The Ragin’ Cajun recently appeared on ESPN’s GameDay, prior to the Alabama/LSU football game. His shirt reads, “Greg Sankey [hearts] Alabama. ‘Bec mon tchu, sil vous plait.'” Greg Sankey is the Commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, which is headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama. “Bec mon tchu, sil vous plait” is Cajun French for “Kiss my ass, please.”
Last week, I asked Lamar White, Jr. of the Bayou Brief to speak to my students at LSU. It was our first class since the midterm elections, but there were still a few races that hadn’t been called and one runoff contest for a seat in the Senate in Mississippi that had seemed like a foregone conclusion for the Republican candidate, the interim Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.
Then, Lamar published a couple of videos of Hyde-Smith that flipped the script and changed President Trump’s travel schedule.
I met Lamar a few years ago, and since then, we’ve become friends, not just because we are both Democrats but because we both share the same faith, as true believers in the state of Louisiana.
Last November, we drove up to his hometown of Alexandria; he asked me to speak to their local, majority conservative rotary club about building a tribute to Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, who served as the founding president of what is now Louisiana State University, which was initially located across the Red River in Pineville. At the time, most people in Louisiana were debating about whether to remove tributes to Confederate leaders; I was proposing building a new one, to a Union leader.
Lamar thought I could make my case to Republicans in Central Louisiana.
In late August of this year, thanks in large part to the efforts of attorney Mike Tudor, a state historical marker in Pineville for Gen. Sherman was officially approved and will be unveiled in February.
When I introduced Lamar to my class last week, I told students the he was a “muckraker.” I meant it as a compliment.
In Louisiana, now more than ever, we need muckrakers, journalists and activists who are willing and able to speak truth to power, to shine a bright light on political and corporate corruption and on the existential environmental crisis that threatens our basic survival as a people.
As I’ve said before, during the eight years of Bobby Jindal’s administration, our state’s most powerful person was Grover Norquist. I called him the “human equivalent of pond scum.” I meant it as an insult, with apologies to pond scum.
Here in Louisiana, we know the dangers of pond scum, which can literally ruin an entire crawfish season. But the metaphor of pond scum is much more pernicious.
We need the Bayou Brief, the nonprofit publication Lamar launched last year, and his colleague Sue Lincoln, whose reporting on environmental disasters in DeSoto and Plaquemines parishes helped expose a potential catastrophe and ensured that negligent companies couldn’t just evade their responsibilities by rigging the system.
Recently Norquist, the pond scum, announced on Twitter that he was leaving Louisiana, even though he never actually lived here. But it will still take decades to clean up the mess he left behind, to rake out the muck.
That is what Lamar and his colleagues at the Bayou Brief are doing. It’s a publication, yes, but it’s also a political and cultural disaster relief initiative.
They need your help, and we need their truth-telling.
– James Carville
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