The “Affluenza” Excuse


Ethan Couch Photo Courtesy Al Día Texas News

Shannon Grosse, Contributing Writer

It seems that the world has turned into a game of Monopoly, fully equipped with “get-out-of-jail-free” cards for those who are fortunate enough.  Except in this game, nobody is allowed to flip the board when they become fed up with the game.   Texas teen Ethan Couch has been lucky enough to cash in his card for an expected 20 years in prison after killing four in a drunken driving accident.

Back in June 2013, Couch, 16, was the drunk driver of a pickup truck that was involved in an accident that killed four teenagers.  After several days of contemplation by the court, Judge Jean Boyd settled on what she thought would be a viable punishment for this “understandable” crime, at least in this case.  Couch was sentenced to 10 years probabtion paired with court-ordered therapy to treat what his psychoanalyst calls the “affluenza.”

The affluenza, is a psychological disorder held by the upper class children in society.  Obtaining the disease is done at the hands of the affluent parents of these children.  Because they grew up in such rich households, they are not accustomed to the possibility of consequences following their wrongdoings.

These children and adolescents have not been graced with what one may call a conscience, therefore the wrongs that they impose upon society must be blown off and, furthermore, treated “justly.”  In the case of Ethan Couch, this idea was pulled into the court of law.

This teenager could have been harnessed into prison for an estimated 20 years but was saved at the hands of his psychologist who claimed that he was struck with this dreadful condition.  Not to imply that a 20 year sentence is right, but does it seem reasonable to treat a condition of “not understanding consequences” by restricting actual consequences?

This feather cushioned consequence sparks the question of the era:  does social class dictate everything?    Would somebody whose parents could not afford a Grade A attorney and clever psychologist have been able to get away in such a sly manner?  Whatever the problem, cost and class are always appointed with the blame.

It’s doubtful that this boy actually intended to kill his friends, and it is plausible that teenagers will end up making mistakes with alcohol, but a reasonable punishment should be employed in this case.  What will his therapy even consist of?  Big group talks about what is right and wrong?  How to know which people are the right people to hang around?  They might as well slap a couple of colorful, motivational posters on the wall because he is entering the ever-frightening world of elementary school.

What should have been done is a minor punishment to frighten the kid and (if it is insisted upon) taught him about consequences through delivering what was “absent” in the first place.  Maybe a few years in juvenile prison and a thick fine for his parents, something to teach both parties a lesson.