I am in Williamsburg, VA, and yesterday I heard Thomas Jefferson say that there will always be differences of opinion among men but that civilized men with manners can always find a solution to these differences. Poor old Tom would turn, no spin, in his grave if he knew how uncivilized politicians have become in our century. And, particularly, how hostile, irrational and vicious a certain state senator in Missouri has become.
Background: Missouri NEA and retired NEA members have been appealing to Republican legislators to represent the common good instead of taking their marching orders from the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC’s goal is to dismantle our public education system in order to open up investment opportunities for private companies in the education business. Although charter schools were originally a good idea, they are now being used by rich and powerful entities to divert public funds into private pockets.
One of my retired MNEA friends had a letter in our local paper a few weeks ago complaining that Sen. Brian Nieves was too busy getting ready to attend an ALEC meeting in Cincinnati to meet with his constituents who made the trip to the Capitol for that expressed purpose.
On Wednesday, May 11, that same friend and several other retired teachers went back to the Capitol to lobby on behalf of public school education. They called and left a message asking for an appointment with Sen. Nieves but did not get a return call. When they arrived at the Senator’s office, he was on the floor of the Senate, and his secretary was kind enough to turn up the speaker in the office so the retired teachers could listen. Sen. Nieves was proudly proclaiming that his wife and three children were all skilled gun handlers and “excellent” shots. This was in support of a bill to lower the age for carrying hidden guns.
Shortly after his exhortation on behalf of the rights of citizens to bear arms, the Senator returned to his office, called the two retired teachers into his office and shut the door. There on his desk was a copy of the newspaper with my friend’s LTE. Two male aides stood on either side of the Senator, arms folded across their chests, as the Senator began a screaming session that lasted close to 20 minutes. His opening salvo was “You stupid f…..” He shouted, shook the paper in the man’s face, walked around him several times all the while shouting obscenities and threats. Sen. Nieves was in the Navy and ridiculed my friend for having served in the Army as if that had anything to do with the topic at hand.
My friend is a large man and could probably have decked Nieves but knew enough to restrain himself. He tried talking sense to Nieves, but that just set Nieves off even more. He called my friend “doughboy” pointing to his physique which is exactly what Nieves called the aide to his competitor last August in a similar verbal assault. In fact, Nieves gave my friend a copy of the 12 page handwritten police report by the young man last summer. Nieves’ point was that my friend had put his family at risk by noting in his LTE that Nieves was going out of town at a meeting. (No, it doesn’t make any sense since Nieves is gone 3-4 days every week to Jeff City, but we are not talking about a rational person here.)
At one point, my other friend who was “blindsided” by Nieves’ screaming obscenities, held up his hands and asked if the three of them could sit down and talk quietly. At which point, Nieves screamed at this man too. Keep in mind these are well-bred gentlemen who are accustomed to civilized encounters with other people and who may never have experienced such low class behavior in their lives. And they are both over 70 years old.
I asked the friend who was observing all of this why he didn’t take out his iPhone and record the episode, and he said, frankly, he was afraid to do so, especially with the two bodyguards glaring at them. Personally, I’m not sure the two aides were there to protect Nieves as much as they were to keep Nieves from physically assaulting the two older men.
When they were finally allowed to leave, the third friend with them was in the reception area and shocked. He said he heard every word as did many people out in the hallway. (I can’t imagine what life must be like for the two women who work in that office.)
My friend who was the target of Nieves’ attack called the Capitol Police to report the incident and was told that the police don’t file charges unless there is physical contact. They then called the Senate Leader Rob Mayer who told them basically that this is how Nieves is and they shouldn’t have elected him if they didn’t want him to represent them. Thanks a lot, Sen. Mayer. So much for the gentlemen’s code of conduct in what passes for representative government in Missouri today.
The men who conspired to secure their freedom from British tyranny left a record of warnings to future generations. There will always be unscrupulous and greedy men trying to use the power of their elected position to enrich themselves materially or whose lust for power drives them to a state of mental incompetence.
Like a snake that can shed its skin, Sen. Nieves appeared at the Pacific High School graduation four days after his attack on mild-mannered retired teachers as if nothing had happened. Glad handing, smiling, congratulating the graduates all the while conspiring to deprive future young Americans of a free, public education.
This man is a time bomb waiting to go off. I just hope he doesn’t shoot somebody when he finally loses all control.