The wretched word of the week is ENTITLEMENT. Two gross examples of entitlement on parade this week from a pool of possibilities are the ongoing primary race of Donald Trump and the shooting massacre of eight people, two adults and six children thirteen and under, in Houston. The elements of character that have driven the candidate and the murderer to act are sadly much the same.
The Donald is entertaining is follow, like watching videos of car crashes in Russia where wary people keep dash cams running while driving. This was a man who declared part of his success in the 1990’s was business advice from his father never to sign contracts, letting someone else take the fall. He showed himself rapacious and repugnant, and proud of it. Many new and interesting business ventures later, Donald Trump is purchasing a slot in the Republican primary by running for president on his own dime. He is entitled to do so and only someone with a heavy dose of entitlement would. If he has to spend $50 per actor to fill the lobby when he makes his announcement that he was running, then that is how a businessman should market himself. It worked, did it not? A few thousand dollars got him the first slot at the first primary debate.
His behavior at the debate was outrageous. Among his accusations during and following the broadcast are these three: 1) Fox News is a propaganda machine. 2) The Republican Party apparatus is an elite national political mafia. 3) The other candidates are empty suits pandering to obtuse elements of the reactionary far-right of the political spectrum. He called out everyone involved with these accusations in one form or another. He did so with grand gestures of self-earned indignation and mega-millions infused entitlement.
In the same vein of self-earned indignation but without the money, David Conley took a gun and shot to death his ex-wife, her new husband, Conley’s son, and his ex-wife’s other five children, filling some of the bodies with multiple gunshots. This woman had embarrassed him by walking away and divorcing him. He was entitled to anything and everything that he wanted. When that woman who he owned by the vow of marriage repudiated his ownership, he killed her and his poisoned progeny who acquiesced to her way of thinking.
Mr. Conley was entitled to do with them as he chose because he owned them. They were his property no matter what the law or another man said. His lack and loss gave him permission to act with the most extreme violence, which he justified as his right and due. He was not a man who acted out impulsively or in the heat of the moment either. This act was the culmination of a steadily stoked, well-tended indignation blown out of all proportion. Keep in mind, Mr. Conley acted with due deliberation.
In literature, the villain is easily identifiable by an overarching trait of entitlement, a form of hubris. The difference between literature and real life is that in literature we find satisfaction when the villain is forced to capitulate and exit stage right. Unlike reality, authors, composers, and playwrights tidy up the ending or at least close it with finality, a fairytale we can all appreciate.
The aftermath of someone acting out their sense of entitlement is messy, inarticulate, and usually not resolved in any satisfying manner. Some people in Houston are going to walk through the excruciating exercise of burying an entire family. The news channels will be filled with bloviating bad hair and overheated repartee. Entitlement is one of the most destructive elements of the human character and as an element, appears to have risen to heightened precedence in American culture of late.
A little humility and self-responsibility would be a nice antidote. However, these sorts of headlines do not appear typically in the newspaper or among the aspiring presidential candidates at the debates. In the end we must re-impose the lesson that a good name can only be earned, it cannot be purchased or taken by force.