Vicki McKenna And The ‘F’ Word

I stumbled onto conservative radio host Vicki McKenna’s Twitter account after someone retweeted her undemocratic views regarding our supreme court and the recent election. I have not thought about her for years, but what I soon discovered is that she likes to toss around the ‘F’ bomb. In fact, she lobbed it again today.

But at least today she used it only once as opposed to December 10th where in the allocated space of 280 characters she got it in print twice. We all have a skill, I guess.

I call this out not as one who wishes to censor language. But I do feel it is a duty of ‘the rank and file’ to call out activity that undermines our society. She has a professional job as a radio show host and with that comes a responsibility to behave as others are always paying attention. Because of that, I left the following comments for her.

We can disagree on the topic at hand, but your word usage is one we all can agree not to be professional. If wrong when used by a segment of the UW-Madison student section during Saturday football games in past, then wrong here, too.

No doubt level of vulgar speech and ease which it is dispensed has increased over decades. No one can lay claim to living in perfect times where cursing was never heard, but no one can honestly state that our discourse has not become harsher, more profane.

I grew up watching each Sunday afternoon Firing Line with William F. Buckley Jr.; without doubt one of the nation’s most erudite conservative political writers and thinkers of the 20th century. I recall being in awe that someone could have such a rich and diverse vocabulary.  He was unlike anyone else on television. With the way he used his words an ordinary sentence was almost poetry.  While listening to his program I would try to learn new words for my own usage.  Never once did I hear him curse or use profanities. But then he was not an insecure person.  

What I found very concerning about the word choice of McKenna is that conservatives often, and correctly, call out the coarsening of our society. Part of that comes with the nasty tweets, the bluster, and bombast that so many of them claim not to be in line with their values. And yet…….

Just two months ago I read a book by Simon Winchester about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. As of November 2005, it contained approximately 301,100 main entries. In other words, there are scores of ways to convey our sentiments about every topic we encounter. We can choose to show self-respect, or we can take the opposite path.

For the record, this blog has called out John “Sly” Sylvestor, Congressman Mark Pocan, and others for cursing in ‘the public square’. I just firmly believe that the grain of good taste and decency needs to be planted by those who have chosen careers that place them as public people.

And so it goes.

I Live With A “Dr.”, Wall Street Journal Column Demeaning

This year a shockingly low subscription price was offered to me for The Wall Street Journal. Considering it was an election year, and we were staying at home to ward off COVID meant I jumped at the deal. This past week a shockingly lowbrow column was published about higher education and the honorifics that come with time, money, and brain power spent on attaining a Ph. D. A DML, in the case of my better half.

Joseph Epstein wrote a demeaning, misogyny-laden, and truly dismissive column about soon-to-be First Lady Jill Biden. What ignites passions and national outrage, including those same sentiments in this home, stem from how sneering he was when speaking of Biden, who in her 50s, acquired an EdD from the University of Delaware. That is wonderful as a story, all in itself. She has used that education in her job as a community college professor and plans to continue this meaningful work through her husband’s presidential term. And she has every right to be called a Doctor.

So it rankles deeply when Epstein labeled Biden using the title of “Dr.” as “highfalutin and misleading”. He then even writes of Biden that “no one should call himself Dr. unless he has delivered a child.”

On the one hand, I am not shocked that expertise and higher education has once again faced the belittled and scornful treatment from a conservative. Anyone with a resume or credentials is labeled as an elitist, as that makes it easier for white males holding onto their resentments to get up in the morning. No one should be shocked that Epstein would have such views as he even used the N-word in a homophobic rant. So we need to place the treatment of Biden in the context of who penned it.

“There is much my four sons can do in their lives that might cause me anguish, that might outrage me, that might make me ashamed of them and of myself as their father. But nothing they could ever do would make me sadder than if any of them were to become homosexual,” Epstein wrote in the essay’s concluding paragraph.

But the lack of regard for the University conferring an EdD on Biden is stunning to see in print. I find it a sad commentary about our society–and that is what Epstein showcases–when Biden’s education is considered superfluous. While not everyone will attend college or some form of higher education it is vitally important that we not in any way disparage those who have the skills to do so. Higher education, of the type Biden attained, is at its very root a means to specialize in new ideas, loftier thoughts, and discover new ways to think, ponder, and analyze.  To then attempt to squander those efforts with the dribble from Epstein is simply unconscionable.

“Madame First Lady — Mrs. Biden — Jill — kiddo: a bit of advice on what might seem like a small but I think is not an unimportant matter,” writer Joseph Epstein began. “Any chance you might drop the ‘Dr.’ before your name? ‘Dr. Jill Biden’ sounds and feels a touch fraudulent, not to mention comical.”

For the record, the title of Biden’s dissertation, “Student Retention at the Community College Level” is not as Epstein writes, “unpromising.” Rather my husband, who was a college professor, continually confronted the college to work at retaining students. We know what a degree means. And we know what happens when higher education is treated shabbily, as too many conservatives are wont to do. Most often women have the most issues to confront in continuing their education. The earning potential for staying enrolled is obvious, as is the loss of a lifetime of earnings by not. Biden’s work in this area is extremely important.

I was most disappointed that the newspaper allowed for such a now-discredited column that was sexist and utterly contemptuous of education to be published.