Monday, April 03, 2006
Bullshit: Past, Present and Future
News out of Raleigh tells us that former Senator Jesse Helms has dementia. Unfortunately, the people who voted for him don't have that excuse.
Helms started his career as a red-baiting smear artist and an ardent segregationist. As an "unofficial reseacher" for conservative Willis Smith in 1950, Helms created an ad featuring a doctored photo of the incumbent's wife dancing with a black man. He then went on to gain fame as a TV bloviator in the sixties by railing against gays, blacks and Chapel Hill. His recent autobiography tries to soften his bigotry and make Jesse seem to be just a principled man who did what he thought was right, critics be damned. But that's bullshit.
In 1984, Jesse ran a campaign that leaked stories to accomodating newspapers hinting that Jesse's opponent, former governor Jim Hunt, was a closet homosexual.
People who like Helms, and they are legion here in North Carolina, say "You always knew where Jesse stood." Except when you didn't. During that '84 campaign, there was talk about Jesse taking over the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, something far right zealots salivated over, but Jesse promised the state's rural voters that he would never give up his chair of the Agriculture Committee.
Jesse won and on election night Pat Robertson gloated over the "Christian" Helms' win and how he would soon take over Foreign Relations. Reminded of Jesse's promise, Robertson admitted that Helms would keep his word unless, and this is a quote, "he can find some way out of it."
Jesse found a way out of it. And as chairman of Foreign Relations, he used that chair to bludgeon anyone he thought might secretly wear pastel or was insufficiently conservative, which meant anyone to the left of Pinochet.
It was Jesse's support for homicidal miscreants like Pinochet and Roberto D'Aubuisson that made me hate the old bastard. His embrace of Latin American plutocrats, thugs and thieves, people responsible for the murder of children, nuns, priests, reporters and students, showed his well-publicized Christianity to be a hollow sham. When witnesses told Helms' staff that the US-financed contras were killing doctors and nurses in Nicaragua, Helms' spokesperson said "they were Communists and deserved to die." Jesse's policies made life harder, meaner and brutally short for poor people from Guatemala to Tierra del Fuego. For all those murdered innocents, he's earned a special seat in hell.
Of course, all that's in the past. Now he's a cuddly conservative. He's met with Bono. He's against AIDS. He's a southern gentleman.
"His manners are always intact," his wife, Dot, said. "He is very gracious when people come to see him. He is his same self in a lot of ways. He just doesn't always remember."
That means we have to remember. As this evil bastard shuffles into the twilight, let's remember him as he was - A deceitful, power-hungry, angry bigot who supported more cruelty in the name of anti-communism than any other single American of the past fifty years.
A few years back he had heart surgery. The doctors bolted in a valve from the heart of a pig because, as the joke went, there was no fear of rejection. Now he has dementia. Fuck him.
As a political postscript, I read this morning that John McCain, he of the Straight Talk Express, has reconsidered his previous position that Jerry Falwell is "an agent of intolerance." Now, Senator McCain loves him some Falwell and will speak at the noted asshat's Liberty University commencement. I'm sure this change in position has nothing to do with McCain's presidential ambitions.
Pure American Bullshit. It's what's for dinner.