Lessons from The Cajun Navy on Community

Written by Justin Bradley

In response to Hurricanes Katrina in 2005 and Harvey in 2017 the “Cajun Navy” sailed to help others in need. During the days and few weeks that followed the devastation, these “sailors” demonstrated to the world that Americans will come to the aid of one another for no other reason than it is the right thing to do. People came from hundreds of miles away with flat bottom boats to assist those in need. These people put aside whatever differences they may have had with each other. Differences such as political party, color, sex, religion, and socioeconomic status to name a few did not matter.


What mattered was the community, the people, even those from hundreds of miles away came to the aid of another community in need. Their actions go straight to the heart of Daniel Kemmis’s Barn Raising, where he highlights the issue of people putting aside their differences for the good of the community. “Lilly and Albert didn’t like each other much better at the end of the barn raising than at the beginning. But that day, and many others like it, taught them something important. They learned, whether they liked it or not, a certain tolerance for another slant on the world, another way of going at things that needed doing. They found in themselves an unsuspected capacity to accept one another. This acceptance, I believe, broadened them beyond the boundaries of their own likes and dislikes and made these personal idiosyncrasies seem less important” (pg. 121). It is in this tolerance of one another and community coming together for the greater good that Kempis writes about that the Cajun Navy demonstrates.

In 2013 and 2018 our Congress failed to put aside their political party affiliate and grasp for power which resulted in a government shutdown. The 2013 shutdown lasted for 16 days in which roughly 800,000 government employees were put on work furloughs, while others still worked without knowing when they would be paid. The 2018 shutdown lasted for only 3 days due to an extension being reached to extend the government for a few more weeks to allow Congress to work on a budget. Time and time again we have seen gridlock and members of Congress inability to work together even for simple resolutions such as a budget extension. Members of Congress in 2013 only had to look back five years at the ability of American citizens to come together for the greater good because it is being is expected. Members of Congress only had to look back a few months and yet they still can’t agree on anything. Today Congress seems to be more fixed on stalling the other party from accomplishing anything of importance. Trust has eroded in dealing with each other from different political parties, as well as doing what is best for the community (the Country as whole in this case). Instead far too many politicians are concerned about their districts or state. For inspiration on working together and the importance of it Congress need to read Barn Raising and look to the members of the Cajun Navy. As Kemmis wrote “And because Albert and Lilly and the rest of our neighbors were able to count on one another, they experienced the satisfaction of accomplishing a big, tough job by working together” (pg. 121). Plain and simple Congress needs to put aside their differences and work together to get the tough jobs done.

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3 Responses to Lessons from The Cajun Navy on Community

  1. Anonymous Student says:

    Reading your post I realized that political parties are not created to come together and agree on something. The nature of political parties is to disagree with each other. That’s how they are formed, a group of people has an idea of how things should be done about different issues concerning government and then another group disagrees with the first one and forms a different one with different ways to get to a specific goal or just a different goal. Each one believes to have the answer and antagonizes the other one because they do not get it. Unfortunately, this divergence leads to insecurities and unnecessary complications that ultimately hurt the people who need their issues resolved. The US Congress struggles to get to a resolution more often than not and the problem seems to get worse as the years pass because of the increasing amount of polarizing issues. Today Congress gets things done not because they share a common goal but because the disagreeing parties reach to compromises. An example of that is the DACA bill which groups together many issues in a single bill.

  2. Anonymous Student says:

    I think you and I had a very similar mindset about the government’s stalemates recently. I also used an example about the Cajun Navy because I felt like they were a perfect example of what it really means to be an American in these times. When worst really came to worst, Americans put aside their physical and political differences and aided their fellow man. I feel that if our representatives could have any bit of that true American spirit then we would be a country better off for it.

  3. Anonymous Student says:

    I really enjoyed your uplifting post on the American spirit and what it actually means to be an American. I also wrote on the inability of congress and politicians to come together on much of anything these days. Bi-partisan agreement seems as if it was something long long ago. It is still great to know that no matter what, as Americans, we come together when we need each other and even though we go through dark times, good always prevails.

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