Sometimes here in South Louisiana we consider ourselves as something apart from modern-day America. We think we have more of a Caribbean feel, and we’re proud of our ties to France and Canada and to Mediterranean nations like Spain and Italy.
Our old buildings, the ones the developers haven’t torn down yet, are emanations from a different time and place.
But sometimes we find ourselves in what feels like another period that we’d really prefer not to be in.
Within a matter of days last week, a deadly brain-eating amoeba was discovered in the drinking water of St. Bernard Parish, and New Orleans residents found themselves under a boil-water advisory after a purification plant suffered electrical problems. Again.
Bacteria-free water is a hallmark of modern civilization, but two adjoining parishes last week couldn’t assure their citizens of even that. We might have a reverence for the olden days here, but definitely not for those days when a drink of water was a gamble.
And then there was Lafayette.
The theater shooting that left two dead was a brute-force regression into a kind of hate that a civilized nation should have outgrown a long time ago.
Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Charleston, Chattanooga and now, Lafayette. Very little changes after each incident, except that maybe our ability to be shocked is reduced with every new recurrence.
There was, however, one potentially big change of heart as a result of the Lafayette shooting. Gov. Bobby Jindal called for strengthening gun laws at the state level — not in his own state, but in others.
This may simply be a case of volleying the ball into another governor’s court while holding his own state blameless, but it still marks a change. It would be as if Jindal, who unashamedly contorted himself earlier this year to conform to Grover Norquist’s no-tax-increase position, were to call on other states to raise their taxes.
Gun rights advocates in recent years have been successful in loosening, not tightening, gun regulations, even after Sandy Hook. So Jindal’s call for strengthening gun laws seems to be a big turn.
Just three weeks earlier, he had tweeted out a photo of himself caressing a weapon at an Iowa gun shop with the caption, “My kind of campaign stop; Capital Armament in Sibley.”
But the recent tragic shootings have resulted in a lot of surprising turns. The Charleston incident was enough to make South Carolina Republicans, even the son of arch-segregationist Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond, reconsider the Confederate flag flying in front of their statehouse.
Maybe Jindal had a similar conversion.
But while he was calling for stronger gun laws, others have trumpeted the idea that the more guns we have in the hands of law-abiding citizens, the fewer mass shootings there will be because the imagined “good guy with a gun” will stop the fully loaded bad guy.
Of course, that’s if the good guy is faster on the trigger or has a better aim. Meanwhile, more guns in the hands of more people could lead to more shooting accidents, since even good guys make mistakes.
Writer Robert A. Heinlein’s quote that “an armed society is a polite society” is popular now among those who want more, not fewer, people walking around with weapons.
That’s a strange definition of “polite” — heavily armed citizens, suspiciously eyeing each other for the first hint of an evil intent.
Who knows if this reversion to the olden days of the wild, wild West will work or not? Maybe it will.
But let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that this is in any way polite.
Dennis Persica’s email address is email@example.com.