A happy belated birthday (just one day, and only in print, as I was there Sunday) to my mother, who doesn't look a day over forty. Which is amazing, since I am forty-one.
That is not the Jesse Helms story. I continue:
I heard that Helms died on July 4th and my eyes rolled back into my skull because I knew knew knew that as soon as I turned on the news some GOP lap dog would go on about how appropriate it is that he died on Independence Day because he was (say it with me) a "Patriot." The fact that it was President GW was like getting an extra scoop of ice cream in a banana split.
Helms was legendary for his bigotry and his outrage over the degradation of society, and sometimes he was able to combine the two. I was guided to a list of his "Greatest Hits" and he has some whoppers. The man was clearly upset that the South lost the Civil War. I'd also guess that he wasn't too pleased when the drug cocktail that kept many HIV patients from developing full-blown AIDS was discovered.
I am amused at how those in the public eye conveniently forget a person's character when they die. I take no joy in Helms' death but I certainly am not going to change my opinion of him just because he has shuffled off this mortal coil. That's the thing about life: in the end, nobody wins. The good and the bad end up the same, non-metaphysically speaking.
I can't remember how it first started, but when my nephew was very young, maybe five, he reached a point where he thought he knew what was offensive and what wasn't. After while it got kind of annoying, and being it the time when Helms was ranting and raving about the moral character of America being further down than Atlantis, I developed a retort to my nephew whenever I heard him raise an objection:
"Thank you, Jesse Helms."
I said it enough that within a week or so my nephew was saying it too, in delightfully inconsistent ways. I can't have a cookie. Thank you, Jesse Helms. Time for a bath. Thank you, Jesse Helms. I can't play outside while Ihave the chicken pox. Thank you, Jesse Helms.
It came and went quickly, as everything subjected to the attention span of a pre-kindergartner ultimately is, and I hadn't thought about it in a while. Like I said, I'm not happy that Helms died, but I am definitely amused by the memory of a five year old wandering around our house invoking Helms' name for all sorts of reasons. You can't make that kind of stuff up.
It was nauseating to hear people call Helms a patriot in the aftermath of his death. I remember about ten years or so ago he waged a one-person war to keep former Illinois senator Carol Mosely-Braun from becoming ambassador to New Zealand. I can't recall why he was against it (wait a tic, CM-B is black); he ultimately lost and the episode was embarrassing for him and probably enhanced his decision to retire when his term was up. He was petty and a bigot throughout his life.
He was nothing like a patriot. Give me an H and take the P-Helms was a "hatriot". The sooner that the remainder of his generation that shares his beliefs passes the better off we will all be.