“Everything we know
Beaten by a broken dream
Nothing like before
We have been chasing our demons on an empty road.”
– Singer Alan Walker
Those words came to mind as I read a string of Louisiana newspaper headlines over the past few weeks. I’m approaching 82 and life just isn’t the same as it was when I first started out in the public eye in the 1970’s.
Oh, we had some back room gambling and horse racing bets back then. You could travel to Las Vegas for a special getaway. Now any kind of betting is legal here in Bayou State.
Casino and riverboat gambling, the lottery, slot machines and video poker. Anything you want to bet on. You can’t turn on the TV without seeing a barrage of ads featuring Louisiana’s first sports family, the Mannings, betting on sports. Even Saints icon Drew Brees made it big by conducting a new casino referendum in Slidell. And also so many who really can’t afford to throw their money away.
“Sin taxes” were only levied on alcohol and tobacco here in the deepest southern states just a few years ago. But they are no longer alone. In addition to new forms of gambling, marijuana use is spreading rapidly. Initially, the drug was for medical purposes and had only two growing outlets tied to state universities. Now there are proposals in the legislature to increase these burgeoning outlets to 10 and legalize recreational use statewide. There are more and more so-called “massage parlors” and in last year’s legislature there was a proposal to legalize prostitution.
Nationally, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer enthusiastically supports legal cannabis and will introduce federal legalization next month. In the past, the governments in Louisiana and Washington were primarily concerned with protecting the common good. Now it’s all about maximizing revenue from every available source. Government has become amoral, and sin is both a thing of the past and just another way to collect taxes and bring more revenue to the state and national coffers.
Church attendance has also become passé in recent years, with voter turnout falling from around 70% 50 years ago to less than 48% today. Religious organizations have always had a strong presence in Louisiana, with Pentecostals and Baptists dominant in northern Louisiana while the Catholic Church reigned supreme throughout southern Louisiana. Churches in local communities have traditionally played an essential role in teaching our young people the virtue of volunteering, living together and the importance of family values. Today, many churches have canceled Sunday school classes and there is a mass shortage of ministers and priests across Louisiana.
In my early years as a national civil servant, I spoke to hundreds of civic groups, always attended by large crowds. I still speak to such organizations today, but there are fewer such clubs and membership has shrunk. Volunteering used to be an important part of “giving back”. Lending a hand is no longer as popular as it used to be.
Of course, there are numerous individual exceptions to those categorized in my list of a changing state in which we live today. Many of these lifestyle changes can be found in states across the country. But Louisiana, in my humble opinion, has always been different and special. This is why so many tourists come from across America to visit and experience the unique flavors of Bayou State.
The taste for such flavors is part of our DNA. Outsiders rarely know much about Mudbugs, Zydeco, Laissez les bons temps rouler!, Beignets, Geaux Tigers, Tabasco Sauce, Who Dat (a verb, no question), Lil’ Wayne, Red Stick, the Hayride, Storyville, You are my Sunshine, Voodoo Queen, King Cakes, Napoleonic Code, Bayous, Satchmo and Jumbo and a long list of incomparable symbols that embody a way of life that is unusual, bohemian, often exotic and always special.
There are several lessons to be learned here. Elections have consequences, so check the views of the officials you’re voting for. The government should be there to help, not take. And when the average person longs for a better quality of life for their family, they have to give something back. These premises would be a good start.
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers across the country and on websites worldwide. You can read all of his previous columns and see ongoing updates below http://www.jimbrownusa.com. Readers can also review books by Jim Brown and many others he has published by going to http://www.thelisburnpress.com.