Saturday, July 05, 2008

Died On The Fourth Of July

A Very Young Jesse HelmsI was saddened to learn this morning that Jesse Helms died yesterday, July 4, 2008. Yahoo! News ran a no-gloss story about him this morning. It seems appropriate that he would die on our nation's birthday. Some truly great American statesmen (including John Adams and Thomas Jefferson) have died on the anniversary of our freedom. Jesse Helms was certainly worthy of this title and the honor of dying on the 4th of July.

Jesse Helms was the only other American politician that I know that was as maligned and hated as much as George W. Bush. I think that is because both of them had something in common: they both believed in standing up for what they believed was right and in the best interest of their constituency and frankly didn't care who it offended.

Jesse Helms in enlisted US Navy uniformIt turns out that there are a lot of people who really don't like it when you tell them the truth. I guess Jesus Christ found this out too. Not that Jesse or Dubya are or were perfect - far from it. I never liked Jesse's racist tendencies. But no one would question that these men stood for what they believed. (Whether you like what they believed or not.) Perhaps the good news is that there are a lot of people who DO like people who have some character and some spine.

I decided to post the headline picture today because Jesse Helms had so many really bad pictures published throughout his lifetime. I guess a pretty big part of that came from journalists who hated him (this was nearly universal it seemed) and picked the worst, most unflattering picture they could to run with stories about him.

Governor Ronald Reagan, Dot Helms, and Senator Jesse HelmsI had the opportunity to meet Jesse when I was in High School. I wish I had a picture. I was honored to receive a nomination to West Point from Senator Helms back in the late 80s. It was then that I began to respect him more and more as a sharp-minded conservative. I began to take a greater interest in politics, and noticed how he voted. I cannot recall a single time that I checked that Senator Helms had not voted in a way that was pleasing to me. Both he and Ronald Reagan influenced my political thought significantly. They will always be my two favorite politicians. Dubya comes in a close third. It is just sad to me that two of them have died, and one is very close to the end of his political career.

Bono and Senator Jesse HelmsPerhaps one of the most shocking things that happened during Jesse's tenure in office was his meeting and befriending of U2 lead singer Bono. It caught even his (probably both Bono's and Senator Helms') fans totally off guard. It was this friendship that caused Senator Helms to soften the stances that he had taken on a few issues. And in a way, I think that it shows that there was far more to this man than the media allowed us to learn. I believe and hope that history will vindicate him one day.

As far as I am concerned, Jesse Helms will be missed sorely. He was one of the pillars in American society that made me believe that everything wasn't so bad - that there was still hope. Ronald Regan was another. Even though they weren't actively involved in American politics it was comforting to know that they were still there. Now both are gone, and that makes me wonder if anyone will step up to take the mantle that they have left behind.


Burr Deming said...

Our site takes a somewhat unbalanced view of the good Senator, and the coincidence of of the 4th of July passing. You are decidedly more charitable. Thanks for adding your comment to the blogging universe.

Jonathan said...

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment so courteously on a post that you disagreed with. I am sure that a comment along the lines of "Ding dong the witch is dead!" would have consigned it to electronic oblivion.