I’ve thought long and hard for almost a week now about whether a post about Jesse Helms is appropriate here. I decided it is because politics, and well-known political figures, most certainly become part of the fabric of pop culture.
As a North Carolinian, Jesse holds a special place in my heart. A dark place, filled with hatred and loathing for only the most reprehensible and despicable. Perhaps it’s wrong to speak ill of the dead, but I cannot stand to hear one more laudatory speech about what a fine statesman ol’ Jesse was.
He was a racist, homophobic son-of-a-bitch who made my state, which confoundingly voted his stupid ass into office for term after term, look like a bunch of backward hillbilly rednecks.
Let’s take a look at some of Jesse’s greatest hits:
* In 1950, Helms began his political career working as a researcher and strategist for segregationist candidate Willis Smith’s bid for the senate. He helped come up with this pity ad: “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 1960, Helms works on the campaign of I. Beverly Lake, Sr., who ran on a platform of racial segregation in the face of the Cooper v. Aaron decision, which called for the dismantling of segregated schools.
* Helms referred to the University of North Carolina as the “University of Negroes And Communists.”
* Helms opposed the bill to make Martin Luther King, Jr. day a federal holiday in 1983
* Helms opposed Kennedy-Hatch AIDS bill in 1988, stating, “There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy.”
*When the mother of Ryan White, a young boy who died of AIDS given to him by a blood transfusion, visited Congress on behalf of people with AIDS, Helms refused to speak to her, even when she was alone with him in an elevator.
* During the 1990 campaign, Helms ran against Charlotte mayor, Harvey Gantt. As the numbers got tighter in the home stretch, Helms pandered to the racists with a late-running television commercial showinga white man’s hands ripping up a rejection notice from a company that gave the job to a “less qualified minority.”
* After a vote on the Confederate flag in the Senate, Helms deeply offended Carol Moseley-Braun, who, along with many others, viewed the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism. After the vote, Helms encountered Moseley-Braun in an elevator and turned to his friend, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah), and said, “Watch me make her cry. I’m going to make her cry. I’m going to sing ‘Dixie’ until she cries.”
A real sweetheart, ain’t he?
And yeah, I know he “renounced” many of his previous positions later in life, but honestly, who really believes that? It’s hard to carry on as the neighborhood bigot when times are changing. Ol’ Jesse still wanted to get elected, so he knew he had to tone it down just a bit. The fact remains that he spent the majority of his life and political career spreading hate and ignorance, and for that reason, I’m glad the fucker’s gone. The sooner that old generation of bigots dies off, the closer we’ll be to having a truly united country.