This week’s inductee into the “Overrated Hall of Fame” is … victims’ families’ sense of entitlement.
This December, a police video surfaced of the latter stages of Timothy McVeigh’s arrest shortly after he felled the Murrow Building in Oklahoma City. It was pretty boring stuff as far as police videos go. There was no high speed chase, no innocent by-drivers clipped at intersections, no rolling Camaros, no O.J. hiding like a bitch in the back of a white Bronco. You never even get to see McVeigh. The video starts after McNutjob is already cuffed in the squad car, and all we see is the officer searching the car.
Survivors of the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing immediately sprang into full Entitlement Mode, demanding to know why this video took so long to surface, demanding it be a part of the Murrow Building Memorial, demanding it be nominated for an Oscar in the documentary category.
The last one is made up, but if you thought for even an instant that it could be true, that helps prove my point about how the survivors of the poor bastards who die highly publicized deaths often feel they have been granted some sort of beyond-the-normal-rules entitlement. They tend to go completely overboard in what they feel they are owed.
McVeigh was caught, convicted and executed for his heinous crime. (I hope I can escape similar punishment for my lazy use of the quite trite “heinous crime.”) Millions of dollars were proffered. A beautiful, moving memorial was built at the site. Presidents visited. A movie was made. Bill Kurtis probably did 13 different versions of all those shows he narrates. A nation mourned with them. (Hey, you let me get away with “heinous crime,” so I figured I could sneak in an overused “a nation mourned.”) Yet still the demands and the “what about us!” sentiments persist.
An even more galling example of this is taking place surrounding the Flight 93 Memorial. (You know, fourth plane on 9/11 … Pennsylvania countryside …. “Let’s roll!”…) Survivors of the victims have petitioned the White House to force a Pennsylvania landowner to cede a chunk of his land for the Flight 93 Memorial. The landowner isn’t some heartless prick who refuses to sell his land or who is looking to squeeze big money out of Uncle Sam for it. He just wants a fair deal, and he’s been in negotiations with the Park Service. But the Flight 93 family members apparently feel that their loss has bestowed upon some legitimate fascism. They are whining to the Bush White House to seize the land for the memorial. This is no eminent domain issue in which the good of society will be served. It will just serve the “But I’m Entitled!” needs of 50 or so families.
I’m not so cold and bitter of soul that I don’t feel for the families who lost people in terrorist attacks. I don’t begrudge them making their quasi-victimhood their new identity and allowing it to now define who they are. Perhaps I’d react the same way. Hell, I’ve been playing the victim-of-unjust-heartbreak card for over 15 years, as I’m still whining to anyone who will listen about the unrelieved pain I suffered in the just-as-tragic-as-anything-9/11-related heartbreak I suffered in the 1992 Major League Baseball playoffs compliments of Francisco Cabrera, an up to that point unknown September call-up (and forever asshole) whose two-out bases loaded single with two outs in the ninth inning knocked my beloved Pittsburgh Pirate out of the World Series. But you don’t see me asking the governor of Georgia to seize the site of the old Fulton County Stadium home plate so that I can turn it into a piss-hole for still-grieving Pirates fans.
I’m all for memorials and remembrances and all that shit, especially if a healthy admission fee is charged, allowing the sacred ground (Cliché Number Three, for those counting at work) to at least be a source of profit as well as tears and overwrought expressions of “Oh, those poor people” from the likes of phonies Marge and Tom from Middle America, who are not thinking of the victims at all but instead just want pointed to the memorial souvenir shop and snack bar. No, I’m not anti-memorial. I just get sick of all the entitlement attitude I see and hear.
Fortunately, I’ve never lost a friend or family member to a terrorist attack, typhoon or engineering snafu. No one I’ve been close to has been murdered. The greatest losses I’ve had to endure in the past three years are the three automobile break-ins I’ve suffered at the hands of the little fuckwads from the neighborhood. However, you don’t see me going all Saudi Arabia on their asses and petitioning Congress for the severed hands of these change-drawer emptying pseudo-thugs. That would be unjust punishment and a sign that I succumbed to the very American trait of victimhood entitlement that I loathe. I’m above that.
Unless, of course, you know where Francisco Cabrera is living at the moment. In which case, someone, please, deliver his gutted corpse to my front door. I think I’m entitled.
Ned Bitters is, in fact, overrated. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.