to give a title to : designate
to furnish with proper grounds for seeking or claiming something
s the bearer to free admission>
a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group; also : funds supporting or distributed by such a program
belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges
I am angry. People are talking, loosely, about entitlement. We’ve done what we always do–commandeered a word and made it into a divisive insult to use against ourselves. Really, the modern application of this term in us/them vernacular is nothing more than an effort to elevate oneself above others.
I hear this term used against the youth. The youth we have raised. How convenient, absolve yourself of involvement, push in the pin, and walk away. And even more often, I hear this term used against people who are fighting hard fights. The hardest fights.
I grew up in Wyoming, where Matthew Shepard was murdered. I was twenty two years old. It took once. One story. Matthew Shepard paid the tuition for my equal rights education, and I thank him for that still today. To be human, is to be profoundly entitled to Equal Rights.
And so we always dig into someone’s story. We want to explain why this happened, but sometimes we are looking for reassurance, and why it was not as bad as it seems, or that indeed, those decrying the hateful event are exaggerating. We will make any story, right over the top of the real story, in order to hold our fragile defenses firm.
Indeed, there are no victims in this life. There are, however, an overabundance of people who have been made a mess of by their fellow man. And sometimes, when you have been told a story about how you are rotten, and useless, and no good, it forms a rotten pit in your gut, and that sneaks up to eat away at your heart. And sometimes, then, it starts to take you down.
Or you take a fist to the gut, so many times, that it starts to turn into one giant bruise. Your face, too. That is what they’ll go after first. And your mind. That too.
But certainly, no story about entitlement is complete, without ripping off the soft wrap of nationalism. With all our disgusting, rotten core, we are one of the safest places. The corruption people cry out about like so many peeping birds? Take a look around the world, and then put your face into some cold water.
Here, we are safe. Yet, there is no safe place. There are only relatively safe places, that offer you hope and a reasonable place to get your work done. Sandy Hook weighs heavily, and there are too many to count. So safety is a construct, and sometimes it gets to be a reality.
We are an entitled people. Sure. Entitlement comes with privilege. We, in the United States of America, are privileged, and the white of us more than others.
Here’s where my anger hones in. Entitlement is your disease, if you are wielding it about against others. It is not something people comprising the cultural majority get to pin onto others, who are not received by the dominant culture. You do not get to call any of our many diverse peoples entitled.
Additionally, it is not something you get to throw around like confetti every time someone you don’t care about is actually in the midst of losing their rights. Especially, you don’t get to use it against a group of people with whom you have no relationships. Having no relationships with a group of people, means you are uneducated about their realities and needs. You do not get to dismiss the stories of others.
And when you do, accept that this means you are speaking out in a way that is uneducated. And by all means, feel free to ride that horse, should you desire. Or be brave, and tuck your need to be right into your pride pocket, and try a little harder. Actually get out of your warm house, and manage your own discomfort, and listen. I mean, take a fancy coffee with you if you need to. Really.
So yes, we are ugly here, and we are safe here, and it is beautiful here. We are privileged and entitled, and we use that against our most fierce, yet vulnerable populations. Then, when they are so disenfranchised that they use it against themselves, we point and laugh. We don’t know how to listen, it’s easier to pontificate and spew inaccuracy, and so we fail one another again, and again.
Recently, my coach issued a challenge. Do something good today, even if you don’t want to, or it scares you. First, this is actually how I live my life, and it is, in fact, my only daily struggle–do something that matters, and dump out the fear bucket. It’s pretty empty these days, having run a fresh gauntlet of self-imposed life changes that truly terrified me.
I asked my daughter to help me figure out what I’m afraid of. She is listening, after all, and taking it all in. She said, “Nothing mommy.” I laughed, and said, “I’m pretty sure there’s something.” After some thought, she said, “Yelling at us. You’re always trying to yell at us less.” (True. It’s getting better, the further from preschooler tyranny our family floats.)
I asked her, “What else?” After more earnest thinking, she said, “People being unkind to other people.” Nailed it. My greatest fear is our everyday reality. We are not nice to one another. Some are, and sometimes, others are. But a lot of us? We are injudicious with one another. Happy to blast.
So now, we live in the wake of those who screamed for the freedom to be mean, and loudly. How refreshed they must feel. We live in the same old place, but with new rules, where now, those who actually had something to be ashamed of, are unshackled from their shame. And they are, indeed, hurting people.
Please, don’t talk to me about entitlement, unless you want to actually hear me tell you what forty, minus twenty two years, of watching human rights struggles has taught me. Please, don’t speak out against the marginalized, even if they have scratched their way to a moderate level of equality. And please, don’t expect me to keep the fluid I might be drinking inside of my mouth, when you start to talk to me about how anyone, other than you, is acting entitled right now, should you choose to invite me there.