To what are you entitled?

I am a creative and talented person. I have great respect for the talent and creativity of others. In fact, I have yet to meet a person who in my opinion does not possess some degree of talent or creativity. It is a thing to be nurtured and celebrated. So it offends me deeply, no, it enrages me when people who have committed a crime assert that the particular type or magnitude of their creative talent entitles them to special consideration or lesser charges or immunity from prosecution — or to anything other than the right to be creative and talented.

It doesn’t.

If you have a talent for chasing down the wind or scoring touchdowns or hitting homeruns and causing crowds to gasp and cheer, you are entitled to do those things. If your talent is for turning words or images into stories that touch the emotions and imagination of others, you’re entitled to do so. If your talent is forming stone or metal or paint or music into great works of art that inspire reverence and awe, you are entitled to do that as well. Whatever your particular talent may be — managing money or governing people or communicating ideas or solving problems or inventing machinery or baking bread — you are entitled to engage in those creative pursuits.

By the same token, if you possess creative talents and choose not to develop and use them to the best of your ability, you will not be forced to do so — neither for your own good nor for the good of the state.

You can give attribution to God or your parents or your fifth grade teacher or to plain old hard work and determination, but in this society you are free to engage in and indulge your creative talent.

And because ours is a society that places a commercial value on art, you are also entitled to receive all the monetary benefit others choose to pay for your efforts. You are entitled to reap and enjoy all the acclaim and approbation and awards others see fit to bestow on you.

Do you understand why are you entitled to any of that? It sure as hell is not by virtue of the fact that you are creative and talented. It’s because you live in a society that values freedom of expression. A society that appreciates creative endeavour, one that has enacted laws to protect you and your creativity. A society that will not imprison you or burn you at the stake or condemn you as insane for hearing voices or seeing visions or having a song in your heart — or for taking that creative inspiration and turning it into art. Or touchdowns. Or bread.

Here’s the part too many people don’t seem to understand: Your talent and creativity do not give you carte blanche to enjoy the protection of certain laws while ignoring at will the laws you find “inconvenient,” the laws that protect others in society.

Your talent and creativity do not entitle you to cheat on your spouse or beat your children or threaten your maid. You are not entitled to torture and kill helpless animals. You are not entitled to use illegal drugs to gain an advantage over other talented people. You are not entitled to accept bribes or steal the property of others or cause the collapse of an economy. Your talent does not give you the right to get drunk or stoned and get behind the wheel of a car. Your talent does not give you the right to drug and then rape and sodomize a young girl. You are not entitled to misconstrue the law or disregard the constitution.  You are not entitled to curtail the rights of others, to take the life or break the spirit of other people in the name of your talent. Your talent is not an extenuating circumstance.

Your creative talent, regardless of how impressive it may be and irrespective of how much fame and fortune it has accorded you, has no mitigating effect on society’s right to expect civilized and lawful behaviour from you. Your talent does not entitle you to undue sympathy or a different consequence for crimes committed, nor does it guarantee forgiveness.

If you choose to break the laws of this society, what you are entitled to is judgment and punishment under those laws. You are not entitled to expect Lady Justice will lift up a corner of her blindfold, recognize your creativity and talent, and deem you exempt.

The apologists and defenders of those who are criminals yet also happen to be paragons of creativity and talent need to cease and desist. Stop making bullshit excuses for yourself and for others. Stop using talent as a justification for overlooking poor judgment and bad decisions and criminal depravity. In doing so, you diminish and disgrace not only your own talent but also my talent and that of every other person in this society.

And while you’re contemplating the reality that you are not entitled to unequal dispensation of justice, keep in mind that neither is the very freedom to express creativity and talent something to which you are entitled. It is a hard won privilege dependent entirely upon society’s willingness to allow it. You would do well to treat it as such.


Filed under deep thoughts

10 responses to “To what are you entitled?

  1. Excellent, excellent clarification–the defense doesn’t acknowledge the ubermensch justification they’re using.

    I’ve spent a great deal of time around kids the last several years, and I’d like the “talent entitles you” crowd to think about what “potential” deserves. Or not–don’t kids deserve to be protected, valued, believed, perhaps for what they do and say now not just for what they might become?

    I am an adult. My inspiration and recreation don’t come out of the hides of children.


  2. I am surprised at all the people out there who hold opposing viewpoints on this subject. The fact that a crime occurred several years ago somehow is seen to lessen the offense, and the fact that the offender is highly creative is seen as an — oh blast, I can’t remember the right word. Too tired to be typing.
    Well hell, I’m going to be creative too.
    The fact that the offender is highly creative is seen as an anournuslgoiuhfdsjklhggl factor, which somehow ameliorates the act.
    Yes, this is an honor only your blog can claim — the first official use of the new word anournuslgoiuhfdsjklhggl.


  3. WapakGram

    My very first thought was to say, “Preach It, Sister!”

    But I thought that was a bit unbecoming to the seriousness of the subject and the way you expressed your views.

    And since I am not at all as creative as you, I shall say this: “Thanks for your words. They damn well needed to be said. I am horrified and disgusted by those who continually try to make excuses for amoral behavior.”


  4. Thanks, Merry. I’m honoured. [mitigating, perhaps?]

    And while a portion of this is of course directed at the Polanski outrage, he is just the latest in a very long line of those who expect their talent or celebrity to excuse their crimes.


  5. jenb

    Hear Hear!!
    Thank you for voicing the truth with passion. IMO this should be published on the editorial pages of every newspaper in this country.


  6. Robin S. Sorrentino

    AMEN. This is so very, very true.


  7. McB

    Brava! Yeah I don’t get the blind eye thing either. Some things are wrong whether they happened 4 days ago or 4 decades ago. And rights and pricvileges come hand in hand with responsibility and obligation. If you can’t be bothered with the 2 latter, you aren’t entitled to the 2 former.


  8. orangehands

    I have been ranting about Polanski for years (when I refused to see the Pianist because I will not give my money or anything else to that piece of #@%@ #RT%!#%) and I give you a thousand cheers for this. There are so many different wrongs with the arguments Hollywood has been using to say, “oh, hey, he ain’t that bad.” I appreciate Bo Zenga (even if he was giving waaaaay too much credit to Hollywood people: “I think these people have honestly forgotten what this is really about. Everyone needs to go back and read the grand jury testimony to remember how vicious this rape was because right now everyone thinks we’re debating whether or not Polanski got a raw deal. It irritates me that people around the world think that all of Hollywood is saying that the rapist is the victim. Because I don’t feel that way, and neither do most of the people I talk with.”

    There are so many in Hollywood who should know better (like Peg Yorkin and Whoopi Goldberg) who are just, “oh, he had some bad stuff happen to him” or “it was so long ago.” Its not like LA hasn’t been trying to get him for years, this is just the first time he screwed up.

    Have you read the letter Wendy Murphy wrote to Whoopi? Love it!

    Drunk driving, drugs, assault, rape, murder…you do not get off because you can throw an %&#$% football or sing a song or act like someone else in a movie. I am so sick and tired of celebrities using their status to screw with other people. And I’m just as pissed at our judicial system that lets them.

    This pisses me* off so completely.


  9. Yes! Yes! Yes!

    I hate that so many celebrities seem to believe they have carte blanche to do whatever they want without having to face any consequences just because they are famous.


  10. Bad behavior should never be rewarded by conveniently revising history, no matter how much time lapses between the occurrence and the opportunity for punishment or justice. Allowing an individual special consideration because of his/her status in society is wrong.

    Unfortunately, we see this all too often. And as George Orwell so aptly put it, “All animals are created equal but some are more equal than others.” This seems to be a mantra applied to those who feel that their creativity trumps the law.

    Watching people support/make excuses for/idolize an individual who has committed a crime makes me sick. Using their celebrity as a platform to do so, even sicker.