Societal Affluenza

From the Oompa Loompas, we learned the following:

Who do you blame when your kid is a brat,
pampered and spoiled like a Siamese cat?
Blaming the kids is a lie and a shame.
You know exactly who’s to blame:
The mother and the father!

At age 16, Ethan Couch killed four people while driving drunk. He came from money and his attorneys stated in his defense that he suffered from “affluenza,” an ailment which impaired his good judgement on account of his parents pampering him too much. Shades of the infamous “Twinkie Defense.” Instead of being high on sugar, the reason why Dan White killed George Moscone and Harvey Milk, Ethan was high on the good life, making him indifferent to the suffering or pain he causes in others. The defense worked. Ethan received a 10 year probation and no jail time.

Ethan couldn’t stay out of trouble forever, though, and screwed up the terms of his probation. In keeping with the Oompa Loompas’ lesson on bratty behavior, it figures, then, that his mother, Tonya Couch, helped her son to hightail it to Mexico. Both have since been found and we’ll see what sort of treatment they receive. Ethan, now 18 and thus an adult, might have to spend some time in jail or something. Who knows.

On the flip side, we have the tragedy of Tamir Rice. Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann shot and killed Tamir because he mistook the 12 year-old’s BB gun for the real thing after an encounter of a few seconds. The patrol car Loehmann rode in hadn’t even come to a full stop yet. The same week that Ethan pulled a Snagglepuss and exited, stage left, a grand jury decided not to indict Loehmann or Officer Frank Garmback, who drove the patrol car. Prosecutor Tim McGinty said that the officers responded reasonably, presumably meaning that they rightly feared for their lives. Tamir, at 12, got smeared as a Big Scary Black Man, a looming menace despite his youth and lack of a real weapon.

What we have here is a classic example of societal affluenza. Society proclaims that if you come from a certain background or hail from a certain race, religion, gender or gender identity, or sexual orientation — in other words, if you are a straight white Christian cis-male — then you get a pass. If you fall outside of that group, then you get no pass. We have to expand, then, the Oompa Loompas’ theory as to who is to blame for bratty behavior. It’s not just the parents who coddle their bratty child. It’s all of society who declares time and again, in case after case, that it’s OK if you’re a straight, white Christian cis-male. All of society suffers from affluenza.

Need further proof? Freddie Gray was placed insecurely in the back of a police van during his arrest for carrying an illegal switchblade and sustained injuries that killed him. Dylann Roof was taken to Burger King by the arresting officers after he killed 9 people at Mother Emanuel Church, in cold blood.

Oompa Loompa Doompadee Doo indeed.

© 2015, gar. All rights reserved.

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