Email #81, Subject: “overseas”?

WDBJ reported that you sent them a statement in response to the town hall held in Vinton last Wednesday. The newscaster read your words as they appeared on screen:

“I’ve always made it my priority to communicate with the people I represent, and I strive to be in communities across the district as often as possible. … I appreciate the input of all of my constituents, and I am looking at their town hall meeting requests.”

The Staunton News Leader printed the same word-for-word statement a week earlier in response to their request that you comment on the fact that you haven’t held a town hall since August 2013. Did WDBJ misunderstand? The newscaster implied that the statement was new and a direct response to the Vinton event. Instead it is an older, form response written prior to the Vinton event and so a response to it in only the most generic sense.

WDBJ also stated: “We talked to his office and they said that they let organizers know last week that he would be on an overseas trip.”

I was in communication with organizers before the event, and though they said that your office refused their town hall invitation, they did not repeat any explanation for why you could not attend. While it’s possible they didn’t mention that you would be overseas, it seems more likely that they didn’t know. I only found out that you were in India from reading about it later online. I too sent you multiple meeting requests, but I heard nothing from your office. When I called directly, no one would give me any information about your schedule, certainly nothing about your traveling abroad. Your office consistently declines meeting requests without offering any explanation.

I of course understand why you would not want to advertise the fact that you were across the globe during “district work” week, especially given the extremes other members of Congress are taking to avoid their constituents. It does, however, create the impression that you would rather be anywhere on the planet than in a room with district 6 voters who your staffers didn’t hand pick.

The form-letter statement your staffers released on your behalf further deepens the impression of your remoteness and inattention. What does it mean that you are “looking at” town hall requests when you issue the identical statement after each request?  This is no more a sincere response than the automated emails I receive when I fill in the “Meeting Request” form on your website.

If you will not speak with voters, would you at least speak with WDBJ? There would be no crowds, no protest signs, just you and a newscaster asking you balanced questions. Will you at least agree to that?

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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