Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hollis Brown Comes Back to America

"There's seven people dead
On a South Dakota farm..."

--Bob Dylan, "The Ballad of Hollis Brown"

When my aunt and grandmother came to visit from Puerto Rico a couple of months ago, they both lamented on how much Americans ignore the Puerto Ricans. They said that every week in their city and the capital, there were desperate and violent suicides because of how much the U.S. economy had hurt jobs all over the island.

Nick Turse recently wrote an article published in In These Times called "The Body Count on Main Street: The Human Fallout of the Financial Crisis," which covers several similar instances of suicide in the U.S.

"On October 4, 2008, in the Porter Ranch section of Los Angeles, Karthik Rajaram, beset by financial troubles, shot his wife, mother-in-law, and three sons before turning the gun on himself. In one of his two suicide notes, Rajaram wrote that he was "broke," having incurred massive financial losses in the economic meltdown. "I understand he was unemployed, his dealings in the stock market had taken a disastrous turn for the worse," said Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Michel R. Moore.

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."

The entire article is definitely worth reading (a longer version is linked at the bottom of the page for those interested). Notably, Barbra Ehrenreich wrote a fantastic, revealing article for The Nation about the same issue this last summer called "The Suicide Solution" (it's somewhat briefer than Turse's, but both are worth looking into).

It certainly resonates with Dylan's Depression Era tale of Mr. Hollis Brown, who had to make a choice about mortality of his loved ones in times of financial destitution.

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