During my usual “surfing” routine, I check BagNewsNotes a couple of times each day. The most recent post featured a screen shot from Congresswoman Gabby Giffords’ statement on gun control to a Senate committee. Dr. Michael Shaw, guiding spirit of the blog, saw it quite differently than I. Pending his permission, I’ll quote extensively from his post. Once again, though, I urge that those interested in the social/political meanings of photographs check out BNN.
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.
This is the comment I posted in response:
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.
I didn’t want to write an obnoxiously long comment, so I quit there. But I’ll add a little more here.
I’m reminded — wait for it! — I’m reminded of Ernest Hemingway’s short story Big Two-Hearted River. Those who like to mock the “Hemingway style” often quote from this story. For example…
Nick was happy as he crawled inside the tent. He had not been unhappy all day. This was different though. Now things were done. There had been this to do. Now it was done. It had been a hard trip. He was very tired. That was done. He had made his camp. He was settled. Nothing could touch him. It was a good place to camp. He was there, in the good place. He was in his home where he had made it.
But passages like this must be understood in context. The young protagonist has just returned from WW I, suffering from what’s now called “PTSD.” As part of his effort to put his life back together, he is taking a solo fishing trip. It’s like learning to walk again after severe injury. What we read in that paragraph is the verbal, emotional equivalent of his first few baby steps. Same with what we heard in GG’s statement.