Friday, October 15, 2010

Acting Out

Every time I read another article, or even a headline, about the financial crisis, I feel my gorge rising majestically from my gut, like the Hindenberg from its mooring mast. It has become so predictable that I am forbidden from talking about it at home, unless a conversation about it has already been started by my wife or 15-month old son. And, frankly, I suspect that the kid may be employed by the financial sector, because this endless malfeascence is just not on his radar. He is much more concerned with "Ball" and the opening and closing of all doors, neither of which is remotely controversial. So I try to keep up on the unfolding scandal while also trying to find stuff in the world to be encouraged by, since a dad of sagging spirit is not what I aspire to be.

We need to be clear here-- if you think I'm one of those harpies who all they do is stomp around the house calling for the perps to be hoisted from the yardarm-- well you're right. Hence the ban. But with each revelation-- that people who owned their home out right were foreclosed upon, that hairdressers reviewed mortgage documents, that one guy's "due diligence" was apparently practiced at a 5000 signature a day clip-- it's hard to keep quiet. Until I looked at it all from a new angle. With each revelation of not just bizarre or criminal but criminally bizarre behavior, I am reminded of those wealthy kleptomaniacs or indigent bindlestiffs who shoplift a diamond bracelet or a cold Olde English 800 in order to be caught. They are unhappy, and ignored and tired of doing it all for themselves. I think our major banks are sad that we haven't been paying enough attention to them. They feel like we don't love them anymore, so they act out. They think "Hey, what does a soulless multinational corporation have to do to get an indictment for criminal conspiracy these days?".

Let me say this: as a parent, I am familiar with this behavior. My son is fifteen months and 24 pounds of never sit still, of exploration and crawling and joyous shout-outs and crying and hitting his enormous head (like father like son) on things and savoring individual words like fine chocolate drops. (The latest is "Attica!", which started out as a funny reference the wife made when he was throwing a tantrum on the changing table, was horribly run into the ground by yours truly, and now has been picked up by the bairn himself, becoming yet another thing that I will need to explain embarassedly in the future. Remember, babies enjoy affection and attention, but they LOVE irony and satire. I am the world's worst dad.).

Anyway, in addition to the aforementioned "Ball." and doors, he has a fascination with electrical cords. He will crawl over to them, tug on them, twist them, chew them-- not all the time, but often enough that it's a thing we watch out for. And he knows it-- he's a smart little anarchist. So nowadays, if he feels he's being neglected by parents who are busy posting pictures of him to Facebook, or writing blog posts that nobody reads ,instead of playing "Ball.", he will crawl (yes he's 15 months and not walking-- he's a boy! With an enormous head! Need I say more?) over to some handy cords, look over at us, and start tugging. And we come over, as though he is on fire, and scoop him up, and hug him and mutter things like "No cords, Elvis" and take him away. Maybe even give up the blog post and play "Ball." Which is probably what he wanted all along, but does not have the language to tell us, "Attica!" notwithstanding.

So now I know what the banks and the bankers are up to. They just want our attention. They want us to play. They don't really like toxic bundles of poorly-vetted mortgages anymore than little Elvis really likes electrical cords. They just don't know how else to get our attention. "We're stealing people's houses! Hairdressers are our securitization due diligence! Won't somebody please stop us, pick us up, hug us, and play "Ball."?" (What an end to that last sentence-- five punctuation marks in a span of nine characters. Because I roll gangsta like that.) Of course, there IS an easier way. The banks, unlike Lil' Elvis, have language. In fact, they have multibillion dollar advertising budgets. So, why can't we just see their ads, on TV, on bus benches, wherever, "Come home to B of A. We need a hug." After seeing all of these rosy ads about what they can do for us, without once mentioning that what they were doing for us was mostly screwing us out of billions of dollars and the roof over our heads, I would welcome the change. But remind us of the stakes as well, big banks. "If you don't hug us, we'll wreck the economy. Again. For like the fifth time in the past hundred and thirty years." And remember, fellow Americans, "Hug" is just banker-speak for "regulate the hell out of, and prosecute where necessary". If you live with a willful, smart, never stop moving child for long enough, you learn to speak their language.