The passing of Jessie Helms was noted by Senator McCain as “…a life dedicated to serving the nation!” This conservative icon died at age 86 and noting that his life was one that served the nation, makes one wonder, in what way? In progressing the status quo of I, me, mine politics? Of trying to keep alive notions that some are better than others merely by the color of their skin? Or perhaps that others deserve better solely because they got lucky! As far as many are concerned the fact that it happened on July the fourth just further points to the fact that on this nation’s birthday, it got a great present.
Helms had no agenda. He was a good ol boy. A son of the old south that was a Democrat but switched when he saw the party going the other way; whose brand of conservatism was at best way too strong for the general masses but in the backrooms and alley ways of Washington a lot more accepted than any will ever acknowledge.
He was a racist. He voted time and time against civil rights and supported no research for aides or human conditions brought on by bad luck or poor life style choices. Blatantly denounced homosexuality in all its forms; a bigot quick to mock any females that dared not act like, “ladies,” in his eyes. Fought against the establishment of Martin Luther Kings national holiday, openly opposed any appointees that were gay, and was the man who vehemently supported cutting funding for PBS and the NEA, and can be said without a doubt one of the most negative forces in the late 20th century politics.
Just one other thing; he was re-elected five times. Despite all of the negativity, bad mouthing and open anti Semitism and racism, if he was your senator and you had a problem, you called him up and it got fixed or resolved. Because he was a great bureaucrat, he got a public pulpit to spew ideas this country should have outgrown a very long time ago. If anything the legacy of this man is that America has problems that run far deeper than any of us care to make light of. But we have a political system. If you survive in it, you get more and more power. Power in Washington means jobs for you state, jobs for your supporters, and getting your ideas out where they can be heard. To many his legacy will not be one of negativity, but just of another good ol boy who got the job done.
As for Helms himself, he was once asked what would he like his legacy to be; replying, “to be known as a man who wouldn’t back down when he thought he was right.” Lets all hope he is remembered as a man who didn’t back down, even when he knew he was wrong and that seems to be something we have been seeing in Washington a lot these days!