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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Inherent Entitlements

The poor can feel entitled to welfare payments. The privileged can feel entitled to every cent of their property. In my view the fast and easy presumption of entitlement hardens the heart. It too often encourages false pride and selfishness and destroys a sense of generosity and indebtedness. Is there anything to which each person is entitled? Take the newborn baby who has not as yet "earned" anything. To what is that baby entitled? Or take the serial killer, to what is he entitled. This is another way of asking are there any inherent entitlements due everyone?

The answer to this question is not subject to proof. It will inevitably arise from conviction and belief. Certainly my point of view is influence by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. One way of looking at this document is to see it as a listing of limitations. Personal actions (and those of any institution) are strictly limited to accommodate the rights and freedoms of others. Inherent entitlements are the indebtedness owed by all to all. From my experience and belief those entitlements are dignity and respect. This is evidence in the courtroom when someone on trial for the most heinous crimes is demonstrably treated with dignity and respect. And after conviction, should that be the outcome, the criminal is due and given dignity and respect during incarceration. When incarcerated in the 1960s, I saw this indebtedness exercised first hand. It was shown by the penal institution to all inmates. Thus, ironically, I was never more proud of my country than when imprisoned by it. In a sense prisons are a test that come to symbolize the seriousness with which the scope of these ultimate entitlements of dignity and respect are taken by a country. That is why abuses to incarcerated war combatants while understandable are fundamentally disturbing, discordant, and unacceptable. To say that everyone is entitled to dignity and respect carries with it implications that are open to endless public discussion and debate. Nevertheless, it is important and useful to identify and stay grounded in these bedrock values.

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