If you choose to live somewhere that a natural disaster is more likely to destroy your house, who should pay extra for that risk? You or people who choose to live in safer areas?
Along the Alabama Gulf Coast — and I’m sure other states of the Gulf Coast — insurance rates have been skyrocketing because of a couple of very expensive recent hurricanes. Insurance companies were hit with huge costs, so they now judge those places to be higher risks, driving up premiums. Not only that, but some companies are not selling insurance for those areas any more, because they believe the risk is too great for the potential profit. That makes sense, right?
Well, many of the people there are angry about the higher premiums and reduced competition. They want the government to force people in the rest of the state to pay higher rates in order to allow their rates to be lower. In other words, they want those of us in places such as Birmingham — who don’t face hurricane risks — to subsidize the choice they make to live in a risky place.
Why? They want something for nothing. They want to choose to live in a place with higher costs, but they want someone else to pay for it. Sometimes it seems that most of politics today is about one group trying to figure out ways to get someone else to pay for what they want.
Have you ever wondered why so many highways and bridges and government-owned buildings are named for politicians? It’s bad enough when things are named for those who were supposed to be great leaders, but it’s even worse when random things are named for politicians who have no claim to fame. I was driving today along John Hawkins Parkway (known as Alabama 150 to those of us who haven’t adopted the state’s new name) when this question hit me.
Hawkins was an ex-state legislator from the area. He was able to get the Legislature to appropriate money to widen a two-lane highway and it’s developed into a busy business area. But naming things for politicians implies that we’re thanking them for those things — when it didn’t cost Hawkins a penny. The same goes for the Jim Bennett bridge elsewhere in the Birmingham area. Or hundreds of similar things.
There’s something unseemly to me about naming roads, highways and bridges after the people who were successful in getting a legislative body to force us to pay for them. If you want to thank anybody, thank the people from whom the money was taken without consent.
I haven’t said anything about the death of Trayvon Martin simply because I don’t see any reason to express an opinion about something we don’t know enough about yet. It appears that shooter George Zimmerman was out of line to have followed Martin as he did, but we don’t know what actually happened between them. (There’s a witness who claims that Martin was attacking Zimmerman.)
I don’t know all the facts. I don’t know if anybody will ever know all the facts. I’m pretty disgusted by a lot of people jumping to conclusions. Barack Obama’s comments clearly show that he assumes Martin did nothing wrong. He might even be right. It’s true that black men are treated more suspiciously than others, but it’s also true that black men commit crimes in disproportionate numbers. There might be a connection between the two.
It’s an ugly situation. Martin may have been completely in the right. Zimmerman might have killed him with no provocation. But we don’t know enough to be passing judgment. I think it’s out of line for Obama to be passing judgment, but I think it’s equally clear that Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich were playing to white voters in their harsh criticism of him. It seems as though many of the people involved in the public dispute are more interested in pursuing their own agendas, not in figuring out the truth of this specific case.
The only things we know for sure is that a young man is dead who shouldn’t be dead. I’d like to figure out exactly why it happened and what could have been done to defuse a bad situation. I’m ultimately more worried about the long term consequences of two groups of people hating each other and getting their views become more and more hardened because of the rhetoric of their “leaders.”
I’m amazed that people are willing to believe so many things without checking out the facts. On Facebook Sunday, I posted this cute picture of a couple of cats sleeping with newborn babies who were just home from the hospital. Several people were apoplectic at the idea of an animal around a baby. One friend told me of “countless deaths” of babies from having cats around. When challenged, those making the allegations couldn’t provide evidence of any death, much less countless ones. Even if you could find some random, isolated case in which an animal was blamed, the relative risk is minuscule — certainly less than the risk of driving your baby to see Grandma, for instance. (Anybody who actually looks into it will find out that it’s an urban legend with no real basis in fact.)
This isn’t a huge issue — other than to the many cats who are dumped at shelters to die because many mothers-to-be believe this ignorance — but it’s a small example of the simple fact that people believe what they want to believe. They don’t let facts get in the way of their prejudices — and that’s why politics and society look the way they do.
Finally, I’ve been thinking this week — again — about art. Some of us are captivated by the desire to create beautiful things in one way or another. A couple of lines from a Laura Veirs song called “Rapture” capture the double-edged nature of it:
Love of color, sound and words
Is it a blessing or a curse?
I still don’t know whether it’s a blessing to have the need to create or if it’s a curse because of all the things you give up in pursuit of things that society isn’t going to pay you a lot of money for. I doubt I’ll ever know, but I doubt I’ll ever have much choice of which path I pursue.