By RAHN ADAMS
I’ve got to give our junior U.S. Senator Thom Tillis credit. When it comes to answering letters from constituents, his Washington office will certainly get back to you in short order. Well, sort of.
That’s more than I can say for senior U.S. Senator Richard Burr and 5th District Congresswoman Virginia Foxx. I’m still waiting to hear back from them. On Jan. 23rd, I mailed four first-class letters to Washington—two letters to Mrs. Foxx, one from me and the other from my wife Timberley; and a letter each to Mr. Burr and Mr. Tillis. I also had mailed a letter to President Donald J. Trump three days earlier on Inauguration Day, and I haven’t gotten his response, either. I guess his staff has been busy.
My letters to both senators made three basic requests: 1) that the senators support true public education, not the diversion of tax dollars to private schools; 2) that the senators encourage President Trump to “act in a Presidential manner where the press is concerned because they (the news media) represent us, the American public,” as do our elected officials; and 3) that the senators “hold President Trump to the truth and that (they) make clear (their) disapproval of his dishonesty, whether his lies come from him or his spokespersons.” My letter to Mrs. Foxx covered basically the same ground but was more personal because I had taught two of her grandchildren, both fine young persons, at Watauga High School.
Now, I’m not gullible enough to think that Mr. Tillis actually reads all his correspondence from constituents and then writes personal replies to everyone, even though the letter I received Friday indicated that he had, in fact, dictated it to a staff member at some point, whether in direct response to my letter or not—that is, it reads like a standard form letter, but it bears the notation “TRT/kd” at the bottom. It also appears that Mr. Tillis signed the letter himself in blue felt-tip pen. That’s more impressive, I guess, than the machine-signed form letter I got from President Barack Obama in January after a three-month turnaround. But comparing response times of senators and presidents is probably like comparing apples and oranges. (Notice, here, that I’m foregoing the obvious joke.)
That’s my good news about Mr. Tillis.
The bad news is that he—or his staff—really didn’t answer my letter. I mean, as you can see for yourself in the accompanying photo, the letter barely addresses only the first issue I raised—that of supporting public education—and, even then, totally avoids the whole public vs. private question about which I had written. He doesn’t even use the term public education in his letter, preferring “quality education” instead. But then, I remember Mr. Tillis’s fights with the North Carolina Association of Educators (which, by the way, isn’t a union, as he and his staffers claim) and especially his opposition to career status for teachers, among other positions he supported that hurt public education when he was state house speaker before being elected U.S. senator two years ago. He has not been a friend of public education, as his vote for the highly unqualified U.S. education secretary and Tillis campaign donor Betsy DeVos proved again two weeks ago. He seems to be a friend of big-money interests that apparently can buy his support. And most of us school teachers are poor, thanks in large part to him.
Also, Mr. Tillis’s letter to me makes no mention whatsoever of his opinion of the president’s treatment of the press and on Mr. Trump’s behavior. Those issues matter to me because I’m also a former small-town journalist who is appalled by the president’s abuse of the news media, as I told Mr. Tillis, and because I think “the Oval Office should be occupied by a man of honor, not by someone who speaks—and tweets—lies or whose spokespersons lie on his behalf.” Mr. Tillis or his staff could have at least given me similarly evasive answers about those last two topics—something like, I understand the importance of quality press coverage; and I support efforts to ensure that our president receives the necessary support and respect needed for comprehensive governance. His staff must not have thought to write a form letter on the topic of “Education/First Amendment Freedoms/Presidential Pants on Fire.” Or there is no defense of Mr. Trump’s misbehavior and lies. Maybe that’s it. But I can only guess.
Maybe the responses I eventually receive from Mr. Burr and Mrs. Foxx will surprise me. Maybe both of these elected officials—or their staffs—will remember for the seconds or maybe minute it takes to select a form letter to send me that they are Americans first and Republicans somewhere on down the line in order of importance. Second? Third, even? Unlike Mr. Tillis, maybe one or both will say something to the effect of, Yes, Mr. Adams, I agree with you and will fight to see that our public tax dollars support public schools, not private schools; and Thank you, Mr. Adams, for expressing your concerns about our president’s behavior and honesty—concerns that I, too, share and will do everything within my power to address, since, above all, we serve the public, not our own interests. But I’m not holding my breath.
If you’ve gotten this far and you think I’m making too much of one little letter—and, for that matter, that I’m taking the president’s unrepentant lying too seriously—then consider whether or not words matter to you. A man’s word. Any person’s word. Why should it matter?
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Have a nice Sunday.