Michael Nutter’s Cursing Is Totally Appropriate

Given the epidemic of violent crime in our city, it's about time someone got really mad about it.

Let’s face it.  In Philadelphia, there are times when nothing less than an asshole will do.

Not surprisingly, then, Mayor Nutter has drawn rave reviews over his latest public use of the anatomically-descriptive noun. He said it last week, live on Fox29, to describe a 30-year-old Juniata man charged with shooting to death three teenagers in a car.


Given that Hizzoner presides over the homicide capital of the United States, what label should he have chosen for the latest maniac with a semi-automatic—Cad?  Scoundrel?  Creep? Misunderstood stepdad with violence issues?

Political correctness has its limits, especially for politicians who are not assholes. Like all of us, Nutter is fed up with the daily murders taking place in the City of Brotherly Love. (If this is brotherly love, I’m afraid to imagine what sibling rivalry looks like.)

And sometimes, when Nutter is really fed up, he talks like, well, a real Philadelphian. I have no problem with that. The mayor’s mandate is to represent the citizens who elected him. Represent away, Mr. Mayor.

Though we pretend otherwise, most of us, in our heart of hearts, do not separate the sinner from the sin. Murderers, not to mention child molesters, wife beaters and a whole list of other genetic mutants, are assholes. Deal with it.

With last week’s triple homicide, “asshole” was a rather restrained  expression of righteous indignation.  The word itself has a long history, dating back to the 14th century. I happen to know this because in college I had to read  Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In Middle English.

On the other hand, when a politician understates righteous anger, particularly in a crisis, it can be laughably inadequate.

Minutes after the second plane hit the Twin Towers on 9/11, President Bush said in a live national address that he had ordered a full-scale investigation to hunt down “those folks” who had committed the terrorist act.

Those folks. At the time, I remember thinking that our president was either clueless about what was obviously a premeditated attack or just too dumb to live. Either way, I did not feel reassured.

Closer to home, Philadelphia’s epidemic of violent crime has made us all mad as hell, and we won’t take it anymore.  Nutter last week reflected that roar, and I, for one, am grateful. “Asshole” is a small price to pay.