Foreclosure Fatalities

Foreclosure Fatalities. That should have been the headline of a small article about three siblings who killed themselves and burned their house down in Azusa, California. While particulars of this quiet tragedy are contained in the article’s brief description of the siblings’ deaths, the narrative arc is lost. A thematic thread that would have connected events in the story is absent.

With an apparent abundance of tact, the articles’ authors, Ruby Gonzales and Brian Day (sgvtribune.com: Coroner: siblings found dead inside burning Azusa home all committed suicide), actively deflect attention from the obvious motive for the suicides: three middle aged adults were about to become homeless.

“It’s unclear what led to the tragedy..,” Gonzales and Day state. They go on to cite the opinion of a local social worker, who suggests, “…holidays are often a source of depression.”

The reference to holidays is an interesting digression from the facts of the case: the three siblings had recently lost their parents and had been living under the threat of eviction since June of 2012. The day of their suicides was the day they were scheduled to be physically removed from the only home they had ever known. This home seemed also to be their only financial asset.

Not one of the deceased siblings was employed full-time. Although Gonzales and Day draw no connection between the suicides and the pending eviction, they do mention the fact that adult suicide pacts were “common” during the Great Depression.

Must have been a virus going around, or a surfeit of holidays. Couldn’t have had anything to do with the fact that during the Great Depression about half of all home owners were delinquent in their mortgage payments See: cleveland.com, Cleveland eviction riot of 1933 bears similarities to current woes.

An interesting footnote to the Azusa suicides is that the three siblings apparently chose to burn the house down around themselves. If this had been a movie, the meaning of their gesture would be pretty obvious to everyone: damn the bank. Which is precisely why, I believe, this aspect of the story is omitted.

Our financial order depends upon docility; people in foreclosure must submit and quietly leave their homes. What if resistance became common? What if people routinely examined the morality of foreclosure, the lives, the tragedies behind evictions? The foreclosure system could grind to a halt, or at least slow down.

In the article cited above (re: Great Depression foreclosures), Brian Albrecht describes a 1933 Cleveland neighborhood in foreclosure revolt. It took 150 police officers to clear a crowd of some 4,000 to 6,000 protestors from the streets–merely to accomplish the seizure of one home. Foreclosure resistance is serious stuff, and it has the potential to catch on.

So, a cautious article is written about the three Azusa siblings who committed suicide. About three people who, without explanation, burn their own house down. For when it burned, the house was still theirs. And this fact was one the siblings, with their final act of rebellion, made certain no one would ever be able to change.

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