Friday, July 04, 2008

Jesse Helms is Dead and the World's a Better Place

I just saw on that former Sen. Jesse Helms from North Carolina has died at the age of 86. Having lived in North Carolina for five years myself, I can honestly say that the world will be a better place without him.

One of the tragedies of human existence is that a hard-driving hater like Jesse Helms can be just as smart, talented, and ambitious as somebody like Martin Luther King. Everything Helms did in the name of racism, homophobia, male supremacy, and militarism was so destructive because he was extremely clever, competent, and hard-working.

Coming into prominence in 1972, four years after the death of Martin Luther King, Helms dedicated his whole political career to resisting and undoing everything that King tried to accomplish. That should be no surprise. Helms was involved in segregationist politics in his first work on the Senate campaign of Willis Smith in 1950, spoke out against Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement during the sixties, and led the opposition to the King holiday during the 1980's. He was also vociferous in his opposition to abortion rights and stigmatizing of gays and lesbians.

However, the most important fact to understand about Helms and his viciously reactionary politics is that he failed. African-Americans, women, and gay people have all dramatically improved their standing in American society despite the best efforts of Jesse Helms and the conservative movement.

Jesse Helms may have fanned the fires of hate, but he could not stop progress. He may have made the United States a worse place to live than it should have been, but he could not take the country back to the segregated world of the fifties that he preferred.

The final perversion of Jesse Helms' life was that he died on the Fourth of July. Too bad he didn't live to see Barack Obama elected president.

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