When Violence is Persuasive

Gabrielle Giffords addresses a senate committee this week

Gabrielle Giffords addresses a senate committee this week

I was glad to turn on the radio and hear Gabrielle Giffords has weighed in on the gun issue currently consuming news reports in North America.

Giffords, a Democratic congresswoman, was shot in the head at close range on January 8, 2011. The bullet, according to reports, “went straight through her brain.”

Nineteen people were shot that day and six died.

Giffords’ state-of-health is often described as a “long road to recovery,” after losing parts of her vision and having to re-learn how to walk and speak.

This week she addressed the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence and her brief speech was covered widely.

We must do something, she said. “Too many children are dying. Too many children.”

Giffords’ speech was compelling. Passionate. Focused.

But I think more compelling is her own story. She presents a real-life symbol of the effects of gun violence.

I’d like to hear what her life is like after a bullet ripped through her skull. Current news stories about her highlight the positive, and are filled with hope.

In an odd reframing of the issue, Giffords shows the happy ending of an assassination attempt.

More persuasive for social change would be to show the harmful and deleterious effects of Giffords being shot, rather than the bright outcome.

See Giffords’ speech at http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=aPmem5EixJo

Photo from http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/national_world&id=8972319


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in authenticity, ethics, framing, journalism, neuroscience, science, science communication, writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to When Violence is Persuasive

  1. Russ L says:

    Hi Cynthia,

    I’ve done a little thinking about your comment below.
    “More persuasive for social change would be to show the harmful and deleterious effects of Giffords being shot, rather than the bright outcome.”

    I suppose one can find before and after videos of Gabrielle Giffords, but we see the results of her being shot from the posted video link.

    I feel sad seeing her having to cope with this change in her circumstances, and even talking about it in a public forum to which she and her family and friends have access feels wrong somehow. That is because people are such social animals and saving face is such a high priority within our paradigm. In this case saving face, invasion of privacy, and gun control for the public good, are a set of issues which are difficult to balance.


    • You are absolutely right about saving face and privacy. And the idea that her recovery is built on hope and positive surroundings makes a ton of sense. I was struck by her comments about children–and the lives lost are truly tragic. But it also seemed that her own tragedy is displaced by the focus on Newtown. I was thinking how effective it would be to hear her say that she can’t see in one eye, that she cannot use her right arm or hand, that she struggles to read and speak and think. Her life is forever changed.


  2. Russ L says:

    Since she was brave enough to come forward as a witness, I agree, it would have been good to hear her say those things. It was also good to see her come forward, as a potent reminder that her part in the issue is still relevant.


  3. I remember exactly where I was when a friend texted me to say that Gabby had been shot. She was such a dynamic force for us here in Southern Arizona and is sorely missed. That she is still alive is a miracle; that she is walking and talking is even more of a miracle. I am happy to see that she is taking up a cause again.


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