The Culture of Entitlement: Remarks on Brock Turner


Until yesterday, I had never heard the name, Brock Turner.  As the mother of two young children, I haven’t much had the necessity to follow the case of a young Stanford swim star on trial for a sexual assault that occurred on a college campus.  But his smiling face came up on my social media feed, and I decided to click on it.  I read the media’s postings, I read the letter Dan Turner, Brock’s father, wrote to the judge begging for leniency, and I read the statement the victim of the assault read aloud at the sentencing, which had also been featured on CNN, read in full by anchor, Ashleigh Banfield, and is now going viral thanks to a re-posting of the letter in full by Buzzfeed.

There are so many conversations being sparked by this case on a national level.  Brock Turner’s 6 month sentence for his three-count felony assault conviction is certainly receiving an outcry and there is much talk of white privilege and the justice system.  This is a conversation that needs to be had.  Judge Aaron Persky is a Stanford alum, and many are asking the question, and rightfully so, would the same sentencing have come across if the defendant were a young man of color or not a star athlete?

There is also talk of rape culture.  Some seem to have the sense that the victim of the assault should roll up and go home, accept that you drank too much and got what you deserved.  In a letter to the judge, Brock Turner’s childhood friend, Leslie Rasmussen, writes that “These are not rapists. These are idiot boys and girls having too much to drink and not being aware of their surroundings and having clouded judgement.”  It’s like leaving your car door unlocked means you have literally invited someone to steal from you.  It’s a bad decision, but it isn’t an invitation.  Drinking leads to poor judgement, and often the conclusion of that poor judgement is “I should have another drink.” But being drunk or passed out is not an invitation to being assaulted.  It is poor street smarts, but it still doesn’t make it acceptable.  But it is in rape culture, and we need to know, why is this ok?

These are questions that need to be asked, and eventually, after deep soul searching, our nation will have to answer them.

What disturbed me a lot about this incident was the letter that Brock Turner’s father wrote to the judge, begging him to be lenient in his son’s sentencing.  I’m quite sure it has been agonizing for Brock’s parents to watch the boy they love so dearly lose so much.  They were, I’m sure, desperate not to watch their son suffer.  No one can fault Mr. Turner for writing a letter to try and help his son.  But that letter gives some disturbing insight into what is really wrong with this case.  Mr. Turner describes in the letter his son’s depression over what he has lost, saying, “Brock’s life has been deeply altered forever,” and “he will never be his happy go lucky self with that easy going personality and welcoming smile.”  Mr. Turner wants his boy back, the boy with the bright future and happy demeanor.  Who wouldn’t?  What parent would want his child to suffer?   Further, Mr. Turner in a statement of very poorly chosen words laments, “His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve.  That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”  Unfortunately for Mr. Turner, and the parents of all people who have committed crimes, often it only takes one moment.  One moment of poor decision leads to a lifetime of consequence and regret.  Brock Turner is fortunate he had twenty minutes to contemplate whether or not he was doing the right thing.  Sadly, he did not use that time wisely.  People are very outraged by Mr. Turner’s letter, but the real outrage isn’t that Mr. Turner trivializes his son’s remorse nor is it that he misrepresents his son’s crime as simple “alcohol and sexual promiscuity.”  The real travesty of this letter is the lack of empathy.  There is no mention of the victim.  There is nothing in Mr. Turner’s letter about what his son has done to another human being.  He makes his son out to be the victim and says nothing of the victim of his son.  This is entitlement culture.

Entitlement culture is rampant in America.  Consequences don’t apply to us nor do they apply to our children.  We are of higher intelligence than the general populace.  The rules don’t apply to us.    We are victims, and we never victimize.  We are entitled.

The victim, in her statement read to Brock Turner at the sentencing, implores him “not talk about the sad way your life was upturned because alcohol made you do bad things. Figure out how to take responsibility for your own conduct.”  This is the truest lesson this we as a nation can learn from these events.  We need to be responsible for our own conduct and what we do to others.  This is where the conversation needs to start.  Race and privilege, drinking on college campuses, rape culture…these are all important discussions we as a people need to engage in, to improve things that are fundamentally wrong with the way we look at certain circumstances, such as a crime committed by a white star athlete on a college campus while under the influence of alcohol.  But the fundamental conversation we need to start with is our own entitlement.

We all believe our children are the best.  But we all must take responsibility for ourselves not to fall into the entitlement trap, believing that we and ours are entitled to more than you and yours.