AG Jeff Landry made his final appeal to Louisiana’s voters on Oct. 12th in the campaign for governor (which he subsequently won on Oct. 14th). In short, it could be summed up as ‘Louisiana ought to be great.’ In his own words:
We fully supported Mr. Landry for governor, believing that he has the right mix of experience and temperament, the right view of State sovereignty vis-à-vis the federal government, etc., to bring some beneficial changes to Louisiana. However, his words in this last appeal of his leave us concerned, for we have seen nearly this same kind of campaign unfold amongst our cousins in France under Charles de Gaulle.
Now, General de Gaulle was an extraordinarily gifted leader. He nearly single-handedly kept the nation of France alive at times during WWII. After the end of the war, France lay prostrate, exhausted and dispirited. And again de Gaulle raised her up. He entered politics with the aim of making France a renowned country once again, politically stable, economically prosperous, and a prominent player in world politics. And he achieved a measure of success in those things – influential in Africa, rejecting complete subordination to NATO, protecting French interests in a European commonwealth – as well as giving France a new constitution that stabilized her political life and a reinvigorated economy.
But once de Gaulle retired from politics, most of his achievements unraveled quite rapidly. Socialism/Leftism became the dominant ideology in the succeeding decades, remaining so today, with all its caustic attendants – open borders, hatred of the native culture, an oppressively large government, etc.
When political leaders fail to raise the eyes of their peoples above the horizon of the earth, they doom them to precisely the kind of materialistic nihilism that France has fallen into. Politics is not an end in itself. Politics, like everything else, is a waysign, pointing us to the ultimate reality, to God. When we turn our eyes from Him, exchanging the infinite, uncreated God for some limited, created thing as the ultimate good, we bring trouble upon ourselves.
Gen. de Gaulle had a wonderful opportunity, given his many talents, to rouse his people to true greatness, that is, to Christian holiness. But he failed to do so, and France has suffered much because of his failure. AG Landry, if he is not careful, is poised to repeat the mistake of de Gaulle. His final appeal is bereft of any mention of God, Christ, Church, etc.; it is concerned only with a worldly kind of greatness. But worldly greatness satisfies people for only a short time; then the spiritual hunger for something deeper awakens, and if it does not find Christ, people will try to satisfy it in all kinds of ways, many of them harmful – cults, drugs, crime, alcohol, suicide, overeating, endless social media use, etc.
Louisiana is already experiencing many of these. Less crime, more economic opportunity, and better education will help to a degree, but not for long. Louisianans desperately need to be reacquainted with the exhilarating quest for holiness, and, once again, it is a French kinsman who provides a helpful illustration for us, St. Martin of Tours (+397 A.D.), the Patron Saint of France. Even a brief look at his life will show us the kinds of meaningful encounters that await those who seek after God sincerely and using the right means (prayer, fasting, the Divine Liturgy, etc.):
Worldly greatness is ephemeral. It quickly dissolves into nothingness. But holiness makes things immortal. Ten, twenty, fifty years from now, no one will care about our NFL stars and their statistics; no one will care about our GDP output. But generation after generation will continue to be in awe of the architecture of an abbey like Mont St. Michel off the coast of Normandy; they will continue to be drawn to the otherworldly beauty of illuminated manuscripts like the Lindisfarne Gospels; they will continue to seek consolation from the relics of the saints, which remain incorrupt and miracle-working because of the Grace of God that dwells within them.
St. John Maximovitch (+1966), a saint who touched most of the world in some way, a saint everyone should know at least a little bit about, shows us how holiness overturns the normal working of the laws of death and decay. His holy relics were uncovered in 1993 in San Francisco, 27 years after his blessed repose:
We are grateful to God for the Landry victory on the 14th. It is critical, however, for Mr. Landry, State legislators, school board members, and for all the rest of us here in Dixie – both those in government and those outside of it – to remember that unless a political vision and agenda are linked to a higher spiritual reality, it will all be for naught. Worldly glory and achievements fade and wither like the grass in August, but deeds done for love of God and neighbor, deeds infused with the holy Grace of God, last forever.
Or, to say it more plainly, a holy Dixie is an immortal Dixie.
Walt Garlington is a chemical engineer turned writer (and, when able, a planter). He makes his home in Louisiana and is editor of the 'Confiteri: A Southern Perspective' web site.