The unhappy and public end to Jamie Bergeron’s long career with Acadian Ambulance in Lafayette does not obviate good works he accomplished in 30 years of emergency response as a paramedic. Not entirely.
Stories abound about his valuable work, in part because he was there to answer the imminent needs of local people who won’t likely forget the veteran first responder; he arrived in their times of personal crisis. If you save someone’s life, they remember you.
He’s also the frontman for Jamie Bergeron and the Kickin’ Cajuns, a popular Cajun band that plays a variety of venues including nightclubs and festivals in Acadiana and along the Gulf Coast. One Acadian Ambulance employee said that combination of popular entertainer and celebrated first responder made him the ambulance service’s best-known paramedic. Maybe so. Most legendary was the night in 2004 when he put down his accordion and left the stage at Tony’s Circle Top in Gueydan to save the life of a woman, 73; she’d passed out and her heart had stopped.
That all ended Tuesday when Acadian Cos. said it parted ways with Bergeron after scrutiny of his social media posts had created a local firestorm. Bergeron says he was “targeted” by a local group but the social media content made him an easy mark. That’s on him.
Company higher-ups over the last week reviewed Bergeron’s personal Instagram account, which featured memes about driving into protesters in the roadway — “All Lives Splatter,” it was entitled — and included a photo of a shopper clad in a Klansman’s hood, perhaps in lieu of a mask during COVID-19. Friends defended him as pure of heart — a natural kidder, they suggest, and irreverent humor is part of his stage act — and Bergeron himself is now posting a video by way of explanation.
“For those of you who found this to be a racial thing…”, he says on video, “You really don’t know me.” Maybe not. But would strangers want to, given the nature of his posts? That’s something Acadian Cos. had to consider. They’d issued cautions to employees to be careful with their social media posts — two in the previous three weeks. Bergeron’s meme selections were on the same account with pictures of him in Acadian uniform, an uncomfortable juxtaposition for Acadian.
His one-way communication on Facebook appears to be mostly self-serving. Memes he posted — they were someone else’s, he says — were nonetheless his responsibility. He has his supporters — they deride his critics as the “thought police” — but it’s hard to find the humor in posts about driving a vehicle into people. That’s a bad look for a paramedic.
On his video, he says we all have different senses of humor. On that much, we can agree.