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Foreclosed Americans Fight Back | The Nation

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Foreclosed Americans Fight Back

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Nationally, Ohio congresswoman Marcy Kaptur's defiant call was a flash flame, seen for a minute, not really heeded by anyone and then gone. But things can change and change rapidly. The flash was disseminated in a headline in the Toledo Blade, her hometown newspaper: "Kaptur Advises Owners Facing Eviction to Stay."

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Nicholas von Hoffman
Nicholas von Hoffman, a veteran newspaper, radio and TV reporter and columnist, is the author, most recently, of...

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What would he tell Obama to do?

Bank of America's Ken Lewis has done his bit to reinforce the idea that the CEOs who got us into this mess are a pack of liars.

The paper went on to explain that, "US Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo) is advocating homeowners threatened with foreclosure exercise squatter's rights in trying to stave off the loss of their house. 'I'm saying to them possession is 99 percent of the law; you stay in your house,' Miss Kaptur said..."

In Wayne County, Michigan, Sheriff Warren Evans said that he was not about to throw people out of their homes, court order or no court order. The Detroit Free Press was not inclined to take the sheriff very seriously, dismissing his announcement as having less to do with the housing/mortgage crisis and more to do with Evans's mayoral aspirations.

During the early years of the Great Depression, when there were massive evictions from farms as well as homes, defiance was sporadic and too insubstantial to pose a serious threat to property rights. People can be docile when you would think they would be running to grab their pitchforks and marching on the castle.

People were too beaten down, too confused and too lacking in resources for what it would have taken to mount a large-scale defiance. Left-wing groups, most notably the Communists, tried to rally the dispossessed but they were not able to put anything together with sufficient political heft.

The homeless in the Depression did not have the Internet, which--particularly after the Obama campaign--many believe will take care of whatever ails us. It's theoretically possible that hundreds of thousands threatened with eviction can find each other on the Internet and unite behind a plan of action.

The Internet is not the only thing that did not exist in the 1930s. America is a honeycomb of community organizations, the kind of thing that President Obama talks about so much.

There probably is no accurate count of how many such groups there are. Just one outfit, PICO, which does community organization, claims that it has "a national network of faith-based community organizations...with more than 1,000 member institutions representing one million families in 150 cities and seventeen states."

Besides PICO, there is Gamaliel, the group President Obama worked for (see his first book), which describes itself thus:

The Gamaliel Foundation is an organizing network of sixty affiliates in twenty-one states across the US and five provinces of South Africa. We represent over a million multifaith, multiracial churchgoing people who work on social justice campaigns.

ACORN took Marcy Kaptur up on her suggestion a few days ago and defended an Oakland, California, family on the verge of being kicked out of its home. ACORN claims that it is "the nation's largest grassroots community organization of low- and moderate-income people with over 400,000 member families organized into more than 1,200 neighborhood chapters in 110 cities across the country.

The oldest of such groups is the storied Industrial Areas Foundation, begun over sixty years ago by Saul Alinsky, who invented community organizing. The IAF currently has "fifty-nine IAF affiliates functioning in twenty-one states, Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany."

This does not exhaust the list of community organizations but gives a sniff of what has burrowed in and made a place for itself in scores of American communities which have thousands of local, experienced leaders and many hundreds of paid organizers.

All these organizations have never acted as one. Nevertheless, if the Treasury Department, the banks and the Wall Street gang continue to play ditzy-dotzy with this ever growing crisis, these organizations are bound to explore the idea of a united, national action of some kind.

It may not be what Kaptur is talking about. The number of actions such a coalition could take are limited only by the imaginations of the leaders and organizers. If something like this comes to pass, the odious Wall Street-Washington axis had best dig in because their power might get snatched from them by the people.

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