Friday, July 04, 2008
Jesse Helms Dead at 86 - Business as Usual for the GOP
As Americans celebrate their independence a variety of mainstream media sources are marking the passing of former Republican Senator Jesse Helms (pictured at left) after the conservative North Carolina politician passed away in the early hours in a rest home in Raleigh.
Many Americans also mark the close of a direct political link to segregation, institutionalized racism and the marginalization of people based on skin color, religion and sexual preference.
The mainstream media went pretty easy on him. For my weekend television news fix I watch Lester Holt on NBC News. Since Bernard Shaw retired from CNN, Lester's become the most preiminent African-American anchor on network television. Lester noted Helm's conservative record, but out of respect shied away from excessive editorial comment.
But some media sources that lean more left gave Helms' passing scant notice given his right-wing politics and stances against art, communists, Martin Luther King, Jr. and homosexuals - the Mother Jones Website, for instance didn't seem to pay his death much mind; they didn't make a fuss but they didn't celebrate or anything.
Anyway, Helms was raised in the segregated South and his views were molded in a way of life that was built around an archaic antebellum perspective of the United States in which blacks and whites did not associate, work or attend church or school together.
Sure he had blacks on his staff, where he found people of color to work for him is beyond me, but make no mistake, Helms opposed segregation at every turn. He was a staunch conservative who believed in an American landscape divided along racial lines
Sadly this element is NOT gone from the GOP, in fact the Southern Poverty Law Center Website reports that Alabama State Senator Charles Bishop, a conservative Republican representative from Jasper, AL was the keynote at the 2008 Council of Conservative Citizen's conference.
The CCC is a racist, pro-segregationist organization born of the notorious White Citizen's Councils that sprang up around the South in response to the expansion of civil rights efforts across the South in the 1940's, 50's and 60's.
No one can argue that Jesse Helms didn't have a major impact on the modern conservative movement, but the sad truth is that his legacy of racism still exists today both within the Republican Party and across the Southern United States.
Jesse was like the uncle no one likes to talk about and our collective culturegeist will be the better without the presence of this advocate of hate and extremism. Men like Jesse Helms are remnants of a dark past that cannot be a part of an evolving America that seeks to take it's place amongst diverse, prosperous nations that support freedom and merge with the larger global community.