kicks the bucket after much anticipation.
By Fred Mills
North Carolina’s Jesse Helms, a key architect of the racist,
homophobic, oppressive and oftentimes just plain illegal strategies employed by
the Republican party, died on July 4 (today) at the age of 86. Natural causes
were cited; in the years since leaving the Senate he’d
suffered from a number of ailments associated with aging, most recently receiving a
diagnosis of vascular dementia.
Blah blah blah… Well, you can read elsewhere the various
tributes, testimonials and commentary on Helms, his life and his legacy. A
quick check of Google news lists, as I write this, 531 items on Helms, and I’m
not going to waste any more of my time on him than I have to. Besides, this is
a music portal. But the Helms passing IS significant. Speaking personally, as a native North
Carolinian, I was forced to endure the Helms “legacy” for most of my life, and
it wasn’t an enjoyable experience. My father was also a politician, so I think
I understood a lot of what Helms was about — he was a venal, bigoted,
mean-spirited opportunist who, as an ultraconservative, stood for everything
that I was against. Most likely he stood for a lot of the things all you music
lovers out there are against, too.
Is it wrong to speak ill of the dead? Not this time, baby. I
once pledged in print that if I ever have the chance to piss on any graves, it
would be Richard Nixon’s — and Jesse Helms’ grave, when he dies. I can’t wait. I remember how, back in the ’80s, in the pre-Internet age, I had a lot of overseas musical correspondents, and inevitably, when the dialogue turned to my living in North Carolina and the arts, culture, etc. of the state, Helms’ name would come up. It was almost as if foreigners’ perceptions of N.C. had been largely shaped by the public image of Helms, at the time probably the state’s most famous (infamous) citizen, and I frequently had to explain that we Tarheels weren’t all backwoods, racist, Bible-thumping oafs.
(Ironically, but sadly, what goes around, comes back around: funny how nowadays foreigners’ perceptions of the U.S. are largely shaped by their images of Bush and Cheney…)
“My legacy will be up to others to describe,”
Helms once said, in a latterday interview.
How about contributing to the ruination of America? How’s
that for a description, Jesse. Fuck you, you cracker motherfucker. Rot in hell.
It’s appropriate Helms kicked on July 4. Maybe as we draw
closer to the November election, we can mark this day as the true beginning of
a new era for our country. I just wish he’d died earlier, in time for the Harp magazine election special that we
(my fellow BLURT-ers) published just before the demise of Harp. I would have gladly penned a Helms “memorial.” Consider this
Separated at birth? Making
my point are (L) Jesse Helms and (R) Dick Cheney.