Monday, July 7, 2008

The Late Senator No: U.S. Senator Jesse Helms and the State of NC

Receiving the news that Jesse Helms died, I remember that I felt relief and release. Being in a state in which I was told to write letters of support for federal programs by adopting another state's U.S. Senator because Jesse was going to say "No" to any "liberal" or "progressive" idea, watching his racist campaign commercials, remembering how he denied people with HIV benefits and such, putting up a ban that halts any fruitful relationship with Cuba, objecting to most modern art...the list goes on.

I read this today on
Michael Signorile on Arthur Finkelstein, the gay Republican behind Jesse Helms: "Conservative, then-closeted, Republican political operative Arthur Finkelstein helped engineer Helms' racist campaign against African-American Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt in 1990, as Helms was vilifying gay sexuality, blocking AIDS funding, stalling prevention and attacking queer artists. (See the ad below that was aired at the height of the campaign and which resulted in Gantt going from a a lead in the polls to defeat on Election Day). Had Jesse Helms not had the handiwork of Finkelstein, who worked for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and various right-wing senators, he might have lost that race. Instead, we had another decade of his antigay grip on the Republican Party, as he blocked HIV prevention measures and thousands more died."

Wherever Jesse may be right now, I hope he is (like us all) having a good, heart-felt conversation as he remembers what he has said and done to millions of people.



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