Friday, October 17, 2014

Louisiana Lit: Dave Robicheaux and The Beautiful Whore Called Louisiana

Dave Robicheaux sees Louisiana as a woman who is ravishing and who is also a whore. Dave and I don't always see eye to eye on the subject of women, but that's a conversation for a different day.

Who is Dave Robicheaux? 

He's the protagonist in 20 books written by James Lee Burke, a New Iberia, Louisiana, writer.

Dave is a homicide detective in New Iberia, Louisiana. Cajun. Recovering alcoholic. Vietnam war veteran. A man who marries. A father.

You can read more about Dave here. And what he thinks about north Louisianans here. And alcohol here. And some music here. On human exploitation here. On Angola here. On Louisiana's shadow self here. And on police violence and our complicity in same here. (My selections might give the impression that Dave Robicheaux (channeling James Lee  Burke) is a real downer about South Louisiana. Of course, Dave Robicheaux is a homicide detective, so that has an effect on the topics he talks about, but even so, Dave's love of Louisiana, the people, and culture do shine through.)

My definition of a whore

A whore is anyone - man or woman - who debases himself, another human being, or his habitat for money or power that goes beyond his needs.

How Dave views Louisiana as a whore

 ... the irony of falling in love with my home state, the Great Whore of Babylon. You did not rise easily from the caress of her thighs, and when you did, you had to accept the fact that others had used her, too, and poisoned her womb and left a fibrous black tuber grown inside her. (Creole Belle, 2012)

How about oil? Its extraction and production in Louisiana had set us free from economic bondage to the agricultural oligarchy that had ruled the state from antebellum days well into the mid-twentieth century. But we discovered that our new corporate liege lord had a few warts on his face, too. Like the Great Whore of Babylon, Louisiana was always desirable for her beauty and not her virtue, and when her new corporate suitor plunged into things, he left his mark. (The Glass Rainbow, 2010) 
In the  state of Louisiana, systemic venality is a given. The state's culture, mind-set, religious attitudes, and economics are no different from those of a Caribbean nation. The person who believes he can rise to a position of wealth and power in the state of Louisiana and not do business with the devil probably knows nothing about the devil and even less about Louisiana. (Crusader's Cross, 2005) 

In Louisiana, which has the highest rate of illiteracy in the union and the highest percentage of children born to single mothers, few people worry about the downside of casinos, drive-through daiquiri windows, tobacco depots, and environmental degradation washing away the southern rim of the state.
Oil and natural gas, for good or bad, comprise our lifeblood. When I was a boy, my home state, in terms of its environment, was an Edenic paraidise. It's not one any longer, no matter what you are told. When a group of lawyers at Tulane University tried to file a class action suit on behalf of the black residents whose rural slums were used as dumping grounds for petrochemical waste, the governor, on television, threatened to have the lawyers' tax status investigated. The same governor was an advocate for the construction of a giant industrial waste incinerator in Morgan City. His approval ratings remained at record highs for the entirety of his administration.  ..... Last spring, when the wind was out of the south, I could stand in our front yard and smell oil. It was pouring in black columns, like curds of smoke, from a blown casing five thousand feet below the Gulf's surface.  (Creole Belle, 2012)

To add to the above excerpt (related to the 1980s), a quote from Oliver A. Houck in his article, Save Ourselves: The Environmental Case that Changed Louisiana, published in the Louisiana Law Review, Winter 2012:

"Louisiana corporations, led by the oil, gas, and chemical industry, continue to perceive environmental policy as a nuisance, and Louisiana agencies continue to see these agencies as their clients. Neighborhood and environmental groups are still “others” in the equation. We are still Louisiana."

In 2010, from the article Kneecapping Academic Freedom, published by the American Association of University Professors in its November-December 2010 journal:
... the Louisiana Chemical Association (LCA) pushed for legislation, ... that would forfeit all state funds going to any university, public or private, whose clinics brought or defended a lawsuit against a government agency, represented anyone seeking monetary damages, or raised state constitutional claims. The bill also would have made clinic courses at the state’s four law schools subject to oversight by legislative commerce committees. The LCA sought the legislation after a Tulane University clinic filed a lawsuit that would have required LCA members to pay millions of dollars in fines for violating air pollution laws. The bill was part of a leaked LCA strategy to force Tulane to drop its environmental law clinic. The strategy included ... getting the governor and congressional delegation to pressure Tulane to close its clinic. ... Legislators debated the bill while oil was gushing in the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s oil rig, and the bill was defeated in committee, although its supporters were unrepentant in defeat and threatened to return with a revised bill that would more narrowly focus on Tulane. [Emphasis added.]

In case you didn't check out the link about that governor and the Tulane lawyers and the Morgan City incinerator? That was four-time Louisiana governor, Edwin Edwards. Who served time in federal prison for corruption. And who is now running for Congress.

Current governor, Bobby Jindal, was in office for the 2010 assault against the Tulane Law Clinic.

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