Yesterday, you may have seen a post with the video state Sen. Beth Mizell put out noting that if Louisiana’s Democrat governor and its Democrat state party chair insist on killing bills that would preserve monuments to the state’s history that are currently out of fashion, their efforts might bear bitter fruit at some point. Namely, that at some point the state’s conservatives and Republicans might decide to do some statue removal of their own, starting with the statue of Huey Long which stares down the state capitol in somewhat threatening fashion from across the grounds.
Mizell’s point is a good one. We either embrace all of our history, warts included, or we embrace none of it and suffer the consequences of a loss of heritage and the inability to learn from that which we do not know.
I’d be on board with that lesson if I was in a more charitable mood. The problem is that while she would be correct as a matter of reason, this isn’t a time of reason.
Reason wouldn’t dictate wasting a million dollars in taxpayer funds to scar New Orleans’ landscape with ruined monument pedestals while the city is in so much chaos that thieves can shut down power to the Central Business District by stealing a copper grounding rod from a power substation serving the downtown area.
Reason wouldn’t dictate flaunting the state Senate’s rules repeatedly by steering bills by Mizell and Rep. Thomas Carmody to protect historical monuments away from the Senate Education Committee, where those rules clearly dictate they belong, to the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, where they do not. It’s not reason which governs those decisions, it’s cheap political expediency. Senate President John Alario is an unreconstructed Democrat hack who put an “R” next to his name to make himself more palatable to the voters and to his peers, the majority of whom are also Republicans, and as such Alario is a slave to the desires of Democrat governor John Bel Edwards. Edwards wants those bills killed before he has to veto them and be directly responsible for their failure to become law, something polls consistently show two out of three Louisianans want, so he has Alario kill them by feeding them to the atrocious Karen Carter Peterson and her committee.
Not long ago, Stephen Waguespack wrote a column in which he talked about all the finger-pointing going on at the Capitol, and that maybe those fingers ought to be pointing at Long’s statue since most of the deficiencies in the structure and vision of Louisiana’s governmental system stem from Long’s misrule. Waguespack told me that he’d reworked the column from its original format – originally, his hook was that if we want to destroy monuments it ought to be Long’s statue which gets the ax. But he stopped and started over, because as he said destroying our heritage is not what we want.
I agree with Waguespack’s sentiment, and I agree with Mizell’s. Nevertheless, deep down I want that statue not just taken down but blown up. If they’re looking for a use for all those explosives at Camp Minden, let’s bring them down to Baton Rouge, pile them up around Huey and drop the plunger.
Like Mitch Landrieu, who fancies himself our next president, once stupidly said, we can have a big party around Huey’s fireworks show just like Mitch wanted when he took Robert E. Lee down. We can celebrate our long-overdue decision to stop thinking of state government as the panacea to all the wants and needs of the people. We can stop trying to punish achievement in business by having an uncompetitive tax code that by necessity we’ve had to shoot holes through in order to keep it from driving all our jobs and capital to Texas. We can once and for all put our foot down on the endless, blatant corruption infecting every level of government in this state. We can put an end to the never-ending Otherization of people not on a given political team that Long injected into our bloodstream in such a sinister fashion.
That’s what getting rid of Long’s statue would do for us. It would be a symbolic curing of a disease metastasizing for more than 80 years, without which I’m not sure the actual cure could follow. Symbols matter, after all. I know this because Mitch Landrieu told me so, when he said monuments are murder.
Getting rid of Long’s statue would be an unmistakable example to this state’s Democrats that there are consequences to vandalizing our cultural heritage. Mizell offered that warning, and I applaud her for doing so. But these people don’t listen to warnings; if they did, they wouldn’t be such monumental failures at governance. What they might understand is concrete action, in their faces. They need to be made to face consequences, because their entire governing philosophy, which has led us to so much failure over the past century, is based on the conceit that there ought not be consequences to stupid or evil behavior.
They need to be told. “You had the opportunity to prevent this, and you chose not to. So now, you get to see what happens when we give you a dose of your medicine.”
That statue doesn’t have to be exploded, or dropped into the Mississippi. It can be put on a truck and sent home to Winnfield from whence its subject came. Ditto for the other Huey Long statue which sits in Statuary Hall in Washington, where it represents our state as one of two figures to be celebrated for contributions to history (E.D. White is the other).
Huey Long was a wannabe dictator, a demagogue along the lines of a Hugo Chavez. He was a thug who put the city of New Orleans under martial law – not because of the criminal element there (in case some of you think of martial law in New Orleans as a damn fine idea in the abstract), but because the local pols disagreed with him politically. He raped the state’s productive class and major employers, funneling the vast sums he stole from them to a network of greaseball hangers-on he surrounded himself with. He demanded kickbacks from state employees out of their salaries, using those monies to fuel his political machine.
Huey Long was a monster. There is nothing negative that could be said about P.G.T. Beauregard or Robert E. Lee that wouldn’t apply far more to Long, and unlike the widely-respected Lee Long contained none of the social graces or gentlemanly charm Lee offered as an example to future generations. He was crass, classless, boorish and vindictive.
Huey Long should never have been celebrated. It’s a stain on Louisiana’s honor to honor him as he has been honored, and the price of our slavish adherence to that legacy is our pathetic showing in virtually every metric of public policy performance.
Prior to the campaign of vandalization in New Orleans opening this anti-historical Pandora’s Box, I would have wholeheartedly agreed with Sen. Mizell. Not anymore. I think someone should bring a bill at the next legislative session to get rid of that accursed statue, and keep bringing it until there’s a Republican governor willing to push it through and sign it.
And once that’s done we can work on getting a proper state flag, rather than the symbol of nanny-state socialism we’ve had foisted on us for far too long. That’s another post, and another fight, for another time.