Here’s a hot cup of Community coffee splashed in one’s face in the morning: my friend James Freeman, a Louisiana expatriate living in Omaha, cuts loose on the dysfunctional culture of our home state. Excerpt:
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.
I would say that James and I probably agree on most, but not all, aspects of the diagnosis of what’s wrong with Louisiana. But as you can read here, we very much differ in our personal responses to it. I should add that James’s jeremiad can be read as a screed by someone who hates Louisiana. It is rather, in my judgment, a piece written by a man with a broken heart.