The word entitlement has been tossed around so much and in so many different ways, it has become confusing for me.
I come from a childhood/adulthood where I’ve been taught and have experienced the unconditional love of family, friends and strangers. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience the Agape love of both the Walk To Emmaus (for adults) and Chrysalis (teens) weekends for the past 14 years. “Entitlement” in this venue means everyone is worthy and entitled to be loved through the grace of God. We are entitled to love without earning it. We are graced with the love of God and we are charged to love others with the same love. It is a great gift, this unearned love, but it then becomes an extremely, incredibly difficult gift to pass on if we do not understand grace.
Some new and soon to be retirees have been slapped in the face with the word entitlement. What used to be EARNED Retirement BENEFITS has been renamed Retirement ENTITLEMENTS. On the surface, the two words appear to be synonyms, unless one is a dedicated political skeptic, (those who would believe the change of title aligns with the unearned slurs towards welfare recipients as “Entitled” --as in, “they think they are entitled,“ or ”it’s time to make people work for a living and not let them claim entitlement!” Entitlement has become a slur word. Now, the feathers of the boomers are ruffled, rightfully so, because they are seemingly put into a category with a minority of people who take advantage of the unemployment/welfare system.
Yes, there are many who take advantage of the generosity of givers, but I believe the majority of people needing financial assistance, especially in the last 6-7 years as people lost their homes (read: Countrywide,) their retirements( read: Enron), investments (read Wall Street ) have humbly accepted the fact and avoid mentioning the need to others.
The boomers who lost homes, jobs, funding for children’s education, planned retirements, and the security of a financial future and are delaying retirement do not see Social Security as entitlement but a necessity to survive. How do I know this? It happened to us.
It happened and is happening to a lot of people and it was only the genius of my husband, a good financial advisor (that, and putting on our big people panties) that we got through and are getting through our financial catastrophe without totally going under. We were victimized by mortgage companies, a corporation who manipulated our company buyout to benefit their bulging coffers, while leaving our little company (us) with all the debt and a 15% decrease in pay IF we decided to stay on. In the end we ended up with so much debt, it will take us many, many years to pay out the ugliness of that takeover. We were advised to declare bankruptcy. Instead, we stepped out in faith and made the decision to enter into negotiations with the companies that worked with us as a business and with our personal accounts. All but one company, Discover, were gracious in providing us a way to pay back, at minimum, the principal of the money we legitimately owed. These companies recognized our efforts to pay back, with dignity, the debts we incurred while trying to make payroll and expenses for the loyal workers that worked for us. They understood it was that or we file for bankruptcy and no one would win. Discover, refusing to talk to us, sold the debt to collection lawyers who hopefully now find it hard to sleep at night when they are making millions off of those victimized by financial corruption in the banks, wall street and the government. Or not. It’s their job, right? They feed their families with the money that should feed mine. Discover went so far as to put a lean on our “salvation” home in Oregon, one of two homes so underwater, the lein isn’t worth the paper it was written on. After their bully attacks and unnecessary court costs we had to bear (including those of that law firm) we were convicted to pay them off first, stoppin gthe finishing construction on our black mold ridden demolished kitchen to do it. It was worth it to get their despicable name off our mortgage. (So, says Ms. Angry Pants. Paying them off first was empowering, it really was)
Enough of that... My point in that rant was to show we have been in a place where any kind of help would have been welcomed and although we chose to figure out a way to avoid the entitlements of welfare, unemployment or food stamps, it was only by the grace of God and a pretty smart husband who is respected as a consultant that we could put food on the table. But it was touch and go. Although it feels good to scream with my fingers on a keyboard at injustice and un-kindnesses of companies like that, it doesn’t really matter. We are the ones that understand that “whatever you do to the least of your brother/sister -- that you do unto God…. Another way of saying that is, whatever you do to anyone else, you do to yourself. It’s another way of explaining Kharma and those who bully others in any arena end up the losers. I believe that.
Entitlement. If I felt entitled, I could have fought harder for bankruptcy, insisted we use unemployment benefits and food stamps as our first resort. All our debts would have been wiped away and we’d already be three years into a better credit score, rebuilding a now extinct retirement fund and probably living in a completed home. But we tried a new direction first and it’s working. Still, having the option was reassuring and kept us from feeling that it was all hopeless.
Right now, I only feel entitlement to being loved in the journey. I know God loves me in all ways and that keeps me grounded while on the journey.
Taking this path has opened a whole new way of looking at judgment. When I hear people ranting about the “low-life of the land” feeling entitled to welfare or food stamps or unemployment I want to scream. How dare anyone sit in judgment of anyone. If you are talking about the handful who do cheat the government, it’s still not okay. You are not judge and jury of the world, and your unkind words against a minority in the system hurts those who really need the help. If you believe no one is entitled to financial help in the worst of times, you may never have had the opportunity to plan your menu for a family of four around the $11.00 you have left that week after paying bills. It can still be done, but using food stamps to supplement that $11 is empowering. Was I empowered to do the best with that $11. Yes. I was Wonder Woman in the kitchen, making nasty estrogen laden bar b q soybean casserole that ended up tasting like dog food and breaking a tooth. I ate it anyway. I could do that for myself, but when it came down to it, no one was going to survive long-term on this diet. The need to feed the kids was an incentive to use the food stamp system until we could stand on our own. At that time, no one was “shouted out” for thinking they were entitled. You know why? Because, welfare and entitlement was started when politicians on both sides cared about the welfare of their people. Most went through the depression and witnessed first hand the starvation and separation of families. They witnessed mental breakdowns when men could not provide for their families. They cut their own cardboard to put into the insoles of their shoes to make them last. They dropped out of school in sixth grade to work in the hops fields to help support their families. (My Dad! - love him so...) Welfare as entitlement? Let me tell you why we ARE entitled to receive the help we need and why we are commanded to provide entitlement. Because we are commanded to love one another as God has loved us. Whether you believe in God or not, it is hard to argue with a commandment that only requires generosity of Love without judgment. That’s all it is. If one believes the loving thing to do is to withdraw the means to feed your children and then call you names, we have a different problem. We have people feeling they are entitled to judge everyone else’s life without first looking at themselves. We have people feeling entitled to make decisions on your life based on their experience, which could be nil. I don’t know about you, but when someone is on the news screaming and berating anyone on public assistance and their argument is….”Look at ME, I’M successful and I’ve never had to go on welfare", I want to pull an Elvis Presley and shoot the TV. Trouble is, I don’t have a gun and shooting the TV with my Salad Shooter wouldn’t be too effective.
Boy do I feel better. I’ll feel even better after I make the statement that Social Security is a Benefit, something that I’ve paid into. I will benefit from what my employers and I have put into the system. And, in that sense, it IS an Entitlement. Entitlements are sometimes earned. (The actual and sobering truth here is that if I wasn’t married, my shabby Social Security would only be $363.00 a month because I chose to stay home with the kids for 33 years.)
The mix-up in terminology these days has made “Entitled” a dirty word. It’s a “get up off your butt and figure out how to pay your $30,000 medical bill yourself” word.
“Too bad for you if your company gives you only enough hours so they don’t have to provide medical benefits.” “Too bad if you are a small business struggling to get back in the game and have horrific medical premiums.” “Too bad for you. You should be like me and work for a company that pays for great medical insurance.” Hah!
Here is what I say, “Everyone is entitled to love.” It’s like bringing a new ball to the playground and making those who can’t afford to buy their own ball sit out the game. If one truly believes that’s just the way it is, they have no idea what love is. We were taught as children on the playground to invite anyone who wants to play into the game. Exclusivity did not start until narcissism and greed floated to the top of society in the past 25 years. Scientific statistics? Don’t have any.
I was taught to give when someone asks. That is love. But I was also taught that love sometimes meant saying no so people would not be unhealthily dependent on others. That is loving too. The biggest job in all this is being kind and supportive and helping others with more than a check. It is by giving of self not just money that the recipient learns to pick themselff up and go forward. Welfare has often come with programs to retrain the single mother, and to encourage companies to hire from a re-entry pool. When you help others with welfare assistance and strip them of their dignity at the same time, you are responsible for pushing the person over the edge to perpetual unemployment. Sister Teresa said, “Give Until it Hurts.” In the case of welfare, we give until it is not a productive thing to do, for us and those receiving. Recipients are not entitled to take without giving. BUT, it is a slippery slope of judgment when we withhold aid to anyone. The system was built with checkpoints and markers. Only those recipients who are dishonest will continue to steal from the system. It is up to the system, not me, to do the job and filter out the ones who are stealing. It isn’t rocket science, it’s due diligence. And I don’t profess to have the answers and I will not argue with others on the subject. I just know I cannot discern for everyone on the welfare roles whether they are justified in receiving the benefit. I cannot keep a thief from stealing, but I can hold my neighbor accountable if they boast they are stealing.
Of late, I am most enraged when opponents of ACA, the Affordable Care Act call it an Entitlement. Truly it will become an entitlement, just a Social Security is an entitlement when looked at truthfully. We pay into it, and we receive out of it. We are entitled to the return. Entitlement should not be a dirty word.
The dictionary lists these 3 simple descriptions of entitlement:
: the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something
: the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges)
: a type of financial help provided by the government for members of a particular group
How slick and easy it is for people to interchange the meanings for their own gain.
People pay into the welfare system, unemployment system, Social Security system. They should feel they have the right to collect when needed. They DO have the right to collect. And the honest will not collect anything they do not deserve. So let’s not punish the honest because of the erring minority.
When it comes to affordable healthcare, I simply look at it as a way to help others and give equal acess to health. Those in government who are offended at helping me reach a point of equality in attaining my healthcare do not believe in across-the-board equality. Everyone is entitled to love. Love gives until it hurts. Blaming the victim of bad healthcare practice management is an action of Bullies.
Tell the Mother of 4 diagnosed with breast cancer and unable to afford healthcare because her retail job doesn’t offer it, that she is NOT entitled to healthcare and I rise up with the sword of St. Michael to fight for the justice she deserves. Tell the 68 year old woman - my mother) she cannot have a liver transplant because she is over 60 (Kaiser Permanente) and I reel with anger as I watch, at the same time, Mickey Mantle and Larry Hagman pay for their new livers and live. I was happy for them, but devastated that my Mom had to go to the back of the line. Where is the love in this that good health comes down to wealth or the lack there of and/or the generosity or lack of from the wealthy?
There is an argument that all healthcare will increase, and existing health insurance premiums will increase because of ACA. Do not fool yourselves. If you receive excellent healthcare benefits, I am helping to pay for them, even though I cannot afford my own. The price of the product or service your company sells - no matter what it is and how it is funded, includes the cost of your employment, including your health insurance and is paid for by the consumer. It seems that it should be easy to see that all people should have some sort of access to affordable healthcare and that those working for companies too small for large group eligibility should have the opportunity to band together and form their own group.
Should this be legislated? It was. It is. It was upheld in the Supreme Court and it is law. Laws can be repealed and there is a process for that. Laws can be amend and there is a process for that. Holding federal workers hostage is NOT a part of that process.
We are now entitled to receive this bludgeoned love. But we are being held hostage and in the process, our lives are being endangered without the services our taxes are paying for….yes we do need our government services and during this hissy fit, bully-baby tactics, shut-down of the government, we are now a distracted country. Distraction attracts terrorism. Remember, one of the largest threats of the Taliban to America was they would see to our financial ruin -- the next attacks would not be on tall buildings but would undercut the stability of our financial institutions and processes.
It leads me to wonder where the Taliban learned it’s tactics. How much have we taught them? Holding each other hostage, breaking the law in the name of any god? Re-reading this rant, that statement feels harsh. But we are living in harsh times.
I preach love. I believe everything should be done in love but sometimes I have to take a path of rage, walk in the fire, and then wallow in the dark before I can see the light of love again.
There is only one entitlement in the world. Again, I say love one another. Be kind to one another. Be generous to one another. Do not judge. Encourage one another. Speak in love. Act in love. Believe that love is all there is.
Love and be loved. You, indeed, are entitled . …forever and ever, even unto the end.
Oh, and one more thing….I can never leave it alone, can I??? I think it is a person’s right to disagree with ACA. I think it is okay to work to defund it if your don’t like it. Heck, I even think it’s okay to work towards repealing it if you really hate it. That is the American way. What I think is appalling is when politicians decide to hold hard working tax-paying (read: THEY PAY YOUR WAGES) hostage because you think it’s okay to defund the plan at this point in time. It is inappropriate behavior and I thank God my kids are raised and understand you may never give in to bullies. If they behaved this way in front of me today, all six of them from age 21 to 34 would be held accountable in my presence. It’s a sad day when “Tea Party” means taking your ball home when the game doesn’t go your way, instead of a pleasant gathering of cheerful, loving people enjoying a cup of tea together. Holding tea parties of this kind will never get you invited to one of mine and I’m sure you couldn’t care less. Sigh…