Sometimes I feel like I am entering that generational attitude that eventually comes along – you know the one where you might hear me saying “young people have respect for nothing today.”

Well, I may have good reason for having that attitude, and after a story that made national news last week, I am wondering if some adults and our justice system aren’t helping some of this “entitled” generation become just a little bit more enabled.

Last week, I, like so many, was shocked at the judge who ordered probation for a 16-year-old who plowed over four people and killed them while driving three times past the legal limit.

Texas District Judge Jean Boyd gave Ethan Couch 10 years probation after a sentencing hearing in which Couch’s attorneys said Couch was just too spoiled by his rich parents, calling his affliction “affluenza”. Prosecutors were correct in asking for a 20-year prison sentence, which should have been the judge’s first choice.

As a quick recap of the case, Couch was found guilty of driving in June with a blood alcohol level of 0.24 percent – three times the legal limit for an adult. He rammed his pickup truck into a group of pedestrians, killing all four of them. His two friends in the truck with him were also injured.

Like many others, I didn’t even know what affluenza meant.  Here’s what I found in looking it up - Affluenza describes consumerism as a sickness or an affliction. The Oxford English Dictionary defines affluenza as “a psychological malaise supposedly affecting wealthy young people, symptoms of which include a lack of motivation, feelings of guilt, and a sense of isolation.”

So, apparently the defense attorney did a great job of convincing a judge that this poor teenager’s life of wealth and endless opportunity was just too tough and a probation is a fitting punishment for him running over four people. These people were on the side of the road as good citizens. A mom and daughter were called out to help a friend who had broken down, a pastor stopped to help as well. Before long, this entitled teenager killed all of them in an instant. For that, this teenager will only be getting a probation sentence. 

It is instances like this where we as a society should be asking what is wrong with our younger generation. The answer is clear in this judgment - have a good excuse, get away with murder.

On the other side of the spectrum, less fortunate teenagers get leniency because of their parents’ did drugs and were bad.

It’s clear now, our younger generation has terrible parents all the way around. Granted, there are bad parents out there who are both rich and poor, but at some point we need to look up the meaning of the word accountability rather than affluenza.

The court system, parents, employers and so many others continue to let our younger generation get away with too much. They need money – they have it. They commit a crime – it’s not their fault. They don’t’ want to do their job – oh well, someone else will.

Maybe the perfect diagnosis for affluenza is just to start saying, “No”. 

“No, you can’t have anymore money – get a job.” 

“No, I will not bail you out – stay in jail.” 

“No, killing four people is not OK, you will go to prison and pay for what innocent victims suffered due to your actions.”

And most of all, “No, you cannot buy your way out of trouble, the amount of money your parents make has no bearing on the justice system.”

(1) comment

John Flanagan

It is safe to say, although it reflects negatively on our justice system, that the Judge in this case is a moron. It is also accurate for most of us to acknowledge that defense lawyers sometimes lack morals, character, and honor. In defending a client, lawyers can invent the most bizarre and untruthful of strategies, while the prosecutor must adhere to the implied evidentiary rules. In recent years, defense lawyers have sometimes gamed the system successfully, convincing Judge and jury alike that the perpetrator has more rights than the victims. Four people are dead. A young man walks away, having now learned that having wealthy parents takes away his own personal responsibility. I hope that the Judge and the defense lawyer have trouble sleeping, because the families of the victims surely were denied justice. We Americans must recognize we cannot brag about our justice system. It cannot be reformed unless honorable men and women are willing to change it.

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