Sunday, July 06, 2008

Jessie Helms: Gone But Not Forgiven

Jesse Helms died on the Fourth of July. I'm sure he was a good husband, father, and grandfather, and it's a damn shame for them that he was elected Senator instead of World's Greatest Grandpa, because instead he was allowed to do awful, awful things to freedom by scaring the holy hell out of a slim majority of my neighbors in North Carolina (never more than 54.5%, ever...not exactly a mandate, definitely never a landslide). In that respect, you could say he was a partial template of George W. Bush's America, except that in Senate races, the Helms style of scarifying has been going on for the history of the body.

And yes, he changed his mind about AIDS...eventually, when he felt the reaper's breath on his shoulder. That probably means something, but doing the right thing in the first place would've been so much better. Whether he ever changed his mind about Martin Luther King and the National Endowment for the Arts is something nobody ever bothered to ask. Considering he made an assheaded attempt in the 90s to make Carol Mosley-Braun cry by singing "Dixie" over and over, I have reasonable doubts that his racial opinions didn't mellow in his old age.

But hey, this is a wake, not an arms race! We should remember the good times...and if you were a liberal during the Helms years, "the good times" include wrapping the man's house in a giant condom.

Big ol' house condom for Jesse HelmsOf course, if you dig deeply enough into these acts of civil disobedience, you'll eventually run across some spiteful things, like the time Larry Flynt published Helms' home phone number in Hustler as a phone sex line. Gotta take the sour with the sweet, and I suppose that's the big lesson here. It took decades of Jesse Helms' vicious snarl to appreciate the relatively sane approach of someone like Liz Dole. When she took his seat, the silence was profound.

If you were expecting something a bit more nasty and vindictive, this is probably what you were looking for. And maybe this, too.

No comments: