Thanks are in order to Anthony Scaramucci, the foulmouthed financier who was abruptly fired from his job as White House communications director.
While still employed by the White House, Scaramucci, a.k.a. the Mooch, let the verbal filth fly, not in private, but during an interview with a reporter from the New Yorker. It’s a long way from the days of Winston Churchill, the British prime minister who was known for his eloquence. If V was for victory in Churchill’s time, it most decidedly stands for Vulgarity today.
Still, I am grateful to “the Mooch,” for bringing to light how linguistically low we now go.
Why? Unity. People of all political persuasions found Scaramucci’s uncouth remarks about two of his White House colleagues appalling. That’s good news.
Of course, he’s not the only one who has succumbed to this societal regression. I wonder if some of the people who were repulsed by Scaramucci’s comments are the same ones who boisterously sprinkle their cellphone and face-to-face conversations with profanities in public. Tough luck for passersby should they prefer not to listen to tongues so vile. Even the presence of children doesn’t stop some adults from mouthing obscenities, as my friend learned recently while spending time with her grandchildren in Center City.
Sure, some of us slip and use language we’d rather not during emotionally charged times. But, today, lingo once known as “common” — as in offensive — is common. In too many circles, even the F-bomb seems socially acceptable.
The tough guys in our old Germantown neighborhood didn’t talk such trash in front of grown-ups or my girlfriends and me in the 1960s and ’70s. But by the 1980s, one had only to click on a radio and listen to Howard Stern for an earful of expletives and other smut.
Five years ago, a pleasant woman sitting next to me at a dinner party chatted about how much she enjoyed listening to Stern’s Sirius XM radio show. All I could say was, “Eww!” According to one news report, first lady Melania Trump and her stepdaughter Ivanka reacted similarly when Scaramucci’s crude remarks were published.
Another report noted that the new White House chief of staff, John Kelly — a decorated, retired Marine Corps general who served three tours in Iraq — wanted Scaramucci sacked because he lacked discipline and had already destroyed his credibility. This from a combat veteran who is surely familiar with salty language!
In his book “Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy,” Stephen L. Carter, a Yale professor of law, wrote: “Nowadays the tradition of barbed wit has given way to a witless barbarism, our lazier conversational habit of reaching for the first bit of profanity that comes to mind. The restraint and forethought that are necessary to be clever, even in insult, are what a sacrificial civility demands.” How prophetic. Carter’s book was published nearly 20 years ago.
It will take more than a bar of soap to scrub out a mouth like the Mooch’s, but he seemed undaunted. Right before being fired, he tweeted: “I sometimes use colorful language. I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for @realDonaldTrump’s agenda. #MAGA,” Notice the absence of an apology to the two men whom he highly insulted.
Others are not so clueless. Just last week, a guy who dropped the F-bomb while talking with a buddy outside a Narberth neighborhood bar had the courtesy to offer an apology as I walked past them. Will Scaramucci ever show similar decency? There’s always room for redemption, but we needn’t wait on people like him. We can try to restore civility to our public spaces by cleaning up our own verbal acts.
Many baby boomers, like my friend, abhor verbal crassness around their beloved grandchildren. I suspect that the next generations, despite being raised with easy access to vulgarity on cable TV, satellite radio, and the internet, won’t want their children exposed to such crudity, either.
We can thank Gen. Kelly for setting a good example. He refused to accept the unacceptable. And the widespread applause for his move gives me hope that others will follow suit.
Marybeth Hagan is a writer in Merion Station. email@example.com