How good are the changes in Louisiana’s quality of life?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 5, 2022

“All we know
Left untold
Beaten by a broken dream
Nothing like what it used to be
We’ve been chasing our demons down an empty road”

— Singer Alan Walker

 

These words hit home to me as I read a number of Louisiana newspaper headlines in recent weeks. I’m approaching 82 years old, and life is just not the same as it was when I started out in public life back in the 1970s.
Oh, we had some backroom gambling and horse race betting back then. You could travel to Las Vegas for a special outing. Now, every kind of betting is now legal here in the 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 family of sports, the Mannings, huckstering sports betting.  Even Saints icon Drew Brees raked in the big bucks pushing a new casino referendum in Slidell. And too, so many who really can’t afford to be throwing their money away.
“Sin taxes” used to be only placed on alcohol and tobacco just a few years ago here in the deepest of the deep southern states. But they stand alone no more. Besides new forms of gambling, marijuana use is rapidly proliferating. Initially, the drug was for medical purposes and only had two growing outlets tied to state universities. Now there are proposals in the legislature to increase these budding outlets to 10, and legalize recreational use throughout the state.  So called “massage parlors” are growing in number, and there was a proposal in last year’s legislative session to legalize prostitution.
On the national level, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer enthusiastically supports legal pot, and will introduce federal legalization next month. Government in Louisiana and Washington used to be all about protecting the public good. Now it’s about maximizing revenue from whatever source is available. Government has become amoral, and sin is both passé and just another way to tax and bring more income into state and national coffers.
Church attendance has also become passé in recent years, with turnout dropping from some 70% 50 years ago to less than 48% today. Religious organizations have always had a strong presence in Louisiana, with Pentecostals and Baptists dominating in North Louisiana, while the Catholic Church held sway throughout south Louisiana. Churches in local communities have traditionally played an essential role in teaching our young people the virtue of volunteering, getting along, and the importance of family values. Today, many churches have canceled Sunday school classes, and there is a mass shortage of preachers and priests all over Louisiana.
In my early years as a statewide official, I spoke to hundreds of civic clubs where they were always large crowds in attendance.  I continue to speak to such organizations today, but there are fewer such clubs, and the membership has been dwindling.  Volunteering used to be an important part of “giving back.”  Lending a hand is not nearly as popular as it once was.
There are of course numerous individual exceptions to those categorized in my list of a changing state we live in today.  Many of these lifestyle changes are found in states all over the nation. But Louisiana, in my humble opinion, has always been different and special.  That’s why so many tourists come from all over America to visit and experience the unique flavors of the Bayou State.
The taste for such flavors are 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, not a 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 matchless symbols epitomizing  a way of life that is unusual, offbeat, often exotic, and always special.
Several lessons to be learned here. Elections have consequences so check out the views of those public officials you vote for. Government should be there to help, not take. And if the average citizen yearns for a better quality of life for their families, they need to give back. These premises would be a good beginning.

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at 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.