Current mood: nauseated
Jesse Helms, former senator from North Carolina, passed away today. Good riddance.
Before Helms came along, Democrats and Republicans merely disagreed. Once he and his ilk came to power, America became polarized as never before. He preached intolerance, not dialogue; bigotry, not brotherhood. This occurred only a few years after the wave of freedoms and feelings of brotherhood that marked the 1960s and early 1970s. What a step backward we took when he came to power!
Helms hated civil rights. He had no tolerance whatsoever for anyone or anything that wasn't WASP. Not only did he tolerate nothing left-leaning, he tolerated nothing left of himself. He used terms like "tax-and-spend Democrats" like rubbing salt in a wound. And rub he did.
My stomach boiled every time he opened his mouth, as I went through my college years and my 20s and 30s. Just hearing his hate-filled voice on the radio in this afternoon's newscasts brought back those feelings of revulsion. It sickened me then and sickens me now to think he was a major leader in the Senate.
Problem was, he did lead. Lots of people followed him. Rick Santorum was his protégé, and if you like Santorum, you would have loved Helms. Both in beliefs and methods, Santorum was -- is -- Helms reincarnated. There are others, too. (*shivers*)
It's a great thing to stand up for your beliefs, but it's a better thing to get consensus than to browbeat and denigrate those who disagree, as he did. It's wonderful to win people to your side, but it's better to achieve that by lessening opposition, not by wielding a club against those opponents, as he did. He won people to his cause by pandering to hate and fear, and set a standard many follow to this day, damn him.
Much as I don't care for them, it's OK to share Helms's beliefs. However, it's not OK to act like Helms did in fostering those beliefs.
Good bye and good riddance, Mr. Helms. I just wish it was possible to undo the harm you did this nation.