"When every thing gets really tough and hard, some people need an enemy to blame"

H. C. Covington -- I CAN America (icanamerica@email.msn.com)
Sun, 17 Oct 1999 12:55:02 -0500

A copy of a letter we sent to one of the Executive Directors involved in a
fight to acquire a Federal Courthouse to serve the homeless in Louisiana <a
city government is trying to make Title V of the McKinney Act void and
null>.  As it contains some good points about opposition to advocacy, I
thought it would be a good post here too.

Dear Carlos:

In an earlier post to our advocate and community builder list on the
Internet, someone questioned the actions of political or secret power
brokers. This statement was in a discussion of what they thought happened to
us in Lafayette over the Federal Building and the Homeless & CDBG Funding
issues in local Government.

"When every thing gets really tough and hard, some people need an enemy to
blame. When an organization exists that is suspected of upsetting the
political control of the social, economic or racial environment then these
individuals or groups are easily targeted scapegoats."

O * U * R*  ~R~*~E~*~S~*~P~*~O~*~N~*~S~*~E~*

I believe they are right about power brokers needing scapegoats. However, it
appears to me that the choice of scapegoats is made by those with more
power, not the other way around.

Demonizing others seems to be inflamed to the breaking point by government
and state agencies through the media and political priorities.  I do not
believe that demonizing happens on a large scale until people at the top of
the power structure begin to focus attention on the individual or group to
be attacked or ostracized. They take a quiet subject, blow it up -- for
whatever purposes -- and everyone chooses sides.

Of course, support for the individuals attacked is relatively easy to get.
The power brokers and the media have the money to advertise misinformation;
they have the ability to make the laws; and they have the power to select
and choose the publicity and how it is couched for their own agenda.

This year, when we became the target for this pattern of attack, the public
should have wanted to know what made us such a threat to the political
structure and therefore the chosen target.

Since we advocate for poverty, welfare, homelessness and drug rehabilitation
issues and since we launched an effort to obtain ownership of the Federal
Building for the Homeless, we became targets. The pattern of "demonized" and
ostracized was the pattern used for 20 years when the political structure
did not want advocates to present the truth about the conditions that cause
our people to become Homeless.  Facts and truth that only dedicated and
committed advocates and researchers would know and be able to back up as we
have for the past 9 years.

All the attacks on us have been based on a pattern of truth and opposition
which Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke and wrote about.  It
reads like a 5 point Sermon in the valley:

1.  "First they ignore you;"

You are not threating to those promoting political agendas at this stage.
The media and politicians are ignoring you. The people are not responding.
The truth is not being heard.

2.  "Then they mock you;"

Your truth has been heard and the questions are worrying them. They begin to
implant concepts like calling you liars, criminals, fools, cheech and chong,
evil people. Now, even the uneducated will not listen to you. <But if you
don't quit, the numbers of informed will grow because the truth has a power
of its' own. So, then you become even more dangerous because you won't or
don't quit.>

3.  "Then they punish you;"

As the people reject your message, the power brokers turn up the heat.

The lengths they will go to depends on how dangerous your truth is to them.
The more you are demonized, the more severely the people will allow them to
punish you, and the more crippling your truth would be to them.

Therefore, fewer and fewer people can hear you over the propaganda. The
stereotype a few media stories can create -- whether true or not -- will
make sure that fewer and fewer people will listen.  But, there have always
been those leaders and advocates with something extra, those who will not
let go, who will not and can not quit.

Risking their personal and family reputation, safety and dignity, these
advocates become the martyrs, the heroes, the historians, the true leaders
and the legends. In their passion for sharing what they have learned, no
amount of punishment will shut them up.

4. There is a backlash of public opinion:

Later, those in power begin to lose the support of the public, because
people recognize that the message of truth presented does not warrant the
atrocious and outlandish condemnation and punishments continually handed

Then in ever increasing numbers the public becomes willing to listen to what
truth one has to share.

When the majority of normal people begin to question the status quo, those
carrying lies begin to trip themselves in their misinformation, they panic,
and begin to make serious mistakes as their wall of lies crumbles. Then
those in power begin to run for cover, with only the puppets and "expendable
accusers" trying to cover their flanks.

The accusers then begin to look as evil as they made you look. The public,
supporting advertisers, and the people on the street grow angry that they
were tricked into supporting lies and partial couched facts that do
represent truth.

<Comment:  It is karma. It is justice. It follows Ghandi's practical outline
for changing social conscience: This is where the economic, racial and
political war on the poor and the homeless is right now.  BUT, do not grow
weary in well doing, the rest of the story from Ghandi concludes with>

4.  "And Then You Win."

The question that remains is a simple one.  After WE -. the chosen
targets -endure and win,  WHO will be the next selected target?  Which of
the others in ARCH or advocates of other unpopular issues will be chosen
"Demon of the month" locally and their business and personal lives attacked
or destroyed?

In the area of advocacy for the poor and homeless, an old adage proves true:
"We will all either hang together, or we will all hang separately."  The
only question that remains is the date and time of the other hangings.

There is a big difference between throwing a pebble and throwing a big rock.
The pebble causes gentle ripples that go a long way. The rock makes a big
splash that quickly disappears - Ghandi

H. C.  Covington - I CAN America
Management  &  Resource  Consultants
P.O. Drawer 3444 - Lafayette, LA 70502
icanamerica@msn.com  (318) 781-0216