good riddance

In case you’ve been in a cave somewhere (or, possibly, in Malawi or detained at EWR for having the wrong name or ethnic origin), Jesse Helms died at the beginning of July 4. Various people have been trying to find something actually nice to say about this pig of a man; two of the better attempts at reconstruction are by Rob Christensen and Southern Male Democrat. My own feelings are driven more by this rather extraordinary collection of his finest declarations.

The best many seem to be able to come up with is that he was “important” (of course) or that he really believed in what he stood for. To my mind the latter is hardly a compliment–if you really believe what he stood for, you are, as one commentator said, one of the 19th century’s leading voices. He was a chief architect of crass southern bigotry’s marriage of convenience to religious zealotry and fear that became the Reagan coalition. He remained an unreconstructed bigot throughout his career, always preferring slimy politics and personal vendettas to principle or growth. He was an embarrassment to a fine state.

Jesse, we knew you all too well.

Author: andrewperrin

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

3 thoughts on “good riddance”

  1. Yeah, NPR did a story on it yesterday and I was just floored to hear this man’s history all at once. The commentator did a really good job of telling some of the more outrageous stories as though they were… well, not outrageous. It’s worth a listen if you are only vaguely familiar with the man as I was.

    Rest fitfully, Jesse Helms.


  2. We knew Jesse before he was elected, back in the 1970s when he was the crazy editorialist on the Raleigh TV channel. I’m with you. Bad man.


  3. When i was in the Lesbian Avengers, we presented Jesse Helms (or rather the congressional aides unlucky enough to be in the office when the great, loud, screamingly gay mob of us showed up) with a “Patron of the Family Friendly Arts Award.” The prize was a large collection of framed and mounted posters of famous classical works of art with black bars drawn over the eyes, breasts and hoo-hoos of assorted cherubs, baby Jesuses, Virgin Marys, Venuses and so on….(you know, to make ’em safe for viewing.)

    The aides weren’t even a little bit amused and, regrettably, they probably threw out our art collection before the ‘great man’ himself got to see them.


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