Monday, July 07, 2008

Jesse Helms

I guess I abide to that typical adage that you shouldn't speak ill of the dead. So...Jesse Helms is dead. That's it -

No, wait -
I guess I should credit Helms for at least alerting me of my sexuality. I remember watching his rants against Robert Mapplethorpe and "sick homosexuals" "when I was a teenager. Of course, I scoffed at the images of a cross soaked in urine and a bullwhip up someone's ass - but when Helms made his remarks about gays - it cut. I winced, not knowing really why as I was still trying to get girls to go out with me.

But it's not just gays that Helms targeted. Throughout much of his career, his deftly dodged his bigotedness. Running an ad where a pair of white hands crumple a rejection letter because he lost his job to "a minority." He joked that he was going to make Carol Mosley Braun, the first African American woman elected to the Senate "I'm going to sing 'Dixie' until she cries."

Republican reaction has been mixed. Senator McCain had probably the best response of the high-profile lot: "At this time, let us remember a life dedicated to serving this nation."

The further right on the Republican spectrum, the more glowing the obits. George W. Bush said "Throughout his long public career, Senator Jesse Helms was a tireless advocate for the people of North Carolina, a stalwart defender of limited government and free enterprise, a fearless defender of a culture of life, and an unwavering champion of those struggling for liberty." Well...excluding those pinko Communist civil rights advocates of the '60s.

Right-wing gasbag Rush Limbaugh, high off of his own cover story in the New York Times magazine, had the stones to compare Helms to Lincoln and Adams. Why? Because he spoke his mind and didn't back down from what he believed was true. If you're a bigoted homophobe, should that trait of stubbornness really be celebrated? I've been to enough funerals for people who just plain weren't good people. Some abused their kids. Some were racists. Some were simply assholes. All shared the same phrase at the funeral: "At least you know where you stood with ." I would put Helms in that category.



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