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  • Writer's pictureBruce Klein

A Patriotic Goddess on a Heroic Mission

“Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down” is an amazing story of recovery from a horrible strike of violence. For those that are unfamiliar with what happened to Congresswomen Gabby Giffords in 2011, a would-be assassin shot her in the head at a political rally outside a shopping center in Arizona. She was shot though the left side of her head and by will, determination, excellent care and luck she survived. She still has partial paralysis on her right side and aphasia.

A year later with strength and persistence, she returned to Congress for an important vote to increase the debt ceiling. Although her injuries prevent her from serving again, she’s now on a mission to stop gun violence. But not gun ownership, for she herself is a gun owner and hunter.

Her husband, Mark Kelly a well know NASA space shuttle commander nursed her back to health. In order to further her ambition to stop gun violence, Kelly ran for the Senate in Arizona and won. They live in Tucson, Arizona where Giffords grew up and started her political career. Tucson is her home. Many know her personally there and many more know her thought her contributions to the community.

The documentary is described as a story of “feminist love”. Feminist love because a man nursed her back to health which is usually what a women would do. Looking at the story from this angle, you see the tenderness and care that Kelly provided her and the near-miraculous recovery. Her extensive injures cut short her political career. After five years in Congress, she resigned after her vote to increase the budget ceiling.

She is a terrific person and dedicated political servant. On July 5, 2022 just ten days before the documentary was released theatrically, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. But the documentary presents her as a candidate for sainthood. Her greatest political victory is her recovery and her tenacity to end gun violence. Her mission is now her political goal. She is linked indelible to her husband politically as he serves in the Senate and she nurtures him in that role. She is portrayed as a fierce survivor and celebrated as an important patriot. We are told that her career would have led her to the Senate and beyond. The movie crowns her as our savior from gun violence. Her story deserves less partiality. It a heartwarming story that is corrupted with politics The story drapes her in an American Flag. Of course, she is a patriot and continues to fight for what is right: putting a stop to gun violence. But she is not Miss Liberty.

In the documentary, politics overtakes her personal story. If the political side was deemphasized and was placed on the same level as her recovery, the documentary would still be outstanding without being glaring. It would be improved by stepping back on her political renown and letting the facts speak.

Remember that Giffords still has political ambitions. The shooting did not in any way destroy her ingrained need to participate in politics but her portrayed ambitions crowd out her recovery from the purely human side. This alone is a fantastic story though exaggerates her political victory for staying alive and taking on a noble cause.

How could any rational human appose reducing gun violence and ignore the story of a brave and determined women who recovers from a terrible injury to pursue a just cause? But pushing these elements on the audience has the scent of sales appeal which detracts from the story. If the directors, Julie Cohen and Betsy White, who made the awarding RGB, would have eased off the anointment of Congresswomen Gifford and allow theater goers the opportunity to take the facts and come to an opinion, the power of the story would have streamed out like rays from the sun. Note that children would have difficulties witnessing Ms. Giffords severe injuries and may have difficulties following the story.


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