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Friday, February 26th, 2016

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


When it comes to exceptional creative talent in America, Louisiana seems to always come out on top. I thought of the state’s remarkable musical virtuosos this week on the third anniversary of the death of concert pianist Van Cliburn, arguably one of the world’s greatest musical talents. He was a Louisiana native from Shreveport. And he leads a long list of Bayou State musical talent that is unrivaled anywhere else in the nation.

Even Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev acknowledged the genius of Louisiana musicians when Cliburn went to Moscow at the height of the Cold War to win the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition. Russian judges were leery of awarding the prize to a non-Soviet musician. But Khrushchev said that he was the best. “Give him the prize.” Khrushchev always had a love of jazz and Louie Armstrong, another Louisiana native.

There are any number of stories that acknowledge the special talents of creative Louisianans. In the music world, Fats Domino was recently honored as the founder of rock and roll. Gov. Jimmy Davis’s megahit, “You Are My Sunshine,” has been called the single most recognized song worldwide. Jerry Lee Lewis, one of my first legal clients in Ferriday, is still going strong at 80. Harry Connick, Jr. and Tim McGraw are both out on national tours. The list goes on and on.

Nationally recognized artists from Louisiana exhibit worldwide, led by recently deceased Blue Dog artist George Rodrigue. Don Cincone is an African American artist from Monroe few here at home have heard of. But his paintings sell in Paris on the Champs Élysées for $50,000.

As a publisher myself, I am amazed at the number of current first rate writers all over Louisiana who follow the paths of Faulkner, Sherwood Anderson, Tennessee Williams and a host of other authors who penned world famous books from the Bayou State. Bookstores worldwide currently carry volumes by James Lee Burke, Anne Rice, Kate Chopin, and Ernest Gaines, to name just a few.

Sports? Where to begin? Louisiana, year in and year out produces more NFL football players than any other state. The Manning brothers each have won two Super Bowl rings. Major league baseball is loaded with Louisiana talent, as are numerous other sports franchises.

Did you read where a small research facility in Livingston Parish has discovered gravitational waves that confirm Einstein’s theory of relativity? Pretty heavy stuff for some Louisiana scientists. You get my drift. There is a lot of really outstanding talent doing extraordinary things down here in the deepest of the deep southern states.

But something is amiss when it comes to our politics. We recently had a Rhodes scholar leading the state as Governor. Our congressional delegation is made up of a Rhodes scholar and numerous doctors. There are highly educated leaders galore in the state legislature and running state agencies. Yet the fragmented state budget has become a conduit for a mismanaged and bungled bureaucracy that inadequately performs even basic services. And Louisiana government is broke. Not just broke but dead broke. More than a two billion dollar financial sinkhole that can only be filled by massive tax increases and drastic spending cuts.

There is no accountability. No one is held responsible for the financial malpractice. You would assume that there would be an enormous public outcry. But malfeasance in office gets a “ho hum” response. Yes, those that are directly affected will protest. But I wonder? Has Louisiana lost its indignation? Has the general populace become so exasperated and disappointed in those who serve that they just assume the worst? Has any anger and outrage over continuing mismanagement been replaced with a sense of despair? That nothing will really change?

Over half the current Louisiana legislature was re-elected without opposition. So voters are either in concurrence with the present fiscal crisis and lack of legislative oversight, or they have concluded that nothing really will change. It’s just the Louisiana way.

Anthropologist Jane Goodall writes that the greatest danger to our future is apathy. Plato wrote, “The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” Have Louisiana voters had enough? Apparently, not nearly enough.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

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.jimbrownla.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownla.com.

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