Today my blog/column ... it's hard for an old ink-stained wretch like me to let go of that word, so humor me ... is about entitlement.
There are a lot of people out there who feel like they're entitled to something they may not have earned.
It's easy to say that young people have a sense of entitlement, but I have to wonder whether my old brain is forgetting how I felt when I was young. I remember thinking I knew everything, which prepared me perfectly for a career in journalism.
What this old brain has been processing lately is how entitlement has both enlightened and enraged people close to me. And it's not confined to the younger generation.
They do get to go first, though...
Fans of Coco - better known as the talented Conan O'Brien - are pouting because their comedian friend got dumped by NBC in what will undoubtedly go down as the stupidest business deal in entertainment history. They say he was given a show, he's entitled to keep it, no matter that it's bleeding ratings and advertising dollars by the truckload.
Fans of Leno - count me among them - are happy that the king of late night will return to his throne at the Tonight Show (full disclosure, I am an NBC alum who briefly worked for Leno about 22 years ago) not because we dislike Conan, but because Leno was ousted when he was at the top of his game. If there is a poster child for someone who's paid his dues, it's Jay.
Plus, I like his style. You know that phrase "grow old with me, the best is yet to be"? Yes, his humor is not mean or biting. It's softball comedy, a little soft around the edges, the gentle teasing that your uncle might throw your way. At 11:35, I like to think that's his way of easing us into peaceful dreams each weeknight, with a few chuckles. Plus, he's the same age as my husband, so when I go to sleep with both of them, it's not really cheating.
Now that the dust has settled and both Conan and Jay are moving on, I think it's important to point out that entitlement was put aside by the grownups involved here. On his last night as host of "The Tonight Show," Conan gave his children one of the greatest gifts he could by taking the high road, telling the national audience that he appreciated the 20-plus years he'd spent at NBC and cautioning people against bitterness.
"All I ask is one thing, and I'm asking this particularly of young people that watch. Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it's my least favorite quality. It doesn't lead anywhere.
""Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get," O'Brien continued. "But if you work really hard, and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen."
Talk about standing behind paying dues - and Conan has, don't get me wrong.
Work hard. Both Leno and O'Brien have worked hard and hopefully, Conan will get another stage that allows us to enjoy both of them. In the meantime, the guy who used to tease me about the Tupperware I brought my lunch in - when his hair was black with a gray streak instead of the other way around - will resume putting me to sleep.
Now let's talk about some older folks who should know better.
Entitlement has been in the headlines locally, surrounding what some have dubbed "Kellargate" after our former mayor got caught up in a patriotic frenzy.
For those of you who have been in a cave for the last month, here's the Readers' Digest version: Councilman Bob Kellar was at a rally sponsored by The Minutemen, a group known for its radical stance against illegal immigration. Being a dignitary, he was asked to speak. Being a fervent American, former Army and former law enforcement, he has some pretty strong feelings.
And, being a human being caught up in the excitement of the moment, surrounded by people who had been wronged by those in this country illegally, he said some pretty strong words.
Unfortunately, in those words that we wretches hate to hear, his comments were "taken out of context" - and they were.
Bob was referring to "one nation, one language," a feeling handed down from the Founding Fathers and still a high priority of many people. Someone said that his comments could be construed to brand him a racist and somehow the phrase "proud racist" was virtually tattooed across his forehead.
The last City Council meeting became THE place to be if you were a media anything and the visuals that every TV news director lusts after - angry mobs milling and yelling outside the building and filling the chambers - were plentiful.
Seems that there are a lot of people old enough to know better who feel entitled to several things.
Some feel entitled to an apology from Bob. Ain't happening.
Some feel entitled to ask the Council to censure Bob. What good would that do?
Some just want to whip Bob. Consider that done, and he's still standing.
Some people demonstrating - most of them non-residents of Santa Clarita, it should be pointed out - feel that illegal aliens should be entitled to a free ride from the government even though they are in this country without paying their dues.
Something about that "illegal" part of their label sticks in my craw too, but I try not to go to Minutemen meetings.
Bob - and a significant number of people who came to defend him - does not hate people from other countries.
I'd wager that most of Bob's defenders have relatives who came through Ellis Island, worked hard to learn the language, while preserving their own (if my parents wanted to speak in private, they just spoke Slovak), but all of them went through the motions to become citizens and entitled to the benefits after the dues were paid.
Entitlement. It's earned. It's working the clubs that smell like old laundry and cigarettes. It's taking a work shift at the bottom of the ladder so climbing becomes a skill. It's learning the ropes, showing the respect. It's speaking out because you earned the right by learning the language, obeying the laws and realizing that freedom isn't free.