‘I don’t care about your feelings’

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On April 14, retired Missouri teacher Nedra Jeffress, of Independence, wrote a letter to state Rep. Chuck Basye, the Rocheport Republican who is pushing hardest to ban transgender girls from school sports.

“I’m wondering if there is data supporting the need for bills regulating this in Missouri or if this (is) a solution in search of a problem,” Jeffress wrote. “As an educator who has worked at the middle school and high school level in Missouri, I know how hard it is for transgender students to be accepted by peers, parents, churches and some teachers. If they are able to participate on an athletic team, they may find acceptance important to their well-being. I hope you would sponsor bills that support positive mental health for each citizen of the state of Missouri instead of proposing bills that attack a population already at risk. Thank you for your time,” she said in closing.

The next morning, she received this far less respectful reply:

“Nedra, Do your own research. I don’t care about your feelings nor do I care about your resume.

“Bottom line, my intent is to keep women’s/girl’s sports for the female gender.

“If a person was born with a penis, that individual doesn’t belong in sports designed solely for females.

“Now go ahead and have your meltdown and/or temper tantrum. Remember, Let’s Go Brandon!!”

Was this a parody, or a prank? Even with vitriol in politics and in everyday life increasingly not just tolerated but rewarded, would any elected official answer so rudely?

We emailed Basye, asking if he had really responded this way to a constituent, and if so, why.

He wrote right back to say that he had written the message, only taking issue with our characterization of Jeffress as a constituent: “This individual is not a constituent according to our management database. The statement speaks for itself.”

Whether she lives and votes in his district isn’t the point, of course, and that she can’t vote either for or against him doesn’t make his incivility any more acceptable.

Jeffress, who taught in Independence for 29 years, and now works part-time as a middle school graduation coach, said she’d waited a full week before sending us what he’d written to her, because she did not want to contribute to our current divisions.

But after thinking about it, she decided that she did want to “stand up” by making his comments public, because “that’s what’s wrong with politics, the personal attacks.”

She has written to other officials with whom she disagreed, she said, including Sen. Roy Blunt and then-Gov. Eric Greitens, “but this is the only time I’ve ever received a response like this.”

In the race to lower the bar on what passes for defensible behavior, yesterday’s lapses are today’s fundraising opportunities. But Basye is still wrong, and he still owes Jeffress an apology.

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