Illustration by Sam Papavasiliou
Illustration by Sam Papavasiliou

America has an entitlement problem

An introspective take on American ignorance

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We often hear about white privilege and I am not denying its existence. However, I think it goes even deeper than we realize. Historically caucasian people have had it much easier than minoritized groups. We still see avenues in which this exists today, and that needs to change.

We have seen a shift from gratitude to entitlement amongst virtually all ethnicities in this country, but only after we become accustomed to the simplicity of life here. The truth is we are all incredibly privileged to be United States citizens.

Donald Trump is the epitome of the American culture which is so frequently criticized around the world. Americans are often viewed as loud, narcissistic, ignorant, materialistic and completely disrespectful. Granted, this is a rash generalization, but there is no other country with such a widely recognized stigma surrounding the population’s attitude towards the rest of the world.

What we saw on Jan. 6 at the nation’s capitol is nothing short of embarrassing.

In 2021 we see tremendous polarization surrounding topics that frankly do not improve the quality of life for all people across the board. We see misinformed, desperate citizens arguing the election was stolen from Donald Trump. On the other end of the spectrum, we see passionate individuals arguing that keeping a dog as a companion is equal to slavery. We are distracted by issues that are subjectively important, not necessarily universally beneficial.

My mother immigrated to the United States from Mexico when she was 25 years old, just three years older than I am now. She was removed from school in the sixth grade and sent to the fields to pick strawberries along with several of her eleven siblings. My father was born in San Francisco to an Irish Catholic family with eight children. Both of my parents grew up in large, relatively poor families, but my mother is an immigrant, and my father’s family immigrated here generations before he was born.

I have watched both of my parents work almost every day of my life just to barely make ends meet in their pursuit of happiness. My father has lived his life as if the world is his to take. If you ask my mother, however, we must all pay our dues and work hard every day simply so that we never have to suffer the way she saw her family suffering in her youth.

Life in Mexico is not identical to what it was when my mother was growing up, but it is far from what the United States truly represents. We live in the land of opportunity. It seems cliche, but nowhere else in the world can a 25 year old move to an unknown land, find employment, build a family, become an entrepreneur and work for themselves for over 14 years.

As citizens, we have all of the freedom to do whatever makes us happy, so long as it does not cause harm to others, and so many of us have developed an unconscious sense of entitlement to this truth. As a result our society appears set on regressing to a pre-civil rights era, or worse, abolishing our first amendment rights because there are people we disagree with and desperately wish to silence . We have to be able to take a step back and acknowledge how irrationally we have been behaving as a society in the short time the United States has existed.

The men and women alive today are not the ones who built this country. We simply reap the fruits of the labor of great men and women who struggled every day to build the towns and cities we live in. The vast majority of which immigrated to this country to escape oppression and extreme poverty, something we are truly unfamiliar with as United States citizens.

Large portions of our population have come to view our freedom as something that can never be taken away simply because of where we were born. It is an unfortunate turn of events, and I am nowhere near old enough to understand when this radical shift in perspective took place. However, my parents are, and with their unique upbringings they both notice this overwhelming sense of entitlement sweeping the nation. It has given my parents a shared perspective that they were not able to appreciate before the last four years.

I am hopeful that our society will soon be able to view every human being as just that, a human being. Until then, we must all do our part to not take life in this country for granted. I am proud of my mother’s journey. I am proud to be a United States citizen even though, after 28 years of hard work and dedication to keeping the “American dream” alive, my mother remains not a citizen. She cannot vote, yet she loves this country and the life it has allowed her to create for herself. The ultimate goal for life around the world should be to promote and optimize happiness for all, and we have to appreciate the fact that we live in the only country in the world oriented towards this goal for anyone willing to put in the effort.

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