Jesse Helms: A Legacy To Die For? genre: Do Not Resuscitate


Controversial former North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms has died at the age of 86. The following two quotes from Jesse Helms are not, on their surface, offensive...which is why they are so important.

I believe they provide insight into understanding the motivations behind all of the other reprehensible Jesse Helms quotations. You see, what you will find in the hearts of many who are outspoken is an unfortunate and misguided righteousness derived from their religious beliefs. He had every right to his beliefs. Unfortunately, some of his actions suggest he didn't support the same for others.

"I want our government to encourage and protect freedom as well as our traditions of faith and family."

"I have tried at every point to seek God's wisdom on the decisions I made, and I made it my business to speak up on behalf of the things God tells us are important to Him."

Note in the first quote how the protection of freedom is modified by the need to support traditions of faith and family. In other words, freedom should be available to those whose notions of faith and family comports with his own. The inference is that those who do not support his notion of faith and family may not deserve the same freedoms.

In the second quote, we see the certainty to enact the beliefs expressed in the first quote...and to do so unabashedly. Again, this Helms quote implies that God spoke to him...which entitled him to speak his mind...regardless of who it injured.

Further, I suspect he was convinced that it also granted him the authority to pass legislation to abridge the rights of those who didn't follow his interpretation of God's edicts or to block the passage of measures intended to grant equality to those he deemed inferior.

Helms' legacy is therefore a testament to intolerance and intransigence. Rather than see himself as a cog in the wheel of humanity, he saw himself as the pilot designated to steer the course of his fellow man. In the end, his legacy is steeped in arrogance and wholly lacking in the ability to demonstrate the very humanity he must have believed his actions were upholding.

And now the quotes that the history books will undoubtedly use when defining Jesse Helms.

"I've been portrayed as a caveman by some. That's not true. I'm a conservative progressive, and that means I think all men are equal, be they slants, beaners, or niggers."
- Jesse Helms, North Carolina Progressive, February 6, 1985, quoted from the Democratic Alliance.

"There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy."
-States News Service, 5/17/88

"I've never heard once in this chamber anybody say to the homosexuals, 'stop what you're doing.' If they would stop what they're doing there would not be one additional case of AIDS in the United State."

"To rob the Negro of his reputation of thinking through a problem in his own fashion is about the same as trying to pretend that he doesn't have a natural instinct for rhythm and for singing and dancing."

"The Negro cannot count forever on the kind of restraint that's thus far left him free to clog the streets, disrupt traffic, and interfere with other men's rights."

"Homosexuals are weak, morally sick wretches."
- 1995 radio broadcast

"She's a damn lesbian. I am not going to put a lesbian in a position like that. If you want to call me a bigot, fine."
- Explaining why he was opposing the appointment of a woman for a cabinet post.

"They should ask their parents if it would be all right for their son or daughter to marry a Negro."
- In response to Duke University students holding a vigil after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, 1968

"We've got to have some common sense about a disease transmitted by people deliberately engaged in unnatural acts."
- Arguing for reduced AIDS funding, The New York Times, 1985

"These people are intellectually dishonest in just about everything they do or say,".... He added, "They start by pretending that it is just another form of love. It's sickening."
- From Variety

I doubt it's possible, but I've often wondered if the dead can look back and see their legacy. It would be nice to know that Jesse Helms would want to modify portions of the one he leaves.

Tagged as: Bigotry, Homophobia, Jesse Helms, Racism, Religion

Daniel DiRito | July 4, 2008 | 10:35 AM
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1 On July 4, 2008 at 2:56 PM, Jojo Chintoh wrote —

My natural distaste for dancing on graves is being strongly tested today...

2 On July 6, 2008 at 12:40 PM, daniel wrote —


I know what you mean. Not that it really matters, but I have a slightly different take on the "don't speak ill of the dead" edict. I look at it in reverse, if we think we might be inclined to speak critically of someone when they're dead, it should motivate us to do so while they are still living...whenever it is warranted.

You see, if one is willing to confront mean-spirited words and wrong actions when they occur...head on, one is less likely to want to dance on the grave of the person who perpetrated them. If we tell people how we feel in real time, it can minimize pent-up animosities, it seems more genuine, and it also gives them the opportunity to respond...which has the potential to create dialogue (small as it may have been with a man like Helms).

Hence, if one spoke critically of Jesse Helms while he was living (or anyone else for that matter), then to continue to speak critically after he departed seems to at least have the added benefit of consistency...which I find to be closely aligned with honesty and authenticity.

Regardless, I also sympathize with the loss felt by friends and family.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jojo. I hope you'll continue to comment at Thought Theater.



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Former North Carolina Senator, Jesse Helms, has died at the age of 86. I doubt it’s possible, but I’ve often wondered if the dead can look back and see their legacy. It would be nice to know that Jesse Helms would want to modify portions of the one he ... [Read More]

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