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04 July 2008

Helms is hardly a big loss for the country

Not even the Fourth of July could stop me from writing about this one.

Former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., died today. He was 86.

In his obituary, the Associated Press, which often prepares these kinds of obits well in advance of the actual death, wrote of Helms' undying conservatism, his hatred of gays and lesbians, his utter disregard for people with AIDS, his segregationalist leanings and his campaigning for office in the 1990s which made it abundantly clear he was still a racist.

Here were a few of the quotes from Helms that really struck me.

In 1993, then President Bill Clinton was looking to appoint a lesbian to the position of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Based solely on the woman's sexual orientation, Helms said: "I’m not going to put a lesbian in a position like that. If you want to call me a bigot, fine.”

I'd say bigot is more than appropriate a name to call Helms based on this comment.

A few years ago, after Helms wrote a book on his career as a politician, he wrote the following an e-mail to a reporter: “My legacy will be up to others to describe."

Indeed it will.

Today, the very day this 86-year-old man leaves this earth for the next life, there is just too much to say about Helms, his career and his policies, for a blog entry such as this. And yet, on the very same day conservative talk show host Mark Levin told Gen. Wesley Clark to "go to hell," I can't help but wonder: If Clark is deserving of hell, isn't Helms on his way there right now?

This man was as divisive as anyone who has ever called the United States of America home. His hatred for "non-traditional" people as he'd call them — gays, lesbians, blacks, Hispanics, you name it — was as despicable as humanly possible. His disregard for AIDS was almost as bad as Ronald Reagan's was in the early '80s. His desire to keep schools segregated was unmatched. His disdain for African-Americans was clear even as late as 1996.

And yet there are some in this country, including Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., who praised Helms as a champion.

Here's what McConnell said.

“Today we lost a Senator whose stature in Congress had few equals. Senator Jesse Helms was a leading voice and courageous champion for the many causes he believed in.”

A leading voice? A champion?

No doubt, McConnell was right about one thing: Important to Helms were "the many causes he believed in." But a champion? A leading voice? What would be so leading about spewing hatred for six terms — 36 or so years in the United States Senate?

Helms indeed will be a man remembered by the masses. Yet what he'll be remembered for are all the wrong reasons. Helms was a man who I'd bet would have owned a slave if he had had the chance. He probably would have had gays and lesbians shipped off to some deserted island if he had the chance.

Thankfully, the progression of America outweighed Helms' senatorial influence.

Today, indeed, the United States lost one of its former leaders.

We are hardly a better nation because of that leadership.

And to once again use the words of conservative talk show host Mark Levin, "it'll be hell" for Helms. And if you're a believer, this notion is absolutely undeniable.

And depending on your beliefs, unbeatable, as well.


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