords delivered an opening statment to the committee, which met for the first time since the mass shooting at a Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.)

  • Stifledgenius

    I think it’s important that people see the reality of what can happen to gun victims if they’re lucky enough to survive an attack.

  • Darwin Woodka

    Feinstein gets it. She’s seen it before, and is simply happy Gabby is alive to talk about it at all.

  • Scarabus

    Gosh, Michael, I had quite a different response to GG’s statement. The cute little Shirley Temple was a child, delivering lines conceived and articulated by others. GG was an adult, delivering lines she herself had conceived and articulated.

    I was reminded very painfully of experiences through the decades with two friends/colleagues who had suffered strokes. Their minds and personalities were intact; their command of muscles controlling speech, handwriting, or typing was in both cases severely impaired. Empathetically to experience even a fraction of the frustration evident in their attempts at speech and movement — and especially in their eyes! — was awful.

    Those memories undoubtedly affected my response today. I imagined my friends, not in a hospital bed, but in the full glare of public scrutiny. How excruciatingly difficult that must have been! The way G was made the focus of such scrutiny is underscored visually in the image you’ve shared (see attached).

    Re composition, a field of mostly sober dark gray or blue suits. Within that field spots of red become foci of attention. To our left, a man’s vest; center, a man’s tie; right, a woman’s suit. That’s the base of an inverted triangle. The apex of that triangle? GG and MK. But then another inverted triangle: base defined by highlighted bald pate on our left, photographer’s (?) bright blue shirt and face on our right; GG’s highlighted “do” in the middle. Apex? Shiny pate, down along the sleeve, leading to elbow bend; up the forearm, through the hand, to the guy’s face; then back along blue shirt through highlighted “do” to shiny pate.

    Might be naive of me, I admit. But I was honestly moved — not to pity or condescension or resentment at being manipulated by whoever was directing the actress. I was moved to determination and action.

    • Karen D

      I think it’s clear from the post that he’s saying it was moving. It was profoundly sad to see the result of her injuries — but I didn’t read condescension or resentment or a claim that she’s being manipulated into the post. Just sadness at what this kind of violence can do to a person.

  • Pingback: My reaction to Gabby Giffords’ statement on Wednesday. « Scarabus

  • kidzmom1

    I watched her testimony and was moved to tears. She is so different; yes, she is alive and yes, I celebrate that miracle of medical skill and determination, but why did this have to happen to her?!?!

  • Michael Shaw

    A couple things strike me about the photo if I can generalize. Of the Senators, it seems the Democrats look more inspired and encouraging whereas the Republicans on the left look more upset. I’m taking those reactions/expressions as a good thing though I also fear that conservatives by nature tend to just stuff these kinds of reactions. The other thing I was noticing was the gender difference. I haven’t heard much about demographics in the post Sandyhook debates but you can see how the women overall here tend to be more visibly inspired. What that means or how that translates however it’s hard for me to even guess.

  • acm

    I’m sort of glad you asked this question. Hearing her read her testimony gave me the very same feeling — I know she feels strongly, but for *content*, it was very like hearing an impassioned child. (“That would be bad. BAD!”) Clearly not adding at the level of argument anything substantive.

    I think she’s there for two reasons: (1) the obvious, that as a victim of gun violence, she makes concrete the damage that it can do, the way it can steal the potential of a life. For this she hardly needs to say anything, blunts some things that might otherwise be lightly argued. But also (2) she’s a media magnet (look at those cameras!), and thus her involvement in the hearings helps guarantee that the issue will get coverage, will be kept alive past the usual media attention span. That’s hugely valuable in itself, whatever might be made of the content of her speech and the power of her example.

  • TiminOz

    I felt inspired by watching both GG and her husband speaking on several levels. I can’t help admire her perseverance to fight the good fight while at the same time trying to rehabilitate the destruction that was done to her both physically and mentally. As an American living in Australia I get asked a lot about our obsession with firearms. Since they banned assault rifles here in the 80’s they have never had another mass shooting as they did in Tasmania. The NRA must not like that. It has been reported they are now lobbying the Liberal Party here.

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