Jindal is Bizarro World Kingfish
By Davy Brooks, Teacher
February 22, 2013Guest Column - 475 words
In 1928 Huey Long stood as a gubernatorial candidate under the famed Evangeline Oak, comparing Louisiana’s people to Longfellow’s Acadian heroine, who had waited in vain for her lover Gabriel.
So, too, had Louisianians waited in vain, said the man soon to be the Kingfish, for roads, schools, hospitals and bridges. “Where are the roads? Where are the schools?” he exclaimed.
“Evangeline’s tears lasted a lifetime,” he said; but Louisiana had cried for generations. Long went on to win the election and deliver on his promises. He put food on people’s tables and brought Louisiana into the 20th century.
Unfortunately, the Kingfish’s legacy is mixed. While he was comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, he was establishing a political machine that adopted dictatorial means and displayed ruthless contempt for the democratic process. “I am the Constitution,” he once boasted.
Still, followers of Huey Long were naming their children after their martyred Kingfish. Black Panther co-founder Huey P. Newton, from Monroe, is one example. Why such loyalty to a “tin pot dictator,” as one historian called him? Because plebeian thought believed that Long gave his life raising the standard of living, and people felt he gave more than he took.
Today’s Louisiana has a Bizarro World Huey Long in Gov. Bobby Jindal. There are the same machinelike tactics, including intimidation, harassment, disrespect and political banishment. Tommy Teague, Richard Sherburne and Jim Champagne are examples of dedicated, efficient state workers who were fired or forced into resigning because they didn’t adhere to the Jindal Corollary to the Long Doctrine, “If you ain’t with me, you’re against me.”
East Baton Rouge Parish teachers got a taste of this manifesto when they took a day off work to address their due process rights and the direction public education is going. For their efforts they were ridiculed by the administration. Standing up collectively and voicing their concerns was in fact one of the greatest lessons they could teach.
Like Long, Jindal politicos say the Louisiana Constitution is what they say it is. In their through-the-looking-glass world, public funds are for private schools; retirement contributions go up for university teachers and state employees, but not for legislators or governors. And in this Bizarro World, 67 is a good age for retirement, regardless of how many years one has worked or what contract was given upon employment.
There are similarities between Jindal and Long, but there is a stark contrast. Long gave them bread and circuses. Jindal is more of a “Let them eat cake” kind of guy.
One can envision in a decade or so a youthful upstart in a Brooks Brothers suit, standing under the Evangeline Oak asking a frenzied crowd, “Where are the schools? Where are the hospitals?”
Davy Brooks is a history teacher living in Hammond, Louisiana.
Reprinted with permission.
Blogger Dayne Sherman lives in Ponchatoula and is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website at daynesherman.com.