Saturday, July 05, 2008

Independence Day Brings a Special Treat; The Death of Jesse Helms.

While it's always great to have the day off from work and the opportunity to see friends, the idea of the holiday itself left me a bit cold yesterday. As far as I'm concerned this isn't an era for nationalism. It seems that the urge to identify with the country is decreasing, just as the compulsion to go to church every week is disappearing for many people. In my opinion, it can't happen fast enough. Our problems truly are global nowadays and the entire border-state mentality seems to have been rendered largely ineffective. So what does that leave me with every Fourth of July? Should I search for some elusive kinship with the citizenry? No thanks- I'm not even that interested in mingling with the majority of inhabitants of the city I live in.

Truth be told I nearly despaired of finding anything to celebrate. Fortunately the fates conspired to provide me with a single shining ray of light. I turned on the radio to discover that Jesse Helms died earlier in the morning. It occurred to me that maybe it wasn't appropriate to let the death of a fellow human being put an extra little jaunt in my step. But that reservation only lasted about a second-and-a-half, and then I found myself beaming again. I do believe philosophically that the removal of certain individuals from the Earth would benefit not only mankind, but all living creatures. I would never seek to affect such a change personally (I'm not willing to pay that price), yet I'm not above the happiness such an event brings.

Maybe if I though the human species was sacred, I'd have a different viewpoint. But like I say quite often- we are no better than animals... and I eat animals. Helms death is simply addition by subtraction. It's a shame it didn't happen in 1972, the year he was elected into the US Senate, or even well before then. The man's single greatest enduring legacy will be his unwavering commitment to racial bigotry. In at least one way his succession to federal government was a milestone- he was the very first Republican Senator from North Carolina since before Reconstruction. But he was also a petty tyrant who sought to impose his extremely hateful views on the rest of the country.

His entry into politics was as an aide to the 1950 Senatorial candidate Willis Smith. During that campaign, Helms was credited with the creation of a series of attack ads in which he attacked Smith's opponent with the following copy- "White people, wake up before it is too late. Do you want Negroes working beside you, your wife and your daughters, in your mills and factories? Frank Graham favors mingling of the races." In the 1960's he notoriously attacked Black civil rights leaders (like Martin Luther King, Jr.), calling them "Communists and Sex Perverts". He hinted at his strategy for resolving race conflicts by saying, "The Negro cannot count forever on the kind of restraint that's thus far left him free to clog the streets, disrupt traffic, and interfere with other men's rights."

Helms was a singular asshole, and his vitriol extended to homosexuals as well. He fought against government funding for AIDS research and punctuated his position by stating "There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy." He also notoriously opposed legislation extending voting rights, supporting the United Nations, funding the arts, and creating the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. His flaws were numerous and distinct, but (arguably) his greatest crime against humanity was helping to clear Ronald Reagan's way to the White House. In 1976 he was influential in making sure that North Carolina voted for "The Gipper" in the primary election, and that victory helped give Reagan a platform at the national convention. Good Riddance, Jesse Helms... many rejoice at your passing.

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