Admiring Jesse Helms’s integrity, for whatever it’s worth.

There’s a creepy “if I were in a parallel or opposite universe” feeling I get from time to time that I’m going to do my best to explain. Here are some examples of it: if I was born in 1950, I would’ve hated Black Sabbath in 1969. I’ve known this for a long time and it makes me sad because they’re just the greatest thing ever, but I would’ve. I remember how I felt about the band Korn when I was 15 (and still feel the same way about, with the historical update that no matter how awful they are, the bands that followed their lead were way worse), and am sure that I would’ve thought the same thing about Sabbath then as I do about Korn.

That’s the parallel example – here’s the opposite one – if I was a Republican in the 80s and 90s, would I have liked Jesse Helms? I’m not sure. For a second I thought I would’ve and then I read “He fought bitterly against Federal aid for AIDS research and treatment, saying the disease resulted from “unnatural” and “disgusting” homosexual behavior. All this and more in the NYT obituary for Helms, who seems to have died a few minutes ago, forcing the very awkward situation about how to best pay respects to someone who was an accomplished national figure that obviously believed he was doing good for the world when he fought against federal funding for AIDS research, saying saying the disease resulted from “unnatural” and “disgusting” homosexual behavior, but also adopted a disabled nine-year-old boy after reading a newspaper article about him where he said he wanted a mother and father for Christmas.

Helms was clearly willing to buck his party in favor of his own beliefs that were more radical then the rest of the party, and was considered a pain in the ass all around for them. When I see Dennis Kucinich reading the articles if impeachment in Congress despite the total futility of the effort, I get all teary eyed at his complete unwillingness to stand on practicality over principle when principles are so in demand. I can’t decide whether or not Helms was the same thing, or whether he was just a wackjob who should’ve never had a political career in the first place.

Anyways, Helms clearly had a lot of integrity, and since every day I get pissed off at one Democrat or another for compromising toward the center, I gotta give props to anyone who doesn’t cave to that pressure. So, Jesse, you were obviously a dick – but we could all learn a thing or two from your “this is what I believe, take me or leave me” attitude which had you elected to 6 senate terms.

Dems listen up – Jesse Helms’s refusal to comprise his completely unreasonable principles never lost him an election, yet here we are compromising our totally legit ones thinking it will help. Nothing would make him spin in his grave like Democrats acknowledging that he was a man of great integrity, however freakishly misguided, and learning from that to help us take back the White House and improve our majorities in the House and Senate.


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