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Writing about guns feels like a Herculean task, and I’ll certainly write a post in the future about what I’ve learned so far. Spoiler and big surprise: it will be about language and its failures.
That being said, during yesterday’s carpet bombing of negativity, threats, and personal attacks, one minor point bubbled to the surface in more than one location—that my reproducing the Twitter exchange between Representative Jim Steineke and me was somehow disrespectful and an attack. This perception couldn’t be more wrong—instead of wasting time detailing why this is so, I will simply just correct the error by apologizing. (It’s not that hard a thing to do.) I study language for a living. Trust me, I knew that in writing my post it would be nearly impossible to escape the right/left polarization that ensured anything I wrote about Rep. Steineke would connote as negative.
Here are some facts:
- Rep. Steineke and I have interacted on issues beyond this one. We have a cordial history. He is always nice and respectful to me. I am always nice and respectful to him.
- Rep. Steineke, unlike other people I have written to in the legislature, responds to me. Every time.
- His responses on Twitter are not prepared statements, in the same way that my blog should be read as a blog rather than a newspaper article or piece of legislation. (Fact: some people yelling at me about my blog post actually think I’m a legislator.) He is also much more responsive (to me at least) on Twitter rather than email, so that’s the medium in which I sought him out. My preference is definitely email.
- Rep. Steineke manages his own Twitter account and responds in his own voice. His account, unlike some others, is not managed by staffers. I admire this about him.
- I don’t know why mainstream media outlets think blog posts or social media postings are newsworthy or important enough to write articles about. You’d have to ask them. I seek no attention beyond hitting “publish” here. The rest is the great wonder of language.
- Note: my blog post details a personal emotional landscape, and interacting with one of my legislators is part of that landscape. I’m invested. I care. As I have said repeatedly, I love this state that is my home. By representing our Twitter interaction, in its entirety, I felt I provided an important look into language and dialogue. (Again, I write a lot about language—it’s what I do for a living.) In fact, many of the responses to my post simply agree with what Rep. Steineke had to say on Twitter. That’s exactly why I presented it unfiltered.
More importantly, here’s Representative Steineke on Twitter yesterday:
For ppl following the conceal carry topic, @ChuckRybak is a good guy w/an opinion I disagree with, but he does not deserve Twitter hate
— Rep. Jim Steineke (@jimsteineke) October 19, 2015
I think the tweet pretty much speaks for itself.
And because my goal is to make this blog different somehow, I have invited Rep. Steineke to do a guest post or interview, without any additional commentary from me. He’s busy, I know, and I’m a complete nobody, but I still hope he takes me up on it, just because I think it would be cool.
So like I said, I wasn’t being disrespectful. I was being honest. Why am I posting this? Because if we don’t find a new way of talking, a new language for our problems, I don’t see any of them being solved in ways that benefit all of us as neighbors. Yes, I have respect for Rep. Steineke. Yes, I deeply appreciate his time, his responses, and his willingness to engage with me seriously (he is my representative). But engagement is not the same thing as change, or even progress. On more than one occasion I have tried to change Rep. Steineke’s mind about something, and based on the casting of votes, I have yet to succeed. But I’m not giving up! I don’t just want to have a pleasant conversation, but to have one where people can genuinely change their mind about something. As I said in my post, I change my mind all the time. I have to, otherwise I don’t believe in knowledge.
So, Representative Steineke, thanks for your time and thanks for standing up for me on the cesspool known as Twitter. I still hope we can meet some time soon. If you felt mischaracterized at all in my post, consider this both my apology and an invitation to kick me out of this space and take over my blog for a day.