One of the greatest things about international travel is the trip to the duty free store. It’s like being a kid in a candy shop. Aisle after aisle of all of our favorite chocolates, adult beverages, perfumes, and on and on. Not that we actually need any of these things; it’s just that since they are duty free we feel that we must take them while we can. If the truth be known, some of the “duty free” items might actually cost more than a normal retail item, but it is the allure of the duty free connotation that drives us toward the stores like the march of the zombies…“Must have it, Must have it now!” It is that sense of getting something for free. Have you ever noticed that the attendants in the duty free store seem to always be so happy? Wonder why?
I also wonder if our country is not succumbing to that duty free mentality. Everyone seems to want something for free. People will buy six Snickers bars just to get the seventh one free. If they eat six snickers bars, the seventh free bar will be the least of their worries. Then they will need to look at the buy one, get one free advertisement of some serious appetite suppressant. But, this mentality goes well beyond just products and is present in everything that we do. We have become a nation that wants things given to us. The heck with working hard for desired results any longer. Where is the duty free line?
We are even seeing this mindset with our young people who are entering the workplace. At a time when jobs are scarce, many college graduates begrudge the fact that they must start off in a lower rung position rather than being able to begin immediately in the executive suite. “How long is this going to take?” “I’m ready to be in charge here.” Never mind the old fashion way of heading to the top through hard work, experience, and paying your dues. Some of our new workers see the old guard, also known as those folks who built the company, as being in the way and clogging the system for their ascending to the top.
This attitude transcends across the board. Our roles, of those who depend on the government for handouts, have reached an all-time high. Whether it be food stamps, whether it be unemployment benefits, whether it be mortgage assistance or whatever the help may be, the line is getting longer and longer. Is it the fault of those who stand in the lines with hands extended or is it the fault of the government who continues to place this assistance in those out stretched hands? The answer is yes and yes. We all know and recognize that there are many people in our society that need a helping hand. All of us should pitch-in in every way that we can to help those who truly need help. That is not what we are talking about today.
But, there are plenty of people in the current lines that stand there not based on situations beyond their control but based on choices that they controlled; and some very bad choices I might add. These are also the folks that should be taken out of the line and be reminded about how responsibility fits into the formula for success. But, instead of shortening the line, we just add to the space that is needed to form another line. “Build it and they will come,” applies to much more than a baseball field. It is always interesting to watch the national news coverage of these lines. Sometimes it appears every third person is talking on a cell phone. Just like forty is the new thirty, this is the new poverty I suppose. Anyone who is actually forty knows that thirty is only visible in the rearview mirror and anyone who is standing in a line for government assistance with a cell phone and a designer purse should not be considered or included in our poverty statistics. If this is poverty, I’m sure that there are people all over the world who walk miles for water and food, sleep on cold grounds beneath the open skies, and watch helplessly as their loved ones die of disease, who would love to be a part of this nation’s poverty.
Sooner or later, we will have to get out of this “duty free” mentality and get back to a “doing our duty” mindset if this country is going to maintain its current standing. It’s awful hard to get up and go to work every day when the unemployment check is delivered to your door. It’s difficult to think about living in a house within your means when the government is willing to make up the difference for the mortgage for that bigger house where you won’t even be able to pay the utility bills. Why drive a used car when you can use the money that you save in rent assistance to buy a brand new car? This is not a racial or cultural issue. This problem has participants from all walks of life. It is a societal epidemic that is being spoon fed by the government with one wide opened mouth after another eager and perfectly willing to take the bite.
The American dream is still achievable in the same manner as it always has been. Unfortunately, to some, the American dream is now a perceived right that they deserve and not one that they have to work for like so many before them.
We do have some hope however. This hope can be found in many places throughout the common dictionary. Words. Important words. There is this word called priority. There is another known as self-responsibility. A few of my favorites are called pride, dignity, empowerment and respect. Some other great ones are dues, recognition, ethics, morals, and honesty. And don’t forget farce, laziness, abuse, false entitlement and fraud. These are also very important words to know. The problem is that those who don’t know the real meaning of these words are the very ones who should. If we can ever get a government sponsored dictionary giveaway program started, we are on our way. Maybe we can make it duty free!
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Stan L. Hall is the former (retired) director of the Victim Witness Program for the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office.