Saturday, April 11, 2009

Take back the land - civil disobedience - I love it!

Over two decades ago, I attended a rally to stop the proliferation of nuclear power plants in Western Germany at the time. I attended rallies at Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park in London. Since that time, I have attended rallies against the Darfur genocide, against the war in Iraq and other causes near and dear to my heart. Civil disobedience and social justice have been in my blood since I was raised in the home of two parents who allowed me to be myself and we even prayed for people like Angie Davis. As a young teenager and most impressionable, I did not truly understand who she was, nor why we were praying for her, but I knew that if it was important enough for my parents - particularly my mother - it was good enough for me.

I was fortunate enough to meet Angie Davis a couple of years ago at the University of Utah. The auditorium was packed - she spoke of civil disobedience and social justice and said that the fight is still not over - there is still racism to combat and many other issues to be addressed.

For the last several months, I have been following, as have many of you, stories of the economic downturn and hope that the President is right when he indicates that there are glimmers of hope to be seen.

What continues to distress me are the foreclosure rates in the country. It is not right that people should lose their homes due to unemployment. It is not right that the American government is not like some European governments - in that they help pay rent and mortgage payments when a person is in an economic transition due to having lost employment. I do recognize that the Obama administration is cognizant of the personal toll that this takes on families and they are taking steps to address this inequity.

A story today in the NY Times spoke eloquently of a group calling themselves "take back the land" - a squatters rights group. They help homeless and otherwise displaced individuals to move into homes that are vacant. I think that instead of bailing out all of these companies, AIG, GM, banks with TARP funds, etc., the government should buy these homes at a short sale and then rent them or sell them to low income individuals or people who have lost their jobs. This would truly provide shelter for those who need it, and would provide stability for those who have been victims of the unforgiving economy.

Please take the time to read the poignant story - it is definitely food for thought.

Here is an excerpt from the story:" Other groups, including Women in Transition in Louisville, Ky., are looking for properties to occupy, especially as they become frustrated with the lack of affordable housing and the oversupply of empty homes.

Anita Beaty, executive director of the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, said her group had been looking into asking banks to give it abandoned buildings to renovate and occupy legally. Ms. Honkala, who was a squatter in the 1980s, said the biggest difference now was that the neighbors were often more supportive. “People who used to say, ‘That’s breaking the law,’ now that they’re living on a block with three or four empty houses, they’re very interested in helping out, bringing over mattresses or food for the families,” she said.

The bottom line is this is all about people helping people. As I stated in an earlier post this week "we are all in this together."

Here is the link to the story:

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