Email #211: “an open line”?

I suppose I should thank you for the recent form letters your office sent in response to three of my last fifty emails to you.

Your most recent response begins:

“Thank you for contacting me regarding your concerns with …  I appreciate hearing from you.”

It ends:

“I appreciate you taking the time to share your views with me. I believe it is important to keep an open line of communication so I can best serve the interests of Virginia’s 6th District. I hope you will continue to be in touch as the 115th Congress continues to debate issues of importance to the United States.

“Again thank you for you for the benefit of your comments. Feel free to contact me whenever I may be of assistance.”

The one I received before that begins:

“Thank you for contacting me about the issue of … I appreciate you sharing your concerns.”

It ends:

“I appreciate you taking the time to share your views with me and hope you will stay in touch as the 115th Congress continues to debate issues important to our country. I believe it is vital to keep an open line of communication so I can best serve the interests of Virginia’s 6th District. Please feel free to contact me whenever I may be of assistance to you and your family.”

And the letter before that begins:

“Thank you for contacting me regarding ….  It is good to hear from you.”

And it ends:

“I appreciate your taking the time to share your views with me. I believe it is important to keep an open line of communication so I can best serve the interests of the 6th district. In addition, I hope you will be in touch as the 115th Congress considers legislation or addresses additional issues of importance to the United States.

“Again, thank you for the benefit of your comments. Please feel free to contact me whenever I may be of assistance.”

Ech of your middle paragraphs begin “As you know …” or “As you may know,” and then recounts details about bills or topics that I already recounted to you in my own emails. Some offer justifications for your positions, often the very justifications that I had taken issue with when writing you. In no case do you acknowledge any specific point I raised.

Your staff seems to follow a very simple process:

1) categorize emails by topic;

2) forward generic response; and

3) delete.

If a letter by a constituent addresses a topic that your office does not have a ready-made response for–as apparently the majority of my emails do not– then the process is even simpler:

1) delete.

It seems that you do not think it is good to hear from me, you do not appreciate my taking the time to share my views with you, and you do not hope I will be in touch again. Worse, it seems that you feel the same about all of your constituents who write you letters, regardless of what topics they write about or what specifically they have to say about them. In what sense then is this “an open line of communication”?

While I understand that you cannot respond personally to every letter or even a fraction of the letters you receive, please know that your form responses create an impression of extreme and almost comic insincerity.

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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