Going to Extremes in America

Published on TomDispatch.com, by Nick Turse, October 19, 2008.

… The fallout from the current subprime mortgage debacle and the economic one that followed has thrown lives into turmoil across the country. In recent days, the Associated Press, ABC News, and others have begun to address the burgeoning body count, especially suicides attributed to the financial crisis. (Note that, months ago, Barbara Ehrenreich raised the issue in the Nation.)

Suicide is, however, just one type of extreme act for which the financial meltdown has seemingly been the catalyst. Since the beginning of the year, stories of resistance to eviction, armed self-defense, canicide, arson, self-inflicted injury, murder, as well as suicide, especially in response to the foreclosure crisis, have bubbled up into the local news, although most reports have gone unnoticed nationally — as has any pattern to these events.

While it’s impossible to know what factors, including deeply personal ones, contribute to such extreme acts, violent or otherwise, many do seem undeniably linked to the present crisis. This is hardly surprising. Rates of stress, depression, and suicide invariably climb in times of economic turmoil. As Kathleen Hall, founder and CEO of the Stress Institute in Atlanta, told USA Today’s Stephanie Armour earlier this year, “Suicides are very much tied to the economy” …

… Right now, there are no real counts of the many extreme acts born of the financial crisis, but assuredly other murders, suicides, self-inflicted injuries, acts of arson and of armed self-defense have simply gone unnoticed outside of economically hard-hit neighborhoods in cities and small towns across America. With no end in sight for either the foreclosures or the economic turmoil, Americans may have to brace themselves for many more casualties on the home front. Unless extreme economic steps, like mortgage- and debt-forgiveness, are implemented, the number of extreme acts and the ultimate body count may be far more extreme than anyone yet wants to contemplate. (full long text).

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