Thursday, July 10, 2008

Good Riddance, Jesse Helms

I am not from North Carolina, though I've lived here for over six years now and have no intention of leaving any time soon (only because Madison, WI is too freaking cold!). It is home, and I have a lovely, happy life here. When asked where I'm from, I always answer Virginia (with a qualifier that I live in North Carolina). It's where I grew up after all. And let's be honest, once a Virginian, always a Virginian. My friend Will gives me grief about not claiming NC as my home state. He wonders how long I must live here for North Carolina to qualify as my answer when the knitting chick next me to on a plane asks me where I'm from.

At this rate, never. I'm a bit miffed at my state right now. They just laid Jesse Helms to rest this week. Good riddance. Mac Daddy and I saw him at a local restaurant when we first moved here. When Mac Daddy saw him, he muttered under his breath, "I'd like to knock that walker out from under him." Apparently his mutter was more of a snort, so lots of people looked our way. Only a couple folks smiled sheepishly in agreement, expressing their solidarity more with their eyes than their words. Ripping on "Uncle Jesse," as our conservative neighbor calls him, was clearly against the rules in our new state.

I remember growing up in Virginia hearing about the racist vitriol that spewed from his lips. I remember my parents shaking their heads, thinking damn, I'm glad we don't live there. My nanny, a black woman with grown children and four grandchildren, has lived in North Carolina for decades and had to experience Helms' racism firsthand. A local newspaper columnist summed up what the Helms way would have meant to the black people of North Carolina. This is a man who was a vocal segregationist, openly discriminated against AIDS victims by opposing federal research and treatment dollars (PSHAW to his later regret...too little too late, my friend), and was opposed to instituting Martin Luther King Day. Social conservatism, ha! That's putting it mildly. This is a man who referred to our state's flagship university as the University of Negroes and Communists (UNC)!

Jesse Helms was a divisive man. His first bid for the Senate centered on a separationist philosophy: "He's one of us!" barked his slogan in response to his Greek-American opponent. Remember Ryan White? The kid who contracted AIDS at age 13 and subsequently died? Helms refused to speak to Ryan's mother when she went to the Hill to speak to representatives about AIDS research funding. Know what he said about the horrific disease? "There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy." Oh, it gets better. Know what he did to Carol Moseley-Braun in the elevator? He whistled Dixie. Yup, sure did.

You gagging yet?

Simply put, Jesse Helms was not a good man. I don't care how affable or gentlemanly you perceived him to be. A tip of the hat and a hidy-ho with an offer of a glass of sweet tea to passers by do not a gentleman make. Does a truly friendly, good natured man wish for the demise of an entire race? Good people do good deeds and inspire goodness. Helms fueled a racism and xenophobia so deep and hateful that it is still palpable today. Is this goodness? Are these the kinds of values you want your children to live by and pass on? I am sick that North Carolinians voted for this man for so long. I am sick that in death, North Carolina revered him.

No flag should have been flown at half staff if you ask me. Just because a man is dead doesn't mean it is time to celebrate his life. Grace does not befall the fallen if it was not due in life. Helms lived his life trying to suppress the rights of others; his was not a life lived by the decree of respect for all. So tell me, Governor Easley, why should we bestow respect on this man by flying flags at half staff? He was not worthy.

You can imagine my outrage at this.

I want Mr. Eason to run for office. If more people lived by their convictions as he did, we might be a better place. Sounds like the spirit of Paul Wellstone to me. Man, would he have been a refreshing jolt to the red blood running through the veins of North Carolina. Now let's think about something, police officers accidentally shoot and kill people and get a temporary desk job until the proverbial dust settles. Eason refused to lower the flag for Jesse Helms and is fired...oh, I mean forced into "retirement." Just or unjust?

Here's a comment from a local blog that a delusional Kristy left. It's almost laughable to me that people actually believe this crap. Last I recall from my history class days with Ms. Malone (and I majored in history in college), the nation was not knit together by God and the bible. Um, separation of church and state ring a bell, Kristy? Oh, you were probably homeschooled so you missed that chapter. I guess you don't know who Darwin and Martin Luther King Jr. are either. For starters, Kristy, your message would be more tolerable with some proper grammar and a comma or two. Punctuation simply can't be overlooked, my dear. If you're going to spew a load of crap, you might as well do it correctly.
  1. "What a great Senator Jesse Helms was. To have never lost a political race is quite an accomplishment. I hope those who have opposed him realize that those who voted him into office are walking along side you even now and are continuing to vote for the values Senator Helms upheld. Knowing this state put him into Senate for as long as they did is only one of the many reasons I am proud to be from North Carolina. If you saw him in a negative light I implore you to look beyond secondhand information and read first hand his voting record (which is public information for those of us who like to make up our own mind about things rather than having our opinions handed to us by a third party). He believed every person was created equal in the eyes of God and voted to protect each one of this states citizens, even those who hated him. As for moral issues, if you disagreed with Jesse Helms and oh so many other more conservative thinkers please don’t take it out on us because sadly we can’t take credit for the ideals we try to uphold but rather look to God and the Bible from which the nation was knitted together. That is definitely who your disagreement is with."

    By kristy on Jul 10, 2008

In the South it would be perfectly appropriate to recount Kristy's story and end with a, "Bless her heart." Translation: "That Kristy is an idiot who refuses to take off her blinders. What a shame we have to deal with her."
Good Riddance, Jesse HelmsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


Anonymous said...

Damn girl, my eyeballs are scorched from your prose! High praise! That was an excellent eulogy for a man whose infamy and influence lasted much longer than it should have.

Turn the page, indeed--he epitomizes the values we should be turning the page on.

Susan said...

I heard that story on NPR yesterday about the guy who got fired for not lowering the flags, and couldn't believe it! What century is this, anyway? Sometimes I'm astounded by how much racism persists in this day and age, but unfortunately, it does. Good post. I'm with you! (I also live in Ohio.)

Anonymous said...

PS I meant to point you toward this article, "Speaking Ill of the Dead," sooner.

Ilina said...

Thanks for the link to The Root article, Cynematic. Loved it! It was so right on.

Anonymous said...

I agree with cynematic. You captured what I wanted to say about this man. I too don't understand why people are sometimes feel the need to say nice things about bad people just because they are dead...Hmph!