Notice how much the term “entitled” is being tossed around?  I know there are companies hired by other companies to scan the media and internet chatter to report back how many times they’re being mentioned, in what way(s) and by whom.  I wonder what a search like that for “entitled” or “entitlement” would find.

One of the accepted definitions has to do with government support programs.  You know, like social security.  General Assistance (“G.A.”) is another one here in Maine.  As with all entitlement programs it is defined in law, with one purpose being that people are treated equally in terms of eligibility requirements and benefits.  However, the administration of G.A. can vary from municipality to municipality, as the law prescribes a partnership of sorts between the towns and the state, and there are certain sections of the law that include opportunities for local interpretation.  When you add strongly held political beliefs and human imperfection to the mix, the clear results are that people seeking help are not in fact treated equally.  Any sound analysis of per capita expenditures for G.A. by municipality will verify that.  And now, according to the Governor, any eighteen-year-old girl whose parents brought her into the country when she was just a baby is now a law breaking you know what who cannot legally get any help for safe housing or medication for her heart condition.  Maybe some state officials should go on a field trip to Ellis Island…  Anyway,

There are other entitlement programs that most of us choose not to describe as such, programs like tax deductions for mortgage interest or for certain education expenses.  In general we seem to want things both ways—we don’t refer to such policies as entitlements because for many of us that term has some bad connotations, but we do in fact feel entitled to receive those benefits.

I personally have benefitted from some of these policies, and I am not attacking their legal use.  What I will confront are the hypocrisies expressed by many, including some elected officials who identify with the more or less far right, and many who support those officials and who cite biased beliefs in doing so.  My favorite example is that of a current candidate for Congress who manipulated tree growth tax law within Shoreland Zoning for annual property tax savings well into six figures.  But then he was born here.

We now live in a society that some of us have created in which there are demonstrable abuses of “entitlement” at every level.  There are consumers who commit welfare fraud, and there are millionaires who break laws to make even more millions.  Want to witness our abuses of each other by way of individual “entitlement”?  Stand on a highway overpass and watch how cars “merge” from the on ramps.  Evidently the yield signs frequently only apply to those cars already in the travel lanes.  Watch as a lot of people leave their shopping carts right in the middle of the aisle as they scan the shelves for the exact item they want.  Sit on a park bench, intending to enjoy a little peace and quiet, and have that serenity stepped on by one of the many self-absorbed with their smart phone lives.  And one of my favorites: right on red.

We need to start engaging “us,” together and soon.  We will never raise our international status back to what it used to be if we remain intent on our own selfish needs while condemning the abuses of others.  And all our flag waving and saber rattling won’t help to reestablish a more true and palpable sense of “one nation” if it’s done with a snarl, with a true purpose of establishing who’s right and who’s wrong when it comes to domestic ideology.   Let’s freely admit we were born lucky.  Let’s acknowledge we’re imperfect.  Then let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work on rebuilding our sense of unity, our goals of common welfare, and our declarations of our values and purpose.  “Entitlement”?  Enough, already!

Dennis Marble

About Dennis Marble

Dennis has been the Executive Director of the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter since January of 1996. His previous career work includes non-traditional and adult education and management and sales and sales management. He’s a graduate of Colby College ( B.A. in 1971) and the University of Maine (M.Ed. in 1976), and happily has a daughter and son-in-law who have chosen to stay in the Bangor region.