Saturday, July 05, 2008

Jesse Helms Goes to Hell

I normally try not to speak ill of the recently dead, but Helms is a special case.

Among my favorite Helmsisms: he liked to call UNC the "university of negroes and communists," and, during a debate on funding for the North Carolina Zoo, he suggested putting up a fence around Chapel Hill instead--which he was fond of referring to as "the People's Republic of Chapel Hill."

And that was Helms being downright charming, comparatively speaking. He was an overt racist and a friend to just about every tyrant in Central and South America. He was a man who worked hard to make the world a worse place, and who was largely successful. As the Wilmington Star-News famously reported back in '95:

When a caller to CNN's Larry King Live show praised guest Jesse Helms for 'everything you've done to help keep down the niggers,' Helms' response was to salute the camera
and say, 'Well, thank you, I think.'"

Here's what the Current Occupant had to say:

President Bush paid tribute to Mr Helms as “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.” He added: “Today, from Central America to Central Europe and beyond, people remember: in the dark days when the forces of tyranny seemed on the rise, Jesse Helms took their side.

“It is fitting that this great patriot left us on the Fourth of July.”

And Senator McCain:

John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, hailed “a life dedicated to serving this nation."

Nice. This is approximately like eulogizing David Duke.

So goodbye to Jesse Helms, thorn in the side of the Old North State for thirty years. We're a worse place for your efforts.

Rot in hell, you racist sonofabitch.


Blogger Unknown said...

Tell us what you really think....

Seriously, I agree with you on all fronts. I'll also take the opportunity to admit that Left Coast Elite Liberals like myself often display a certain amount of contempt, intended or otherwise, towards citizens of "The South." Also "The Texas."

Politicos like Helms, continuously re-elected by their constituents, make this contempt (which is wrong) achieve a rather odd sort of legitimization.

Southerners elect folks like Helms, Lott, Thurmond, Armey (TX), and other truly odious politicians. Yet strident jerks like myself (I meant that, I am a strident jerk), are often lambasted for portraying people who vote for folks like Helms as backwards and racist.

All I am saying is that who you elect to congress goes a long way towards how others in this nation view your state. It works both ways. Mass, NY, CA, are liberal. The South is not. In any event, the lingering stench of people like Helms makes it difficult to overcome regional prejudices, prejudices that are admittedly destructive and not worthwhile, just like Helms.

3:01 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I hear ya, Koll.

First, I'm not really a southerner--I'm from the southern Midwest (the southern part of MO), so I'm only part quasi-southern, though I've lived most of my life in the south more proper.

But, second, I think the stereotypes you speak of are actually aimed at the rural south and midwest, so the point above probably doesn't really matter.

Anyway, re: Helms in particular:
One persuasive line of thought about Helms is that he won not because most NCinians agreed with his positions, but, rather, because he was seen as--and good at convincing people that he was--one of us, whatever his politics might be like. This is how many or most people vote, anyway. So it wasn't any love for his policies that got him reelected a zillion times.

Also there was the "white hands" ad, the bastard. Few electoral losses--and I've been through many of them as a volunteer--have hurt as much as Gant's loss.

Thinking all North Carolinians are dopes b/c of Helms is like thinking that all Americans are dopes b/c of Bush. You know this, but I feel better saying it. Helms was good at getting his majority, but that's all.

Really finally:
A table-turning exercise: think about what it's like to have a bunch of idiot yankees and urban blockheads looking down on you your whole life b/c of where you live and how you speak. Usually it's just amusing, but sometimes it gets downright angrifying. Easy for folks like me to put up with, as we know we're smarter etc. than the smug blockheads. Now imagine what it's like for folks who don't have that bulwark against creeping bitterness.

9:40 AM  

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