Editorials

Gee whiz, SLO’s Madam Mayor cursed in public? Save our tender ears

On election night, Heidi Harmon shared her goals for SLO

Heidi Harmon squeaked past incumbent Jan Marx to win the San Luis Obispo mayor’s seat by just 47 votes, according to the county Clerk-Recorder's Office. On election night, Nov. 8, 2016, Harmon trailed by 5 percentage points. She spoke about her go
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Heidi Harmon squeaked past incumbent Jan Marx to win the San Luis Obispo mayor’s seat by just 47 votes, according to the county Clerk-Recorder's Office. On election night, Nov. 8, 2016, Harmon trailed by 5 percentage points. She spoke about her go

Politicians, take note: When you travel outside your Trusted Inner Circle, it’s a good idea to avoid using the F-word.

If you slip up, though, make sure it’s for a damned good reason.

That brings us to San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon. She attended a Bernie Sanders gathering held in Vermont last November and dropped a proverbial F-bomb — giving fresh ammo to the Heidi haters.

True, she could have used more genteel language, but she wasn’t cursing because the vending machine was out of Doritos.

She was speaking about one of the critical issues of our time: Climate change.

“I have two kids, and they’re going to f---ing die if we don’t fix all this. That’s how I look at it.”

Remember, this was in Vermont. We only found out because the mayor was quoted in Rolling Stone. (Yes, it’s still around.)

If you are going to curse for a print publication, Rolling Stone is a far more appropriate venue than, say, the New York Times or the Christian Science Monitor.

Yet the mayor hesitated to share the article because she believes there is a double standard when it comes to cursing.

It’s OK for men, not so much for women.

To wit, here’s one comment from The Tribune’s Facebook page: “I think when women cuss it makes them seem trashy and uneducated. It’s just not ladylike.”

The majority of comments, though, fell into two camps:

1. You go, Heidi!

2. It’s just not cool for politicians of either gender to curse.

And yet, they do.

As evidence, check out another Rolling Stone article, “A Brief History of Presidential Profanity,” which draws on examples from Lincoln to Obama. (It predates the current administration.)

Another factor to keep in mind: Context is everything.

When Vice President Joe Biden was overheard whispering to President Obama, “This is a big f---ing deal,” during the signing ceremony for the Affordable Care Act, he was obviously caught up in the moment. Most dismissed it as a gaffe.

Much closer to home, when a San Luis Obispo County supervisor told a constituent to “f--- off” via Facebook messenger, the you-know-what hit the fan.

The difference being, that was personal.

Mayor Harmon’s was political.

She cursed because she believes lives are at stake, and her language underscored the seriousness of the situation.

She cursed because, well, she’s a person, as well as a politician.

And she’s absolutely right.

We should be far more outraged by climate change than by an occasional slip of the tongue ... no matter who’s doing the talking.

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