Jussie Smollett’s release from jail mere days into his sentence for faking a hate crime reveals another example of entitlement culture run amok. It’s not just that Smollett likely got preferential treatment with his release because of his money and status, but that he never apologized or admitted any wrongdoing from his hoax. When held to account by one judge, the disgraced actor then threw an epic tantrum, weaseling his way out of a few months of prison in Chicago with the help of attorneys.
Many of us witness entitled behavior every day, whether leaving a cart in the middle of a parking lot, cutting in line, or barking at a restaurant server over a minor inconvenience. We’re all guilty of acting entitled to some extent, but it significantly increases cultural rot when it infects the criminal justice system or other institutions.
The 2019 college admissions scandal is another prime example of toxic entitlement. Actress Felicity Huffman is one of at least 53 that were charged. Prosecutors described her behavior as “driven by entitlement.” In The Atlantic, Caitlin Flanigan writes about a parent exploding over questioning his son’s fake water-polo credentials. “The word entitlement—even in its full, splendid range of meanings—doesn’t begin to cover the attitudes on display,” writes Flanigan.
Another trend of spoiled entitlement on many campuses is the inability to hear differing opinions without melting down like a toddler. Even Yale law students, the type of students likely asked to defend our Constitution in the future, heckled and interrupted speakers on campus addressing the topic – you guessed it – freedom of speech.
Politicians and the coronavirus lockdowns revealed a truth many of us already know: those who lead often have little to no intention of following their own mandates. Governors mandating masks and then caught without one or hosting raucous parties showed us that they simply believed rules don’t apply to them. This reveals an empty form of righteousness among leaders. Instead of believing what one says or preaches to the public, authority is used to craft a narrative that merely signals virtue rather than instilling it.
When politicians call out entitlement culture, they are often harshly admonished. Who can forget U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s, D – West Virginia, warning that all of Biden’s spending proposals are turning America into “an entitlement society?” For holding up another huge spending bill – much of it consisting of wealth transfers from middle class to higher-income Americans – Manchin was scathed by many in the media and politicos in his own party. Ultimately, the message is that entitlement is not a big deal if one embodies the right ideological policies and beliefs.
In the end, those who express and wallow in their sense of entitlement are at war with the truth and the human condition: we are sinners in need of humility and grace. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” writes Jesus’s brother James in the New Testament.
We see many central planners and the envious in society embracing the victim mentality today. They’ve turned the Constitutional order on its head by claiming special rights and privileges for themselves. Like Smollett, they demand constant attention while falsely disparaging opponents. Most striking, the unchecked entitlement is sewing moral chaos and confusion throughout the land. Still, we can reject the politics of entitlement by speaking the truth and holding bad actors accountable for their actions. The anecdote to all this entitlement is more gratitude and if that vanishes so does the health and vitality of our society.
Ray Nothstine is Carolina opinion editor and Second Amendment research fellow at the John Locke Foundation.
This piece first appeared in the April / May print edition of Carolina Journal.