Louisiana: the high price of low expectations

Louisiana State Capitol, Baton Rouge, 1972.

Louisiana State Capitol, Baton Rouge, 1972. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By James Freeman
Guest blogger

There’s this old joke from back home. It goes something like this: Boudreaux and a couple of his podnas go to the movies — a John Wayne western.

Boudreaux, as they’re walking into the theater, bets them ol’ boys that there’s no way the Duke is going to get his horse shot out from under him in this movie. They take the bet.

About two hours later, as Boudreaux is paying off his friends, he laments his bad luck: “I done seen dis movie two time before now, and I thought dey ain’t no way dat John Wayne would fall off dat damn horse tree straight time!”

Louisiana, thy name is Boudreaux.

Since well before living memory, my home state has been a political, governmental, educational, social-welfare, public-health and criminal-justice basket case. Generation after generation, Louisiana voters have sent a parade of dullards, slicksters, mountebanks and felons-in-waiting to all the places they can do the most damage, from the parish police jury to the state capitol and governor’s mansion. And since well before living memory, Louisianians have been decrying the crooks and the deadheads . . . right before sending another bumper crop of doofuses, miscreants and doofy miscreants to the state’s not-so-hallowed halls of power, world without end, amen.

But there’s an explanation for this: “Dat’s Louisiana for you!”

Yes, it is.

The results have been predictable — bad roads, bad schools, bad . . . well, you get the picture. There has to be a better explanation than a three-century stretch of bad luck. Or a Gallic shrug.

Welcome to At the Movies, the Boudreaux edition. Being that we know Louisiana isn’t wholly populated by blithering idiots, despite appearances, we’re left with an explanation as obvious as Louisianians’ reluctance to entertain it.

It’s cultural. While Louisiana is a land of various rich local cultures — chock-a-block with great food, colorful traditions and a world of wonderful music — there is likewise something horribly wrong at its core, something that has rendered an entire state exceptionally bad at doing the grunt work of building a functioning civil society. And it’s been that way from the start.

It took Huey Pierce Long to build modern roads and provide schoolchildren with free textbooks? Three decades into the 20th century? Really?

It took the Kingfish and an authoritarian brand of ”Share Our Wealth” socialism to take a small, underfunded state military academy — LSU — and turn it into a proper state university? Really? Well, Bobby Jindal certainly is doing something about that.

Many will point out that Huey Long was a virtual dictator during his time as governor and U.S. senator, and likewise that Louisiana was a socialist state during his reign. I can’t really argue with that, frankly.

But it remains that the most dramatic progress Louisiana ever has made in social welfare, public infrastructure and higher education came about because a politician about 75 times more socialist than a tea partier’s worst Obama nightmare got himself elected governor, then ruled like a Hugo Chávez prototype. Can you imagine a Louisiana lacking that period of socialist, dictatorial . . . progress in its modern history? I’d rather not.

I’d also rather not think about whether the accomplishments of Long the First would’ve been politically impossible even for an autocrat if Standard Oil hadn’t been around to unwillingly pick up the check.

Of course, the Kingfish had his “deduct box” but, as Murray Slaughter told Ted Baxter in the finale of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, ”When a donkey flies, you don’t blame him for not staying up that long.” When a single politician puts in hard years overcoming an entire state’s historical indifference to the concept of commonweal, as well as that of education — higher and otherwise — you don’t blame him for not being ethically pure.

Repeat after me: Culture precedes politics. And it took a political fluke of history plus a few extreme measures to — for a brief time — overcome a culture that has made Louisiana what it isn’t today.

Look at it this way. The usual modus operandi of dictatorial regimes is a brutal suppression of the popular will for the sake of the ruling elite. In Louisiana, we had a virtual dictator suppressing all opposition, be it through the art of politics or the force of heavily armed state troopers, to force business and political elites to accept the sort of progress most other states then took for granted. You know . . . those roads, bridges, decent state university and free public-school textbooks.

I find it fascinating that Gov. Jindal has used some of the same means in a quest to undo the last vestiges of Longism, but this isn’t about him. It’s about you and how you keep ending up in one fine mess after another, like having to choose between a future inmate and a former grand wizard for governor in 1991 or voting for “reform” in 2007 but ending up with the hot mess that is the Jindal administration.

Of course, you don’t have to go all the way to Baton Rouge to marinade in a world o’ suck. Though if you happen to live in Baton Rouge, my hometown, you don’t have to go all the way to the state capitol.

Let me illustrate the big story of what Louisiana’s mutant civic culture keeps serving up with the little story of two schools — Baton Rouge Magnet High, my alma mater, and Omaha Central, the oldest and largest high school in the city of nearly 420,000 that’s been my home the past 25 years.

Baton Rouge High did not exist in any incarnation until around 1880. Baton Rouge formally incorporated as a town, remember, in 1817, five years after Louisiana entered the Union.

In 1859, the year what now is Central High came into being, Omaha had been a town for just four years. Nebraska wouldn’t be a state for eight more.

In 1859, there were public schools in Louisiana — and at least one in East Baton Rouge Parish, I gather — but they were few in number and apparently not exactly part of the fabric of their communities.

That is because the South was — and is, to a substantial degree — a society based on class and the privileges thereof. If your station in life allowed you the luxury of an education, that could be purchased.

If one was of mean estate, that’s how one was apt to live out one’s days — poor. And ill-educated.

And for the vast majority of Southern blacks in 1859. . . .

A century and a half later in Baton Rouge, those who have the means can purchase a fine, private education — and that’s where you’ll find most white kids today. In private schools, or as residents of Ascension or Livingston parishes. Where they fled, starting in 1981, when “forced busing” came to town in the name of racial integration.

Meanwhile, as late as 2010, the most prestigious public school in town looked like a casualty of Katrina. That year, construction crews began a two-year teardown and rebuild of the entire Baton Rouge High campus, save for a renovation of the historic main building.

The school where Baton Rouge sends its best and brightest — its children, its hope for the future — was decrepit. A sometimes dangerous facility to which Omahans would be afraid to send their dogs. Plaster fell off interior walls in large chunks.

Ceiling tiles fell on students’ heads.

The locker rooms were rusting, crumbling and nasty. I’d think tetanus had to have been a concern.

There were potholes in the gymnasium floor.

On a 2007 visit there, I saw it all. Or, rather, as much as I could take. When I left the gym, I was nearly in tears. Three decades before, when I was a student there, BRHS was notable for being the least dilapidated public school I’d ever attended.

As the middle-aged me stood amid inhabited ruins, shooting roll after roll of 35-millimeter film and careening between grief-stricken and apoplectic, it almost seemed as if the school had been abandoned the day after I last walked across the auditorium stage — in 1979, in a cap and gown.

Today, the “new” Baton Rouge High is beautiful, a showplace. What’s shameful is that to get there, it took almost losing the school altogether. Even then, it was touch-and-go.

What’s frightening is to wonder whether it will long stay a showplace. Whether, as is the case with all things Louisiana, past becomes prologue.

It is difficult to explain things like this to Omahans, who support inner-city public schools like Central, with some 2,400 students and a beautiful century-old building on its hilltop campus downtown where once stood Nebraska’s territorial capitol. When “forced busing” came to Omaha in 1976, whites did not flee the public schools en masse.

Five and a half years ago, when I got some of my Baton Rouge High pictures developed at an Omaha photo lab, the proprietor asked my wife about them. He wanted to know whether the photos were of a school destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

In other words, what people in my hometown had come to accept as normative, people in Omaha assumed was due to a great catastrophe. What can explain such a disconnect? Only wildly divergent assumptions about what is and isn’t acceptable in the public sphere — or perhaps whether we, in our heart of hearts, even believe in such a thing.

That’s culture at its most basic level. Are we or are we not our brother’s keeper? Are our children precious gifts, or are they just another damn thing costing us money?

Do we sacrifice a new RV or bass boat today to invest in our children and a better future, or do we just eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow who cares?

And do “our” children begin and end with kin and clan, or does the idea of “our” encompass more than that?

Culture. It encompasses both who we are and how we see ourselves and the world around us. It colors both our assumptions and our autobiography.

What does a world-weary Gallic shrug tell the world? When that is a culture’s response to endemic political corruption, unrelenting violent crime and chronic underachievement on almost every benchmark for a functional society, that serves as wordless biography . . . the sad story of what a people holds dear and what it doesn’t.

The Bible — a book many Louisianians profess to hold in profound esteem — says “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light,” it goes on. “But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”

That’s from Matthew, Chapter 6. Those are the recorded words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount. The question for the good people of my native state — so many of whom are so fond of proclaiming this a Christian nation and theirs a Christian culture — is whether the word of God applies just to individuals or also to the societies they help build.

And what would Jesus say about the fine mess they’ve made of Louisiana? What would He say about smart kids in squalid schools? About the hopeless, hapless children of the underclass, so many of whom have become human killing machines, laying waste to entire swaths of Baton Rouge and New Orleans?

What would the second person of the Holy Trinity say about a city — my hometown — where whites with any money at all fled the public schools the second a federal judge ordered busing to desegregate them? What would He say about middle-class folk who don’t give a second thought to paying a “private-school tax,” or to buying RVs larger than a shotgun house . . . or tricked-out bass boats . . . or “camps” on the bayou but think that paying taxes at a sufficient rate to maintain a functioning commonweal will bankrupt them.

(And yes, Louisiana, your property taxes are scandalously low and your sales taxes obscenely high.)

Perhaps the Louisiana Family Forum could tell me what the hell kind of Christian pursues pleasure at the expense of his neighbor. Maybe a better Christian than myself could explain how “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” doesn’t apply to the dirty work of building a functioning civil society — one in which “thy neighbour” might have the same shot at a decent life as “thyself.”

Culture. You never know just where it will pop up. It even transcends this mortal coil, this vail of tears.

Of course, Louisianians are quick to invoke the C-word when it suits them. In the wake of Katrina, editorial writers at The Advocate managed to invoke the uniqueness of Louisiana culture in a way so singularly stupid (not to mention insulting to Omaha) that I saved it on the hard drive.

It was Sept. 27, 2005, and the subject at hand was housing the displaced of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

“The idea of “temporary” parks that last for years is not necessarily wrong, but there is already considerable political pushback against locating them in some communities,” the editorialist wrote. “This is not the most welcoming or even humanitarian attitude, but it is one that is complicating the task of housing the afflicted.”

He continued, unfortunately:

There are also political pushbacks for housing vouchers. Some New Orleans politicos fear that poorer constituents will find greener pastures, better jobs and better schools if they have vouchers for apartments in other cities for a year or more.

 That’s a real risk, but we don’t think that should stand in the way of a voucher program. For one thing, New Orleans is still a unique city in this country. We wonder how many people will find homes compatible with their souls in Salt Lake City or Omaha, Neb. No offense to the kind cities that have taken our evacuees in, but it’s hard to find a decent bowl of gumbo in a lot of those places.

Of course, before Katrina hit, city and state officials didn’t exactly care enough about New Orleans “souls” — at least the poorest and most hapless among them — to actually get them the hell out of Dodge. And at the height of the Katrina meltdown, a predominantly African-American crowd followed Mayor Ray Nagin’s instructions and walked across the Crescent City Connection toward Gretna, seeking to escape the hellish scene at the Convention Center.

On the bridge, they were met by a scene reminiscent of Selma 1965. That’s a part of Louisiana culture The Advocate, no doubt, would have folks ignore.

After thousands of New Orleanians arrived at Baton Rouge’s River Center, they were met by a citywide freak-out, complete with wild rumors of a gang-banger insurrection followed by locals stockpiling firearms and shuttering their businesses. As a Baton Rouge native, I can attest to how much a part of local culture the citywide freak-out has been.

Unfortunately, Baton Rouge reserves the right to freak out primarily for those times when folks fear the Negroes are coming to kill them. For the bad roads, the crumbling schools, the lengthening list of disheveled neighborhoods that year by year resemble Port-au-Prince more than they do Salt Lake City or Omaha . . . not so much.

Meanwhile, 1,100 miles north, planeloads of New Orleans evacuees were met by ordinary Omahans lining downtown streets. No guns, no police dogs, just lots of “Welcome to Omaha” signs.

At the Civic Auditorium shelter, Nebraska’s governor and Omaha’s mayor greeted the evacuees at the door.

Yet . . . yet . . . what passes for serious thinkers at the Baton Rouge newspaper expected that “soul compatibility” and a good bowl of gumbo alone should be enough to bring the dispossessed back to a state that, stripped of its “laissez les bon temps rouler” façade, was revealed more tragically than ever as “the Poor Man of America”?

And the thing is, for people who knew nothing but life in their New Orleans neighborhood, that culture was enough to bring them back against all odds and, sometimes, against all common sense. As a friend once said to me during a session of expatriate bitching about the shortcomings of the place we’d left but can’t get over, “Our mama may be a whore, but she’s still our mama.”

True enough. But sometimes you see the high price of low expectations, both in your family and in your home state, and you start to wonder.

At what point do I begin to expect as little from myself as I expect from my government? Why the hell do I think it’s funny that my gub’na says the only way he can lose is if he gets “caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy” — particularly when you know it’s the God’s honest truth?

Why is “Thank God for Mississippi!” an entire people’s main prayer of thanksgiving?

Why do I think, as I survey the broad scheme of things in America, that me and mine are normal?

Like it or not, if you’re wrestling with questions such as these, you fight your own personal war with a culture that adds seasoning and cyanide in equal measure to the Louisiana gumbo. What the hell do you do when so much of who and what you are is part and parcel of why Louisiana’s more crooked, more broke, more ignorant and more unhealthy than almost all the U.S.A.?

I guess you do the best you can. Culture, like family, is hard.

And messy.

And serious as a heart attack.

My curiosity — and my discontent — first led me to Nebraska early in 1983. A friend was from here originally, I liked the Huskers and it was as far from home as I could find a newspaper job.

When I returned to LSU in the fall to finish up my bachelor’s degree, I returned as a married man. But it wasn’t just the now-former wire editor of the North Platte Telegraph who had won my heart.

Two moves — two jobs — later, one of them back in Baton Rouge at the old State-Times, I was still aiming to get back to the Cornhusker State. My wife, the Omaha girl, was not unhappy at that prospect and in 1988, we finally made it.

Looking back, I guess it came down to culture. I found one I liked as well as the one I was born into — and it was better for me. It takes a while to acclimate, of course, but you do it. You do the best you can, and you try to hold fast to the best parts of your Louisiana birthright. The worst, no.

Actually, it’s kind of gratifying that first time you visit the Gret Stet and some crazy thing that once struck you as normal now strikes you as “What the f***?!”

As a Louisiana expatriate here in the Gret White Nawth, I have come to understand one important reality over the decades: come from a foreign land. Things are different here in the United States, and that’s all right.

More than all right, actually.

James Freeman, a Baton Rouge native and LSU journalism graduate, works with words and music at www.revolution21.org in Omaha, by God, Nebraska. He writes on this and that on Revolution 21’s Blog for the People and commits freeform radio every week on the 3 Chords & the Truth podcast. He also makes a mean pot of chicken-and-andouille gumbo. He can be reached at revolution_21@cox.net.

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38 Responses to Louisiana: the high price of low expectations

  1. Sterling LeJeune says:

    Excellent Mr. Freeman. I’m reading Powell’s “The Accidental City-Improvising New Orleans” and the Gallic shrug is there from the get-go, only to permeate across the state instead of fading away. This institutionalized attitude is one of the down sides of our culture here.
    At the Capitol, personal fiefdoms, political rhetoric and private agendas still trump concern for the public good, whether it be education, better roads or improving the tax structure and how they are collected. In Long’s case, the electorate got something out of his, though it cost them double.

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  2. James> One hell of rant and, sadly, mostly true. Both of my sons are BRHS grads, mid-1990s, and I was appalled every time I stepped through the doors. I live one state away — Arkansas, which is only slightly better than Loozyana.

    Like

  3. MIke says:

    Amen. That’s why I fled my homeland, NOLA, after college. We’ve got our own though here in San Diego, not not so much.

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  4. Javan H. says:

    Louisiana tends to define “insanity,” repeating the same things expecting a different result.

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  5. Charles Boudreaux says:

    You have made a point about the state of affairs in Louisiana but an apology is in order for equating the good family name of Boudreaux with ignorance and stupidity. How juvenile it is to keep propagating these idiotic jokes.

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  6. earthmother says:

    James Freeman is right on many fronts. Quality of life is far better throughout most of the U.S. than in the Gret Stet of LA. But something about our culture is seductive and we are helpless to resist the siren call…. and notice, like most natives, Mr. Freeman returns…you can take the man out of Louisiana but you can’t take Louisiana out of the man. We are not all hypocrital, fake Christian, unfeeling, self-centered bigots here; in the spirit of “not fooling all of the people all of the time,” some of us well remembered the destruction wreaked by Baby BJ at DHH and the UL system in the Foster administration and fought like hell to keep him out of the mansion. It’s too late for self recriminations now that so many ruby red republicans now rue the day they voted for their own destruction. They refused to listen to those who remembered, pretended they had no idea what the little tyrant was all about and act surprised when they learn the state is being sold off to the best-connected privateers and profiteers and carpetbaggers. We may never recover what little good we had in this state. We stay so we can attempt to make life better and promote the common good. So, do cry for us, Louisiana, and do what it takes to throw off the shackles we are bound with today. Don’t give up on us, Mr. Freeman, keep speaking the truth – and the truth shall set us free.

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  7. Stephen Winham says:

    Our hopes have been dashed so consistently and for so long, most Louisianans have simply given up. Our culture is becoming less laissez les bon temps rouler, but more laissez faire. More people seem more unhappy with the state of our state than ever in recent history. Maybe things will get so bad we will collectively recognize change as a practical necessity and unite to demand it – creating a cultural revolution, if you will. It is ironic that our ineffective leaders could then lay legitimate claim to being the catalysts of positive change.

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  8. Disgusted says:

    I choose to believe that there is an uprising of “beaten” spirits in Louisiana in the forms of Together BR, Together Louisiana, The Louisiana Movement, that are uniting those of us who dearly love this state but are tired of the same old, same old. Imagine small communities discussing and planning how they want their area to look and feel, what level of government involvement they expect in the “common” areas of education, transportation, roads, and where they don’t want government to interfere. Basically, we have to start over and I don’t think any of us are naive enough to think there is existing leadership anywhere in this state that has any visionary and transformational thoughts.

    We have three years to transition into the “new Louisiana” and line up like-thinking citizens who are ready to move this state forward not only in terms of new legislators and governors, but business owners, church leaders, educational institutions, and so many more areas.

    Communities have not identified their power in uniting with other communities and then TELLING the current leaders what they expect which why I say let’s get our stuff together in the next three years and then reclaim this state!

    Focus groups need to be happening in every little town in this state to put down on paper what common decencies they want their community to represent. Every little town needs to prioritize services they expect the state to provide and at what level and maintained how often and at what level.

    Another state-wide group (made up from regional representatives….made up from members of every little town) needs to plan how all of this will be funded and what changes to the existing laws need to take place to match the funding needs. When there is one-time monies, that can only be spent on infrastructure (school buildings, health units, ball parks, stadiums, and the like).

    These groups also need to select several people from their groups whom they will elect to replace their existing legislator and from this larger group, decide who will be elected as the governor to make all of this happen. Frankly, employees of each Department of State Department should “elect” their secretary so that the person selected is answerable to them and not to the people that paid for them to get the job. Wouldn’t that be fun?

    It would be like Jesus driving all the money changers and vendors out of the house of the Lord to restore it to what it was meant to be. I choose to believe that we can make this happen and I am doing everything in my power to participate in groups that have this as their goal.

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  9. Kate JW says:

    As my husband says: “New Orleans will always be my home, and I can never live there again.” Your column so perfectly expressed everything I’ve ever known about LA but was never able to articulate so beautifully. Thanks for this. I will share it with my facebook friends who don’t understand just how different LA is. I’ve often said the the only thing keeping LA from being a banana republic is geography.

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  10. Hope F. Charity says:

    I think the privatization issue that has everyone reeling and demoralized is not unique to the “same old – same old” of Louisiana politics. We, as a nation, sold worthless shacks and imaginary condos to each other for grotesque amounts of speculative money, and now the margin call ripples throughout even now. The grass is always greener, especially when you’re hurting and Omaha and San Diego and even freaking Disneyworld have their problems too. Most of what I have read suggests an epidemic of privatization originating from all the fiscal woes and desperation nation wide, even in Blue states. Chicago gave away their parking meters with a rushed contract and now can’t even have a Memorial Day parade without getting a multi-million dollar bill for closed streets and lost revenue from some Arab Sheik. The simple fact is government is about service (doing the most with the least) and business is about profit (doing the least for the most). If it’s a simple problem it can be privatized with clear benchmarks for success and failure. If it’s a complex mandate with the need for lots of oversight it will end in tears, lost decades of expertise, a few happy campaign contributors, and a renewed political platform for reform.

    One partys’ failures will be the others’ opportunities and while the elephants fight, the grass gets trampled. Of course, most voting folks of either party are right in the middle, much more ready to compromise, and not nearly as polarized as the media and politicians will lead you to believe.

    The far reaching aftermath of Katrina continues to leave us vulnerable and there are many opportunists who prey on such crisis. We’ve been waiting around for more help than we’ll ever get and maybe even deserve from a nation that has pretty much forgotten. We filled the vacuum with Jindal, who lost the only election where he had any formidable competition, owes everyone for the easy elections he did win, and now is giving away the farm because the exclusive company he keeps tell him they are the only ones that matter.

    In the end we’re poor but proud and it takes time to mend the damage with the resources at hand. I believe after the absurdity and scandals that are sure to come of all of this we’ll turn it around. It’s not all finished playing out so I wouldn’t abandon all hope. If we’re lucky we’ll finally stop voting with our hearts for heartless people and settle the issues that affect all of us fairly rather than satisfying the toxic agendas of an idealistic few.

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  11. Milford Fryer says:

    While I certainly would never, ever recommend discontinuing representative government, my 40+ years as a journalist have revealed to me in ways too numerous to mention that people cast ballots for the lamest of reasons. Far too many single-issue voters and at least as many people voting emotionally or in ignorance. For example, a poll a while back showed a majority of voters opposed Obamacare, but when asked about each of the major components, they supported them. And just this month a poll showed a huge percentage of voters did not even know that the affordable care act was law and much of it is already functioning.

    Even scarier was the number of people who opposed it had no clue what it is.

    It should go without saying, but I will say it anyway. Democracy works like it should only when the voters are informed. It makes no difference whether you are conservative or liberal, you really need to know what people stand for. A relative of mine who was pastoring a church in Monroe _ a man with a master’s degree _ got extremely upset with me for merely asking if he had seen President Obama’s remarks at the annual prayer breakfast (he has attended them all, despite some RWs saying he has never been). I didn’t ask if he liked what Obama said, only if he saw what the president said. Is it really asking too much for a well-educated minister to know what the president of the United States said at a national religious event? Yet he got angry for just being asked if he saw the words.

    The same goes for the flip side. How many people voted for the president because of his race, because he is glib and some women consider him attractive, or any of numerous other insignificant reasons.

    Louisiana is a Boudreaux joke because its residents either wish it so or don’t care enough to inform themselves. In a democracy, you get the government you deserve.

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  12. James, I’ve tried many times to articulate exactly what you have here, but not as well as you have. Thank you.

    I too left Louisiana for Midwestern pastures, at age 27. While I missed the culture — and watching the Saints win the Super Bowl there was especially lonely — I enjoyed the lower taxes and cost of living, the solid infrastructure, the ideological diversity and the more prevalent education in southwest Missouri. After moving back two years ago (the siren song, maybe?), I found myself struggling to tolerate much of what I’d never questioned before. Suddenly, culture didn’t seem to be worth the crumbling infrastructure, societal segregation, indifference to education, hostility to progressivism, devil-may-care attitude and stifling humidity. All I can think about now is leaving again, heading somewhere that doesn’t consider its entirely preventable faults to be intrinsic aspects of its appeal.

    I’m heartened to know I’m not alone in feeling this way. Doing so can be very lonely sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. JoseyWales says:

    Some of the problem lies with the people we elect, but not completely. Other states elect the same type of politicians we have. So what’s the difference between our state and others? Well, one factor is the centralized nature of our state government where the governor rules all and legislature takes its’ orders without question. It’s really a systemic failure in government that makes it easy for lobbyist, big business and unions to grab power on a statwide level to the detriment of the citizens. All they have to do is to “buy off” a few at the top and the rest will follow.
    Why is that other states have properous areas whereas most all of our our state stinks? It’s because they have local tax bases and consequently local government. Here in Louisiana most all of the taxes (state income, state coorporate) go to Baton Rouge to be divied up by the almighty Guv’ who gives crumbs to members of the legislature to do his bidding.
    To put it in perspective (and for those who can remember), think of Louisiana as the Exxon Valdez, a single hull ship. All it takes is for someone to get to the captain to give him a swig of whatever “kool aid” (for a price) they pander and we, the state, runs aground. Unfortunately, Louisiana has been on the reef for decades loosing its resources and the captain and crew are still drinking the “kool aid”. We need a new constitutional convention to break up the monopoly, create local tax bases and empower local government. Then maybe local citizens will get more involved since they can see where their local tax dollars are going and if not, complain to theitr local government officials instead of coming to Baton Rouge which for all practical purposes, might as well be on Mars for most citizens of the state……

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  14. Mr. E says:

    You made some excellent points sir, but you didn’t tell the rest of the story. I have lived in a number of different states around this great country and experienced a number of other cultures. One thing I never missed about Louisiana was the shockingly bad attitude blacks display against whites. Blacks in Louisiana go out of their way to annoy whites and be as unpleasant as possible. That’s a part of Louisiana culture I can thankfully do without!

    I was amazed at the scarcity of black people living in southern Indiana, and the few I encountered were shockingly well-mannered, polite, and well-spoken. The blacks I encounter in Virginia are more numerous, but still much more pleasant to be around than those in Louisiana. You speak of culture as if only the white people were at fault for not paying more taxes, and that if we had only cared more, then the blacks would have turned out better. This is pure BS and you know it!

    The black community has to take responsibility for its own behavior and endeavor to improve it. Their behavior is NOT the fault of whites or low property taxes or dilapidated buildings. Whites shrug their shoulders in Louisiana because for all the effort they have put in to improving the state, there still exists an underclass unwilling to improve and more than willing to stand as an obstacle to further progress.

    Whites fled from forced busing and integration precisely because they knew the blacks would tear down the system and they did just that! The liberals removed corporal punishment from the schools and the blacks have taken them over and run them into the ground. We need more taxes to support that? We should send our small children into those gangbanging ghettos that have become the public schools and trust the system that will not take one step to reclaim authority to protect them? Thanks, but no thanks!

    So, you stay comfortably ensconced in your little corner of Midwestern paradise safe from the ravages of Louisiana blacks resistant to change and determined to take everyone with them. You speak of the welcome Omaha gave to displaced Katrina victims, but you never mention the troubles many other communities experienced from a bunch of self-aggrandizing entitlement blacks who instantly lapsed into their old ways of shaking down everyone for anything. The citizens of Omaha welcomed Louisiana blacks because they had no experience with them and no concept of what we in Louisiana have to put up with every day. We watched these cities welcoming these blacks with the thought that they would be sick of them soon enough, and many of them soon were!

    See, I too live away from Louisiana, and I dearly love the state, but there are a lot more reasons for its problems than low property taxes and crooked politicians. I see black people in other states trying to do better and they are a joy to be around after having grown up experiencing the low class blacks in Louisiana who think nothing of annoying whites just for the sake of it. I see when it came down to it, you chose the comfort of being somewhere else instead of having to continue to put up with a black underclass that just will not attempt to improve its behavior and its attitude.

    Don’t sit there and lecture me about Louisiana’s problems unless you are willing to honestly examine ALL of Louisiana’s problems and not just the ones that massage your faux white liberal guilt. Of all the many states in which I have lived, Louisiana blacks have by far the worst attitude of any I’ve ever encountered. They are not the only blacks to ever have a rough time of it, nor are they the only group who has had to overcome adversity to improve their lot in life, but they consistently choose to remain on the bottom despite all attempts to assist them up the ladder. So, after years of trying and still getting their bad attitude, we just shrug our shoulders and give up. You can’t help someone who refuses to be helped!

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    • Robert Mann says:

      I can’t adequately express how much I disagree with your comments, but I share them here so that others may read and respond.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mr. E says:

        Well, as I expected, my comments were met with the racist smear. Anytime anyone points out that the black community in Louisiana has failed to shoulder responsibility for its behavior, they are instantly labeled a racist.

        I grew up with blacks, went to school with blacks, worked in the fields with blacks, and socialized with blacks, but telling the truth about the attitude of the black community in Louisiana as compared with that of black communities in other states in which I’ve lived suddenly earns me the title of racist. Hmmm, I see.

        You can’t blame the problems of Louisiana on the tax base when the black community blames all of its ills on racism and absolutely refuses to address its attitude and behavior problems. Only in Louisiana have I experienced the attitude of blacks going out of their way to intentionally annoy whites. I’ve never experienced that in any of the other dozen states in which I’ve lived. Only in Louisiana is every suffering of the black community exclusively the fault of white people. Louisiana blacks feel they have no responsibility whatsoever for their plight.

        We have Karen Carter Peterson blaming racism for Louisiana refusing to participate in ObamaCare despite its huge cost and the fact that its implementation has become a nightmare. No, it’s all the white man’s fault! We have Leslie Thompson in Jonesboro stealing the city blind and making a mockery of the law by playing the race card. Same with Odell Key in Gibsland and Jamie Mayo in Monroe, whose I-20 Economic Development Board is being investigated by the FBI for malfeasance. Are all of these instances of political graft by black politicians suddenly the fault of whites being racist?

        No, the racist smear doesn’t change the fact the blacks in Louisiana are unlike any other black community I’ve encountered in the US. Calling me a racist doesn’t change the facts, nor does it relieve you of responsibility for ignoring the obvious.

        I never twisted any facts with racism nor did I allow it to cloud my judgement. You saw racism because that’s what you reflexively see anytime anyone criticizes the black community and holds it responsible for its own actions. Not one time did I say that blacks in Louisiana were not deserving of equal opportunity or less deserving of civil rights. You liberals continue to view the world through the lens of racism with your divisive group politics. You excuse the attitudes and actions of the black community to gain their support and their votes. Anyone pointing out your hypocrisy is instantly labeled a racist.

        I merely pointed out that the black community in Louisiana has avoided responsibility for its attitudes and behavior by leveling the racism charge against any critic. You all proved my point for me by leveling that same charge against me.

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      • Ian McGibboney says:

        Do some people play the race card unnecessarily? Yes. But anytime someone blames an entire race of people as the primary source of our problems and speaks of them as if they are a different species, then yes, that’s racist.

        Louisiana’s problems are complex in nature and don’t lend themselves to simple culprits. But this much is true: it’s not “the blacks” who are allowing roads to crumble and the education system to go broke, and denying people access to affordable health care. All that is the work of entrenched politicians, most of whom aren’t black. In fact, most of them are white and conservative, and most aren’t fond of criticism or introspection.

        Being white and raised here myself, I’ve heard a million times that everything would magically repair itself if blacks just learned to be nicer to whites. What I don’t hear often are those same people being culpable for their role in strained race relations.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Ian McGibboney says:

      Attitudes like Mr. E’s are a bigger problem than anything he alleges “the blacks” do to wreck Louisiana.

      It’s difficult, if not impossible, to gauge which U.S. region has the worst racism; after all, racism takes on many forms in heart, head and in practice. But parts of Louisiana, such as Baton Rouge, illustrate one of the worst ways racism prevails anywhere: de facto segregation. They call it “white flight,” though in reality it’s an economic movement. When rich people move out of the city and into suburbs, they take with them a substantial tax base — as well as any sense of obligation to the city’s infrastructure, children, etc. The richest are able to fund their own private schools, gated communities, recreation, etc., and lean on legislators to protect their investments and reduce their civic burden.

      The resultant social disconnect becomes worse, and the poverty that stagnates leads to more violence and even worse racism — a self-fulfilling prophecy. It becomes a convenient scapegoat for those who are too prejudiced and proud to consider that they themselves might be part of the problem.

      Funny how treating people like decent human beings could go a long way toward addressing this problem, but so many refuse to do it.

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      • Mr. E says:

        You know very well that I’m not blaming an entire race of people in my comments. I’m speaking of the attitude of the black community in general and the leadership of prominent blacks as it were that refuses to address systemic problems in the black community, preferring to adopt the racist line.

        Karen Carter Peterson, Chairman of the Louisiana Democrat Party, accused her Senate colleagues of being racists for refusing to adopt ObamaCare. Her attitude was the reason Senate Democrat Elbert Guillory switched to the Republican Party. He could no longer support the Democrat Party who sees everything in terms of race. Senator Guillory gets it while Peterson continues pushing the same old attitude that gets neither the black community nor Louisiana at large any further down the road of actual progress.

        No amount of explanation of my position is ever going to convince you all that I am not a blatant racist ad that I have a valid opinion on the subject. You will continue to parse my statements and see racism lurking about in your efforts to ignore the truth. I spoke of the black community in generalities fully realizing that there are exceptions to every rule. Senator Guillory happens to be a prominent exception to Karen Carter Peterson’s stereotypical black attitude.

        I don’t wear a sheet, and I don’t burn crosses. I’ve lived in a great many different states and noticed a lot about the people who live around me. I’ve been able to make a lot of comparisons. Yes, Louisiana has a great many complex problems, but I chose to address one in response to the article assumptions. The author blames Louisiana’s ills on a low tax base, and speaks of her culture comparing it to that of his adopted state of Nebraska, inferring that Nebraska is so much more advanced than Louisiana because they welcomed blacks with open arms after Katrina. But he never addresses any responsibility the black community in Louisiana has for their own attitudes. He speaks in generalities about the black community, but he isn’t a racist because he parrots the liberal line that they are all downtrodden from the whites having instilled a culture of low taxes that refuses to “invest” in them with higher taxes. I called this crap and said that blacks need to shoulder responsibility for their behavior, and suddenly I’m a racist. The author attempts to shame Louisiana into raising taxes and getting on board the progressive bandwagon, and I’m a racist for daring to stand up and refusing to buy his facetious progressive propaganda. Yeah, that’s exactly what I expected for my trouble.

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      • Ian McGibboney says:

        One doesn’t have to wear sheets and burn crosses; “blacks need to shoulder responsibility for their behavior” is its own manifestation of that sentiment.

        The differences in race relations you’ve seen in other states aren’t one-sided. Chances are, if the black communities are less hostile, than the white ones are as well. Expecting one race to acquiesce while asking nothing of the other (the one predominantly in power) smacks of bigotry. There’s no other way to describe it.

        Offering the one example of a black person defecting to the GOP doesn’t excuse what you’ve said. Even the national party itself is slowly admitting that it’s alienating women, minorities and the young. And the reason is that its retrograde platform and obstructionism don’t connect with increasingly tolerant and progressive generations.

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    • Mr. E:

      Thank you so much for so perfectly illustrating my point about how “some crazy thing that once struck you as normal now strikes you as ‘What the f***?!'” To do so as well, and with as much detail, as you just did would have made my piece much too long.

      Again, thank you, sir. (And I didn’t even have to drive 1,100 miles to experience it, either. Cool!)

      Like

    • North Louisianan says:

      Wow! I am so impressed with the intestinal fortitude you have displayed in your comments. Everyone knows what the major problem in our state is, and it is refreshing to see that occasionally someone will iterate a large part of that problem. I agree with what you have said, but would expand that to include sorry low-rent individuals of all races. I fear that socio-economic and IQ-based sterilization may be our only hope. The Producing Class is simply being outbred.

      Like

    • Stephen Winham says:

      It is easy to dismiss Mr. E as a racist and most of his comments beg us to do so, but he does point out something I don’t think anybody can really deny about Louisiana – the racial tension between blacks and whites present in varying degrees throughout our state – much worse in some places than others. To deny it exists and that the hostility comes from both directions is to deny reality. However, I would contend the hostility relates much more to poverty than to race. Who can deny the high poverty level in Louisiana?

      It makes sense that people at each socio-economic level get along better with each other than with people at other levels because of their common experiences – this also largely explains the segregation that often occurs naturally, even in the absence of “white flight”. It is not a leap to imagine that people who believe they have been unfairly and permanently disadvantaged would develop resentment toward the advantaged and, further that this could rise to the level of hostility over time.

      Can anybody deny there are a greater percentage of poor black people than poor white people in Louisiana? Louisiana’s poverty rate is 27% – among, if not the highest in our nation. White people make up 64% of our population – 17% of our white population lives in poverty. Black people make up 32% of our population – 45% of our black population lives in poverty. These are not just numbers. They mean something and we need to stop pretending they don’t. Poverty is Louisiana’s issue. It is the root of most of our problems and we must find a way to address it.

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      • Ian McGibboney says:

        Mr. E is taking a legitimate issue and twisting it to justify racism. That is never acceptable.

        Louisiana’s poverty is institutionalized to the point where it’s practically predetermined by birth (not by race, necessarily, but certainly by circumstance). And yet, the prevailing political mindset is that poverty is exclusively a choice (as in, everyone can be rich if only they work harder, so the poor deserve to be on their own). That’s a combination that guarantees economic stagnation — and all the hatred, resentment and crime that comes with it.

        The “advantaged” cannot be allowed to forgo their role in this clash. If poor people hate the rich, it’s not because they’re rich; it’s because of the attitude, which seeps into public policy, is “I got mine.” As Gov. Jindal and his cronies come ever closer to defying physics with their repeated cuts to schools and public works (because we can’t afford them) to make way for huge tax cuts for businesses (always room for those!), the clash is only going to continue.

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  15. Cbalducc says:

    Excuse me, but wasn’t Louisiana ruled by Democrats for most of the 20th Century? And don’t you think “Longism” hurt Louisiana as much as helped it?

    Like

  16. Reblogged this on The Daily Kingfish and commented:
    Costly, these self-afflicted handicaps are, says Yoda.

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  17. Dark Cutter says:

    O Boy. Another out-of-town know-it-all-elite-liberal-progressivist-little-lord-fauntleroy pontificates on how HE knows best to fix Louisiana. You sound just like several other “journalists” in bashing the people that try to make this state work in spite of the messes we have in our big cities and in spite of the ever present cronies running everything and trying to control how much we can earn (less than otherwise), how much we spend on certain things (more than otherwise) and what happens to our savings. And these tyrannical elites turn out to label themselves both Republican and Democrat

    AND do not quote Jesus as ‘Proof” of the legitimacy of progressivism. Welfare is NOT charity. It is not my governments’ job to do my charity for me. The Catholic church stands firmly against Communism, Socialism and Tyranny. Just a small example:
    CCC 2499 “Moral judgment must condemn the plague of totalitarian states which systematically falsify the truth, exercise political control of opinion through the media, manipulate defendants and witnesses at public trials, and imagine that they secure their tyranny by strangling and repressing everything they consider “thought crimes.” (1903)

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  18. Ian McGibboney says:

    Dark Cutter: “O Boy. Another out-of-town know-it-all-elite-liberal-progressivist-little-lord-fauntleroy pontificates on how HE knows best to fix Louisiana.”

    Maybe more native Louisianans like James Freeman ought to move elsewhere for a while and absorb a different perspective. It surely opened his eyes as much as it opened my own.

    Like

    • Mr. E says:

      I did that very thing, but you don’t seem to like my perspective. You insist on calling me a racist for presenting my comparisons of black attitudes in other states to that of blacks in Louisiana.

      Like

    • Mr. E says:

      Well, I see the comments are set up so you always have the last word, and your last word always ends up accusing me of racism. Pointing out that the black leadership needs to shoulder more responsibility for the behavior of the black community qualifies me as a racist in your view. You allow yourself to speculate on the reason for differences in race relations I mention in other states, but label me a racist for speaking in generalities.

      I specifically mentioned that whites in Louisiana had reached out repeatedly to the black community only to be rewarded with the same old responses, so I did not expect “one race to acquiesce while asking nothing of the other.” I never offered “the one example of a black person defecting to the GOP” to excuse anything I said, but to point out that even prominent blacks are growing weary of the never ending status of victimization advanced by the Democrat Party.

      At the end of the day, you still conveniently avoid addressing the observation I offered that the black community in Louisiana acts much differently than other black communities I’ve experience in going out of their way to be as annoying as possible to whites in Louisiana. You do this by calling me a racist as if that charge settles the argument. You are living up to all of my expectations of a progressive liberal in smearing anyone critical of the black community as a racist without addressing the underlying issues.

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      • Ian McGibboney says:

        It’s impossible to take seriously an argument that an entire race got together to systematically annoy another. My black friends apparently never got the message. But I can imagine that if I lived my life brimming with hostility for minorities and liberals, I might feel like they didn’t like me either.

        Aside from that, the black community (and certainly not your caricature of it) is not the entrenched power in Louisiana. They’re not the ones who let revenues lapse, roads crumble and schools rot, at the disproportional expense of the poor and minorities. Thus, there’s no rational reason to pin it all on them either. Go after the real cause, which don’t lend themselves to pat, self-affirming answers.

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  19. Country Gentleman says:

    I have to say that Mr. E has made a number of excellent points that have been stridently ignored by many of those who attack him as a racist. I see no overt racism in his comments, and I’m perplexed as to how you all can instantly declare him a racist from these comments. He appears to be laying out a coherent argument and does not engage in denigrating anyone by pointing out that responsibility for one’s actions is inherent on both sides. He does not seem to harbor any grudge and specifically mentions being raised around blacks.

    I believe he makes a good point of demonstrating that any criticism of the black community is met with charges of racism.You all have certainly done so abundantly with your comments. Does the black community indeed bear no responsibility for its attitude of specifically annoying whites in Louisiana? Are his observations on this point with respect to other states correct?

    He offered specific examples of black leadership perpetuating the victim mentality which you all casually dismiss as unimportant. When he speaks of the “black community,” you label him as racist, then you engage in generalities without a second thought.

    The man offered his observations made unique by the fact that he has experienced black communities in several states, but his views don’t mesh with those of your own, so you dismiss him as a racist. I find that to be eerily in line with the progressive politics of group identity and black victimization.

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  20. Mr. E says:

    Perhaps you should review the Wall Street Journal article “The Parochialism of Diversity” at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323844804578527412855526772.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_MIDDLETopOpinion.

    The article does a nice job describing the inability of supposedly tolerant communities in seeing racism in anyone who is not white. They make the case that liberals feel only whites can be racist, just as I’ve been pointing out here. Multiculturalists rush to embrace any foreign group to demonstrate their tolerance, but vehemently resist domestic groups as being provincial. The line “Multiculturalism turns out to be a disguised form of white supremacy” pretty much sums up liberal thinking.

    Once again, you mischaracterize what I say and turn it into something which is is not nor never was. I NEVER said that an entire race got together to annoy white on purpose. What I said was that this is a general behavior pattern among blacks in Louisiana. It isn’t directed from on high, but it definitely does exist.

    I NEVER said I was hostile to blacks as I mentioned growing up with them all my life. YOU sir, are the one displaying hostility, so do not project it onto me! I also NEVER said all of Louisiana’s ills lay at the feet of blacks. I pointed out that their attitude was a factor that you all conveniently overlook.

    In your opinion, everything wrong with Louisiana is the fault of white people in power refusing to pass higher taxes to spend on the black community. That is pure BS and we all know it! You just refuse to admit it.

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    • Ian McGibboney says:

      No one has to be tolerant of intolerance. Hateful views, which I agree can come from anyone, are not in the same category as culture or positive belief. To suggest that they are (as many people of your ilk do) is a gross misinterpretation of tolerance.

      Louisiana’s problem is a refusal to raise revenue in general, and that affects every citizen. I am frustrated that Gov. Jindal and his fellow Republicans refuse to raise taxes in any circumstance, because that typical GOP stance is pigheaded and destructive. Any tax plan they do hatch usually breaks the backs of the poor (which involves a majority of minorities, and poor people of all races tend to not have political connections). That problem requires education, citizen action and a multitude of other complex, long-term actions. Anecdotal “attitude” has nothing to do with it.

      Finally, you said, “I NEVER said that an entire race got together to annoy white on purpose. What I said was that this is a general behavior pattern among blacks in Louisiana.” Before that, you said, “The black community in Louisiana acts much differently than other black communities I’ve experience [sic] in going out of their way to be as annoying as possible to whites in Louisiana.”

      Again, you said it. And again, that’s never been my experience. The only people I’ve ever heard say that were those whose resentment was palpable to begin with.

      Like

      • Mr. E says:

        “as many people of your ilk do”

        Just what exactly do you consider to be my “ilk?” You have absolutely no idea who I am and what I’ve accomplished, yet you condescendingly refer to me as belonging to some “ilk.” I happen to be a highly educated professional who has worked on some of the top engineering projects in the country. It always comes down to you progressives displaying racism and blaming it on others.

        You progressives create housing projects and welfare to trap minorities in poverty, then blame conservatives for their plight. You have the gall to call me a racist when the Democrat Party has consistently kept the black community under its thumb for the last hundred years. Progressives like Margaret Sanger promoted abortion as a way to reduce the black population, and progressives still defend abortion against any attempts by conservatives to make it safe and rare.

        You progressives display the soft bigotry of low expectations by treating blacks as if they can do no better than the government check and the government housing you all are so willing to provide from taxes collected off of the producer class in this country. Save your pious elitism for someone who doesn’t know the difference about the load of crap you’re trying to sell!

        Like

  21. Ian McGibboney says:

    By “your ilk” I mean, people who make racially charged comments, get incredibly defensive when called on it, proceed to double down on dog-whistle attacks and then allege I’m the racist for some reason.

    All I have to go on is what you say here. Those sentiments I’ve heard hundreds of times. I know what’s behind them and the denials.

    But back to the issue: Today’s GOP is doing all it can to alienate blacks, youth, women … basically anyone who isn’t a old, rich, white aristocrat. The Democrats (not the “Democrat Party”), on the other hand, are the only party looking out for anyone else. Is it perfect? No. But neither is its campaign philosophy, “We’ll help you by not helping you. Here’s a token we expect you to vote for because their sex/skin color is the same as yours.” How is that not far more racist?

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