Dissent does not equal disrespect

Dr. Christine Mann writes,

Why does Representative John Carter and his staff continue to avoid meeting with his constituents?

Recently, I organized a group of about 40 friends and acquaintances with the purpose of breaking into small groups and visiting the office of our Congressional representative John Carter to discuss topics of interest. The idea was to have a dialogue with them through a series of meetings on specific topics.

We had a successful first meeting in February on the ACA. A group of 14 women met with senior staff for about an hour. The meeting was emotional yet respectful.

Subsequent to that meeting, I requested a second meeting with another set of group members to discuss a new topic. I was notified by email that the office would not be setting up further meetings with my “group” as they knew our concerns and did not need to hear any more. A request for clarification went unanswered. 

As the office has an open door policy, I took a separate group for an unscheduled visit to discuss gun laws. We were greeted by an intern who graciously listened to our concerns, as the rest of the staff was out to lunch. All involved calmly related their concerns on this subject, and the intern took notes to pass on.

When the senior staff arrived, one staffer abruptly decided to end the meeting and told us to leave. She stated that groups like this would need to make an appointment.

I asked to make an appointment and was told that I would not be allowed to do so. When I asked why, she stated that I had been “disrespectful” to Representative Carter on social media. She would not provide an example of this.

Access to our government representatives is vital to our democracy. It is the right of every citizen to criticize their government. Dissent does not equal disrespect. 

What type of message is Representative Carter sending to his constituents when his staff asserts that he does not want to hear what we have to say? Isn’t that exactly what he is supposed to do as our Representative in Congress?