The following letter was sent to Senator Joe Manchin on January 19, 2017 via email on the subject of Senator John Lewis and President elect Donald Trump. I’m publicly sharing this because I felt compelled to express my frustration and dismay, which many others shared around the country and especially in the Atlanta region.

Senator Manchin,

As a constituent and registered Democrat in the state of West Virginia, I am writing to you as my Democratic representative in the US Senate and in response to your recent remarks regarding Georgia Senator John Lewis’s remarks regarding President elect Donald Trump’s appointment as illegitimate. Senator Lewis’s remarks were controversial because they are unpopular among the staunch supporters of Trump and his incoming administration, but also because the source of their claims have been in dispute as well. However, I want to take a moment to refute your own claim on television that Senator Lewis made remarks that were unwarranted, which you stated were “uncalled for”.

I beg your pardon, but I and many others in the state of West Virginia disagree with you. Senator Lewis saw overwhelming support for his statements leading into the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, while Donald Trump cancelled his own appearance at the National Museum of African American History in Washington, D.C. just prior to the holiday. Senator Lewis is sending a strong signal in direct opposition of the very divisiveness that Donald Trump and his campaign nurtured throughout his campaign. Donald Trump lived up to this divisiveness by attacking Senator Lewis for his questioning of Trump’s legitimacy, calling Lewis’s Atlanta, GA District 5 “crime ridden” and “horrible”. I ask you to reconsider who between these two men is most divisive and using uncalled for language.

Senator Lewis is a well respected politician with decades of experience working for the public, social issues, and civil rights. I respect his opinion on this matter, which is the one of questioning the legitimacy of the President elect based on the reported interference by Russia. I also want to point out that I was until June 2015 represented by Senator Lewis as a resident of Georgia where my wife and our family lived in Atlanta for over 10 years. I was even fortunate enough to shake his hand once as we rode the elevator together in our shared office building. My mother Hilda R. Heady has worked on rural health advocacy in Senator Lewis’s office and testified on rural health issues in front of his committee(s). I therefore count myself lucky to have very briefly crossed Senator Lewis’s path to thank him for his service.

Now, as a constituent of West Virginia, a tax payer, and a registered Democrat, I want to express my disappointment in the representation of my own values on this matter by yourself, also a Democrat who presumably shares in these values. The type of discourse and reaction I observed this week from you did not represent me and my family’s values. These views are far from the myopic wasteland that President elect Trump seems to believe regarding Senator Lewis’s District 5.

My wife and I are both native to West Virginia and decided to move home to be closer to our families while we raise our children in the same environment we ourselves were raised. We value our strong Appalacian heritage and culture, and especially its strength in community, openness, fairness, compassion, and empathy. By many accounts we are a rare exception to the predominant trend of young people leaving the state, rather than returning. I have a very strong desire and set of personal goals to pay forward what I have learned in my career to the people of Morgantown and West Virginia as a whole. It has been important to me that we not alienate our experiences and values hardened during our time living in Atlanta. I assure you, that community is as strong and vibrant as our own community and culture in West Virginia.

I want to thank you for your continued leadership, experience, and representation for the people of West Virginia. I write this not without reservation but with hope that you will understand I am not angry but disappointed in the lack of solidarity on these issues. We the people do not want to see further division either, but we also want fair and equal representation by our leaders in Washington, D.C. I thank you for your service and your time reading this and look forward to your representation of these values outlined herein.

Sincerely,

Jesse Heady

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