Curses! Who says a mayor shouldn't?


September 09, 2001|By Susan Reimer | Susan Reimer,Sun Staff

Martin O'Malley just can't seem to keep a civil tongue, and all I can say is: What's so blankety-blank bad about that?

Most recently, the mayor was asked about the apparent failings of a new system aimed at speeding up the criminal courts, and he exorcised his well-known impatience with language that just barely made it into this family newspaper.

"I don't give a rat's ass ... " was the phrase he chose to employ.

(For the record, he also used the word "ain't," no doubt to the dismay of every nun who ever had him in class.)

Of course, this wasn't the first time O'Malley startled the public with his intemperate language. Last January, he described Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy as not having "the goddamn guts" to "get off her ass" and prosecute a police officer accused of corruption.

This caused quite an uproar, although it was never clear just what O'Malley's outburst really meant: A case of sexism (Jessamy is a woman), racism (Jessamy is African-American) or just poor breeding (O'Malley's mother, Barbara, was consulted).

As someone who has frequently expressed her impatience with bad language, and as a mother who has many times admonished her children for use of same, I'd like to say this: I don't have any problem with Baltimore's swearing mayor.

I like my public servants angry.

I like to see them furious with incompetence, instead of explaining it or excusing it or promising to "look into it." A steady stream of this kind of talk would certainly reduce its effectiveness, but it certainly should impress citizens anxious for change.

And I am tired of carefully crafted double-speak that uses a lot of words to disguise the fact that nothing has been said. There is nothing like a short, declarative sentence, punctuated with a couple of curse words, to get the attention of those who work for you.

It is common -- and easy -- to puff up with indignation at this kind of talk and strike a pose against the coarsening of society. And I guess that's still the right approach to take with the kids.

First Lady Katie O'Malley would be within her rights to say at the dinner table: "Martin! I will not have you using that language in front of the children."

And we parents can point to the mayor on the evening news and say to our youngsters: "Don't try that stunt at home. Do you understand me?"

But O'Malley's mouth, for better or worse, is hot-wired to his temper, and Baltimore residents elected him to channel their own anger and impatience with the deterioration of their city. He's not a crank or a crackpot like some previous mayors. He's not grumpy, he's p----- off.

Don't take it from me. One of these days, he's sure to say so himself.

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