Wednesday, June 02, 2004


"When your house is on fire, it is not the time to worry about redecorating."
--Arianna Huffington, talking about the Bush Administration's approach to the Iraq War and occupation.

Random Thought, Apropos of Nothing...

I did four posts in May. Four! That's pathetic. I resolve to do better... :-)

What This Feels Like

Let's say you own a house. You have a large dysfunctional family, but you have a big house and you want to take care of it and make sure that your family is well provided for. You're trying to choose between two competing comprehensive homeowner insurance policies. Two insurance agents come to your home at different times to try and sell you their policies. At first, they each seem somewhat similar to each other with just relatively minor differences here and there. Each policy costs the same. One agent is smart, detailed, knows everything about the policy but he is also somewhat aloof and you get the feeling he thinks he knows your house better than you do. Let's call this agent, Mr. A. The other agent is new to the insurance business. He is uncertain about his diction and when he presents the policy, he seems to be speaking from a rote memorized script. Yet this agent is warmer than Mr. A, more congenial and seems content to let you run the household the way you see fit, even if he eyes your pregnant teenage daughter with some suspicion. This agent we'll call Mr. B.

It is an agonizing decision for you and your family. The kids are disinterested and so is the retarded uncle who lets one of your rooms, but the rest of the family decides the best thing to do is to make a list of the merits of each policy as laid out by the agents and then vote to choose either Mr. A or Mr. B. After what seems like forever, the votes come in and the household has spoken--it's Mr. A's policy. Only, a couple of days later, a man in a dark suit knocks at the door and announces that Mr. A's policy is disallowed and you have to choose Mr. B's policy. You call Mr. A and he says that while he thinks the whole thing is bogus, there's nothing he can do, you're stuck with Mr. B and his policy. You're dubious, incredulous, but there seems to be no other recourse so you hope for the best.

In September, there's a home invasion at gunpoint and your oldest son, your cousin and the retarded uncle are all killed. All of your valuables are stolen and the grandfather clock in the foyer is toppled and smashed to pieces. You call the insurance company and find out that not only are you not covered for this ("read the fine print"), but the insurance company may have had something to do with giving your home address out to the invaders. The police and neighborhood security, working with you and the insurance company, begin searching every nook and cranny of the neighborhood to look for the attackers, even going so far as to look through the personal records of every single person in your house for possible connections. Later, you find out that several likely suspects mysteriously slipped through the cracks because the police were told by someone working for the insurance company that they were innocent. You are outraged, but you are stuck with this policy and hopeful that maybe you can still get some justice. And you don't want to move out of the neighborhood, because it's always been the safest neighborhood in town.

But Mr. B and the insurance company keeps pissing you off. Your grandma falls down the stairs when termites eat through a step and you wonder how the insurance company missed that. Then you find out that your health insurance (purchased through your same homeowner's insurance company) won't completely cover the cost of your grandmother's injuries. The power mysteriously goes out for two whole days because the energy company (which shares several board members with the top members of your insurance company, including Mr. B) shuts down your local power plant to make a few more dollars. You keep laying out more and more money for household repairs and finding out that less and less covered. Everytime you get Mr. B on the phone, he tells you more lies and half-truths and seems a lot less friendly than he did when he was shaking your hand in the living room. Mr. B informs you that your premiums are going up because of the home invasion but that the insurance company will work closely with the police to "smoke them out". Only the police seem to be more concerned with making asses of themselves and every day your neighborhood seems a little less safe and your home's security is a little more threatened.

Your grandma dies, you've lost your uncle, a son and a cousin and now your wife wants a divorce. Your teenage daughter wanted to get an abortion, but the insurance wouldn't cover that either. Your house is a mess, you're life is shit and you didn't even choose the insurance company you seem to be stuck with and nobody at the home office seems to give a damn, although they all have shiny new SUV's purchased with the hard earned cash they plucked from your pocket. Does this scenario seem bizarre and farfetched? If you've been halfway paying attention, then you will have noticed that this is exactly what it feels like to live in the United States today with George W. Bush as president, and yet if all the people still living in this mythical household were as reluctant to change insurance policies as the American people seem to be to get rid of our current president, you'd write them all off as idiots and say that they are getting what they deserved.

Well, do we deserve this?