Been there, done that. US News & World Report ranked the states this week and, predictably, Louisiana came in dead last. Evidently Mississippi, perennially 50th to our 49th in most rankings of health, wellness, opportunity and education, has stepped up its game. The magazine used a number of “metrics” such as educational and uninsured rates, median household income, housing affordability and incarceration rates to arrive at its ranking. Well, if you’re gonna be technical about it!
But Ken Wells, a native of Bayou Black who currently lives in Chicago and is a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal and author of several fine novels set on the bayous of South Louisiana, is having none of it. In “Loving Louisiana,” an op-ed response he penned that appeared at US News & World Report’s website, Wells argues that Louisiana is so much more than metrics:
Louisiana, in my view, remains one of the truly last unselfconscious places in America. By that I mean its denizens include a goodly number of folk of strong beliefs and fun-loving inclinations who express and comport themselves in ways unaffected by the homogenizing influences that our media-saturated culture imposes on nominally more sophisticated climes.
...One point often overlooked is that we are simply not typically American. South Louisiana in particular really is the last redoubt of Southern Europe in the U.S. No Pilgrims and Puritans settled here (even if we could’ve used a few.) We fought the Battle of New Orleans not just to preserve our independence from Britain but to keep the British from imposing New England boiled dinners on us. We evolved as a gumbo of peoples, descending principally from the French, French-Acadians – or Cajuns – Africans, Afro-Caribbeans and Spanish, with a dash of Italians thrown in. Later came the Germans, Irish and les Americains, but by that time our laissez-les-bon-temps-rouler attitude had been firmly established.
Read it here.
We won’t bother giving you the link to U.S. News & World Report’s stupid rankings; you’ll have to turn to Google for that.