…you can decide for yourself if you think he’s been mistreated by outlets like this one.
Essentially, what he’s doing is pointing out what he sees as a problem, which is local law enforcement and state pencil-pushers at DWF will try to stop private citizens in boats from rescuing people amid a flood.
Before we launch into our take on this, we want to show you a segment WWL-TV did earlier today. Meg Farris, one of the best reporters this state has, contacted me this morning about Kevin Boyd’s initial post on the Cajun Navy and Perry’s idea essentially to regulate it and asked if I’d do an interview. I said yes, and then I hooked Meg up with Dustin Clouatre, a friend who’s in the Cajun Navy and rescued some 140 people during the flooding in his little skiff. It’s Dustin in the picture above holding that Love Is All You Need sign, which he found in the floodwaters somewhere in Ascension Parish, and that pic pretty much sums up the entire event as far as I’m concerned.
Here’s the video of that segment…
As you can see, Dustin doesn’t have a whole lot of interest in someone making him take a certification course – nor did he run into any kind of major opposition by law enforcement from rescuing those 140 people. What he told Meg, and it didn’t make the report, was that the fact the rescue effort was basically an unorganized mess was actually a great thing; if it was an organized, systematic effort you probably wouldn’t have had quite so many opportunities for folks to get on a boat after initially figuring they’d ride out the flood. He said on several occasions his was the fourth or fifth boat that went by before rescuees finally came around to the idea that it was time to bug out of those rising waters.
And whatever government touches in this regard, government will screw up. When you start to pass laws governing the Cajun Navy, even if your intentions are to make it easier for the Cajun Navy to operate, it is more or less guaranteed you will get fewer Cajun Navy people showing up to rescue flood victims. They’re not going to be interested in paying $25 to get a boat rescue certification, or going through the time to take some course, or have continuing education for another $25 fee, or any of that.
And the problem he says he’s attempting to solve is plenty easy enough that it doesn’t require the state legislature’s involvement. If you have a local sheriff who is enough of a control freak that he’s going to try to keep the Cajun Navy from saving people on rooftops, then that sheriff is now responsible for every single life lost in that flood – because in every case of a fatality, there will be people blaming that sheriff for not letting the boatman who could have saved the dead guy in there to save him.
Guess what happens to that sheriff? We’ll lay eight to five he gets blown out at the next election.
And if the game wardens from the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries start trying to stop people from going in, the head of DWF will very shortly find himself politically toxic. We don’t know of any reason in the current case that Charlie Melancon is guilty of what Perry is talking about, but as a semi-hypothetical should this happen again and Melancon’s game wardens start arresting rescuers or blocking them from going in and someone were to die awaiting rescue, it doesn’t take an enormous leap of political faith to imagine how badly the public will react to the washed-up congressman who got blown out statewide in his last election actively preventing Louisianans from rescuing their neighbors.
Perry might be able to point to isolated incidents proving his cause. They’re isolated. They weren’t the norm, and the practical reality going forward is they won’t be the norm.
It’s too bad if keyboard warriors on message boards and or social media are saying mean things about Perry and his family. We’re not making the case that he doesn’t mean well. But the fact is very obvious – this is a colossally awful idea, and it badly misses the mark.
If Perry really wants to promote the Cajun Navy and increase its access to disaster areas, there’s a good answer here which doesn’t involve state law at all. What we need isn’t legislation but rather a festival. If you want to keep the bureaucrats and the law enforcement control freaks from interfering with, as Dustin put it, people helping people, then let’s make the Cajun Navy a cultural phenomenon and let’s have an annual celebration of their heroism over a weekend in the middle of August every year. Let’s have it at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center or someplace similar, let’s have Bass Pro or Cabela’s bid to be the corporate sponsor of it, let’s have boat rescue safety courses or a seminar as part of the program along with chanky-chank music and jambalaya and beer and baby alligators or whatever else you want and let’s have the Cajun Navy get recognized annually as embodying our tradition of great citizenship and voluntarism.
And then let’s have some Barney Fife idiot of a local sheriff or some clipboard-holding dweeb from a state agency try to stop the Cajun Navy from doing its thing, and we’ll see what happens.
Just once it would be nice to see a state legislator refrain from legislating things which don’t require legislation. But it’s like a disease with these people, and Perry has an advanced case.