Thursday, September 10, 2009
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
HEY, LAY OFF BOBBY JINDAL AND THE PRESIDENT!
Remember old Capt. D.C. Boycott? Sure you do. He was the notorious Irish landlord who cut the wages of his tenant farmers and got ostracized. Since then, we regularly hear of someone proposing a “boycott.” And that’s what both the Obama critics and the Jindal belittlers are suggesting the opponents of both do this week. Obama speaking to school kids and Jindal visiting in church apparently, according to naysayers of each, will lead to some dark, obscure political agenda.
Turn off the TVs in schools and boycott the President’s talk say the right wing hysterics. And a Monroe, Louisiana Christian coalition is urging church members to stay away from Jindal’s “obviously political” trips for Sunday worship. Our kids will be indoctrinated by Obama’s magnetic pull to socialism, and Jindal will continue to use the Good Lord to further his hold on the Christian right. So do you agree? I don’t. Both sides need to lighten up.
First, the President’s “invasion” into the hearts and minds of our nation’s school children. Who even came up with this idea? Right wing Republicans are going bonkers over the thought of the President having the audacity to invade our classrooms.
Here, the words of Florida Republican Party chairman Jim Greer just a few days ago: “The idea that school children across our nation will be forced to watch the president justify his plans for government-run healthcare, banks and automobile companies, increasing taxes on those who create jobs, and racking up more debt than any other president, is not only infuriating but goes against the beliefs of the majority of Americans, while bypassing American parents through an invasive abuse of power.” I had no idea our kids could absorb all that.
So did you hear the speech? Pretty innocuous with little more than a review of the basics. Study hard, do your homework, stay in school and strive to be the best you can be. The kind of speech one would expect any president to give, Republican or Democrat. And here’s the caveat: Many presidents have addressed the nations school age kids, the last being George Bush who specifically spoke to students about drug abuse.
Last week, former First Lady Laura Bush endorsed the Obama efforts to speak to the nation’s schools. “I think there is a place for the president of the United States to talk to school children and encourage school children,” she said.” It was hard to deduce from Obama’s comments that he was attempting to encourage the subversion of the republic through good grades.
Across the political spectrum we also have under the gun Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who has dissolved all legal boundaries between church and state by traveling each Sunday by state helicopter to visit various churches, primarily in the northern part of the Bayou State. The converted catholic governor has been receiving criticism in local and national press for intertwining public funds for travel and protection to both worship and speak at religious services. But is he setting a new precedent for Louisiana governors? Hardly!
In my 28 years of public life, I personally spent many a Sunday, and other days of the week, tagging along on state aircraft with most of the living governors, as we were invited to participate in religious services and pageants. Public appearances in all venues, especially churches, have been considered both a political necessity and part of the job for decades. Governor Davis not only showed up, but climbed to the pulpit to lead the singing. So did Gov. John McKeithen. I was along with them on a number of occasions as a young state senator. Edwin Edwards was a youth minister at the early age of 14 in the Church of the Nazarene, and because of his longevity in office, spoke to hundreds of churches during his public life.
The most dramatic and moving service I ever attended as a public official was on Easter Sunday in 1998 during my third term as Commissioner of Insurance. I was invited to come as a guest to the Church of the Pentecostals in Alexandria by Pastor Anthony Mangun who I had known for over 40 years. He and his dad were influential ministers in the southern Pentecostal movement. Rev. Mangun’s wife, Mickey, has sung at every inauguration of a new Louisiana governor as far back as I can remember. Mickey’s father also heads up the state Pentecostal- movement in Arkansas, and the whole Mangun family has been close friend of President Bill Clinton for a number of years.
I went up to Alexandria to witness a performance of the Messiah, an annual performance by the church, and one of the most dramatic musical events I have ever seen. It rivaled any Broadway production with a cast to some 200, with numerous animals on stage, unbelievable lighting and angels that soared 30 feet in the air. Just as the performance began, there was a flurry of activity at the back door and President Bill Clinton, unannounced, walked into the church. He had been speaking in New Orleans, and with only a small staff in tow, had diverted his plane to Alexandria.
Following the service, the President joined Reverend Mangun on the stage. They prayed together, and talked about their longtime friendship. Then the President spoke. The Lewinsky scandal involving the president was just a few weeks old, and Clinton was quite candid. He openly expressed pain and regret for the hurt he had brought to is family and the country. He talked about his religious convictions and how he had turned to Reverend Mangun and other close friends to help him through his crisis. Many in the church were openly crying as Bill Clinton talked for more than an hour.
A public official doing his job in asking for forgiveness? Or just good politics? No one questioned the propriety of the President coming in his official capacity at taxpayer expense to bear his soul. And maybe it was fitting that he did so in Louisiana where many others have done the same before him.
Presidents and Governors are at the call of the public 24 hours a day. They have options to pick and choose how to communicate on a variety of issues. President Obama did so this week in addressing students, an appropriate choice. Governor Bobby Jindal opts to communicate through Sunday worship services around the state. There is a check and balance on the propriety of the decisions they make. It takes place every four years. On Election Day.
“I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!”
-Rev. Jerry Falwell
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s weekly column appears in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the south. To read past columns going back to 2002, go to www.jimbrownla.com.