Six Characters in Search of a Blogger


5.2 Addie Polk, Get Your Gun: A Foreclosure Story
December 9, 2008, 10:58 am
Filed under: Most Fascinating Characters of 2008 | Tags: , ,
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It's expected that more than 8 million American homes will be under foreclosure in the next 4 years. (photo by Jeff Turner.)

Addie Polk was 90 years old, and had been living in her home in Akron, Ohio for 38 years when her bank’s representative came to repossess it in October.  But unlike other people, Addie did not obediently move her things out onto her driveway, or silently pick up and walk away from her biggest life investment.  Instead, she shot herself.  Twice.  In the chest.  When her neighbor found her in her bed, he said she looked like she was sleeping.

Barbara Walter’s overviews of “fascinating” people last week completely left out any mention of our country’s economic crisis, and the kind of struggles people like Addie are going through.  Granted, it’s probably more fun to hear about a pregnant man or Tom Cruise’s latest whackadoodle pronouncements about Scientology, but at base we are all concerned with what’s going on in our nation.  In Ohio alone (Addie’s home state), 1 in 8 residents are either losing their homes or have fallen behind on their mortgage payments.  That’s a whopping 12.5%.  And the national average for mortgage trouble (including foreclosure) is roughly 10%.  So if you’re out walking around your neighborhood today, just imagine every 10th house empty, or with a foreclosure sign out front, or with your unhappy neighbors sitting amidst a pile of their belongings, waiting to figure out what’s next.  Or just where to go.

Stories such as Addie’s may be sad, or even thought-provoking–but are they fascinating?  To me they are, yes.  Because the word “fascinating” at its root is about being bewitched by an evil spell; and I think we are all in a state of hypnotized horror about what’s going on around us, and praying (whether that prayer be religious or secular) that we and our loved ones will be spared from this financial ruin.  

But there is a gleam of hope in Addie’s story, as well–because Addie, at 90, survived her self-inflicted gunshot wounds.  And Fannie Mae, who had owned Addie’s home at the time of foreclosure, has recently given her back her house.  Now I’m not suggesting that the lesson and the “hope” in this is that people in financial trouble should just take a few bullets to avoid bankruptcy.  Believe me, that wouldn’t work.  A person can cry “wolf” only so many times.  (And if we look at it realistically, the banks are the wolves, so it wouldn’t make sense.)

No, what I’m suggesting is that Addie’s story is emblematic of what many Americans are going through at this very moment.  And if a 90 year old can shoot herself, and still manage to get up and walk away from such a wound, then perhaps we, as a country, can beat our metaphorical wounds, too.  Perhaps we just need a good doctor.

(Paging Dr. Obama….STAT.)

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