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It's surely puzzlement to me
Now and Then
roger branch

Some of the words and phrases used by people around me when I was growing up remain useful tools for communication that pop into my mind in provocative situations. One such word is “puzzlement.” It can mean that something is not understood, be it situation or something said or written. It can also mean that the speaker is puzzled about why something was said or done. It is flexible, thus useful.

A similarly useful word is “bothersome.” It identifies an event or person as being annoying, irritating. It can also apply to something that causes discomfort, something more or less painful that will not go away, like arthritis. While these words are not used much today, their meanings are obvious.

Because of mobility handicaps, I read a lot and watch television. I understand the necessity for commercials but find many of them bothersome, especially ads for political campaigns, lawyers and those that have been aired hundreds of times.

It’s a puzzlement to me how hundreds of channels run commercials at precisely the same time. It does not matter that I have the remote control in hand and switch channels when commercials invade the one I am watching because the same is happening everywhere in TV land. It is bothersome and a puzzlement.

Is there anyone in reach of a television broadcast in the United States who does not know that a lawsuit established liability for health problems linked to asbestos and won from its manufacturers a huge fund to compensate for damages? It happened decades and hundreds of TV commercials ago. A similar case provides compensation for people whose health has suffered due to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. I sympathize with the sufferers but every sentient being who watches television knows about the problems and settlements. Any competent attorney can guide a victim to compensation. Why do ads touting legal services from particular firms continue? It’s bothersome and a puzzlement.

Another puzzlement: Why must we have a seemingly endless series of ads that use a lizard with an accent to sell insurance? What is wrong with some version of English spoken in this country? Of course, a fire-breathing billy goat or a duck quacking a proposed message in duckish is even sillier.

One line from the ads of litigation lawyers is that insurance companies have “unlimited resources.” Whoa. Only the federal government has the authority to print money. Insurance companies are not allowed to operate such printing presses. Their resources come from those who pay for insurance and some conservative investments. When faced with the necessity of paying out large claims settlements, they must resort to raising costs to policy holders, restricting coverage or going out of business.

Other bothersome language is the declaration that the law firm will get for the claimant what the case is “worth,” not what the policy covers or the extent of injury. Worth implies an amount that can be established by litigation. I have been injured in an accident and found that insurance replaced my “totaled” automobile and took care of my immediate and follow-up care for injury. My agent was in my corner. It never occurred to me to ask for greed money.

Let it be clear. I do not have an anti-attorney thing. My daughter, Elizabeth, is an attorney and has my admiration, as do several who have helped me personally over the years and many former students who continue to make me proud.

Some of the most bothersome and incessant TV commercials swarm around the evening news broadcasts. The timing is good for advertisers because many people watch them then. I am one of them. As a former print journalist and lifelong news junkie, I watch regularly. Staying informed is a duty and a privilege. 

But it requires that I endure everything cited above, about as bothersome as the robo calls that come at me at lunch and supper time. It is bothersome and a puzzlement about why it has be this way.

Roger G. Branch Sr. is professor emeritus of sociology at Georgia Southern University and is a retired pastor.

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