Jesse Helms: Satan’s Values

I have been insanely busy the last few days with a new editing project, so I did not get a chance to add anything to the flood of commentary on Jesse Helms’ death yesterday. Not to mention that the day Helms died is also the day I was born, so I was a bit distracted.

Having said this, I don’t have much that’s original to add to what’s already been said, in abundance, about the poisonous legacy Helms leaves behind him. I think my most easily identified response is disbelief at the way he’s being memorialized by the same crowd that condemned Jeremiah Wright as a bigot. In fact, that crowd has been busy for the last 24 hours throwing out accusations of hatemongering at anyone who is honest about what Helms stood for. It seems that Helms himself was a fine Southern gentleman, and anyone who points to the things he said about blacks, gays and lesbians, and supporters of women’s rights among others, is a hater. It’s hateful and bigoted to say that Jesse Helms was hateful and bigoted. It’s such a twisted inversion of the truth that it truly takes one’s breath away.

Matthew Yglesias trenchantly observes that the right seems astonishingly content to embrace Helms’ views:

One fascinating thing about the death of Jesse Helms is the conservative reaction. One might expect that Helms’ death would prompt from conservatives the sorts of things that I might say if, say, Al Sharpton died — that he and I had some overlapping beliefs and I don’t regard him as the world-historical villain that the right does, but that he’s a problematic guy and I regard him and his methods as pretty marginal to American liberalism. But instead conservatives are taking a line that I might have regarded as an unfair smear just a week ago, and saying that Helms is a brilliant exemplar of the American conservative movement.

And if that’s what the Heritage Foundation and National Review and the other key pillars of American conservatism want me to believe, then I’m happy to believe it. But it reflects just absolutely horribly on them and their movement that this is how they want to be seen — as best exemplified by bigotry, lunatic notions about foreign policy, and tobacco subsidies.

Pam Spaulding, who as a lesbian and a woman of color fits within two of Jesse Helms’ favorite categories of people to hate, posts what is easily the most perceptive and the classiest piece about the man that I have seen. Much of what she writes is from the perspective of being a resident and a native of North Carolina:

I will take this opportunity, as I’ve simply let the Helms record speak for itself, to say a positive comment about the late Senator – he and his office excelled at constituent services, with prompt, specific responses to every query regardless if whether you had his support on a particular issue. He showed up frequently to meet with and take care of his constituents, and he was rewarded by winning re-election time and again. Those acts do matter; sadly, that personal touch and responsiveness enabled him to continue fomenting bigotry in the name of the state of North Carolina that did not — and certainly does not now — reflect the beliefs of most residents of this state.

My condolences go out to the Helms family for their loss.

And in an update:

I’ve been through a rollercoaster of emotions about Helms’s death; the Helms who brought out celebratory emotion among some LGBTs and progressives today (who couldn’t see that coming, given the record) built his career on fomenting prejudice and bigotry – but I just keep coming back to thoughts about what does it all mean in terms of today’s political landscape? I thought about how blogging about it in some sort of a celebratory manner would have done little to make anyone think deeply about how his legacy would be analyzed by the MSM and the conservative movement.

What does conservatism mean today, as people look back at Helms? Forcing conservatives to publicly own the whole of Helms’s record would be the best way to expose that, even today, a shocking number of those occupying the conservative elements of the GOP would not find much fault with what Helms stood for.

I would hope more progressives pressure the media and the Democrats at the national level — particularly those who will go on the Sunday talk shows with conservatives — to frame any discussion of Helms from the perspective of cultural history, civil rights and where both parties have evolved on his issues — I think it will lay bare to the public which party is ready to move forward, not romanticize and thus reinforce bigotry of the past.

I am of course, well aware of the symbolic nature of his passing as “turning the page” in a painful book of our history. I’m not sure why I’m not feeling very celebratory, given the GOP I still see out there today. Not too many lessons learned.

I am also well aware of how Jesse Helms’s reputation was used to denigrate all of the residents of North Carolina as backward, ignorant, racist and homophobic. Regional bigotry was allowed to flower against my state because of Helms — and Blue State Dems who basically said “F*ck the South”, as if there weren’t deep blue pockets of voters working for change. Jesse’s NC isn’t the one I live in today. You wouldn’t know that based on what many people who don’t live here still think about the state and the region.

Anyway, it’s obviously more complex than simply pissing on the grave of a hateful, dangerous and powerful politician who passed on.

I have so much respect for someone who can rise above the obviously truthful and justified condemnations to contribute some kind of deeper insight and larger context.

That said (and sincerely meant), when it comes to a man who has harmed and hurt and hated as much as Jesse Helms has, there’s gotta be a place for the unvarnished, plain truth:

I realize that the death of a prominent piece of shit puts people on the radio and teevee in an awkward position. We’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead… and any honest accounting of this piece of shit’s career requires us to speak very ill of the dead indeed. So perhaps simply noting the piece of shit’s passing—briefly, and just the facts—would be the prudent thing to do. It would certainly be better than inviting a few people on the radio to discuss the piece of shit’s life and accomplishments at the precise moment when decorum requires us to put the nicest possible gloss on the piece of shit. To polish the turd, as it were.

Waking up to a discussion of the highlights of Helm’s career and listening to the oh-so-polite NPR host and his oh-so-polite guests dance around the issue of race—never mind the gay or AIDS issues, which weren’t even mentioned (well, not in the section I caught; I literally woke up to this)—until the host delicately observed in admiring tones, “He used race very effectively,” and the guest chuckled and agreed, well, let’s just say that’s was a very unpleasant way to start the day.

As a friend once said to me at a moment when I wasn’t in a very charitable mood, “If you don’t have anything good to say, honey, come sit by me.”

Daniel DiRito finds the source of much of Helms’ intolerance in religious beliefs that on the surface appeared innocuous:

I believe they provide insight into understanding the motivations behind all of the other reprehensible Jesse Helms quotations. You see, what you will find in the hearts of many who are outspoken is an unfortunate and misguided righteousness derived from their religious beliefs. He had every right to his beliefs. Unfortunately, some of his actions suggest he didn’t support the same for others.

“I want our government to encourage and protect freedom as well as our traditions of faith and family.”

“I have tried at every point to seek God’s wisdom on the decisions I made, and I made it my business to speak up on behalf of the things God tells us are important to Him.”

Note in the first quote how the protection of freedom is modified by the need to support traditions of faith and family. In other words, freedom should be available to those whose notions of faith and family comports with his own. The inference is that those who do not support his notion of faith and family may not deserve the same freedoms.

In the second quote, we see the certainty to enact the beliefs expressed in the first quote…and to do so unabashedly. Again, this Helms quote implies that God spoke to him…which entitled him to speak his mind…regardless of who it injured.

Further, I suspect he was convinced that it also granted him the authority to pass legislation to abridge the rights of those who didn’t follow his interpretation of God’s edicts or to block the passage of measures intended to grant equality to those he deemed inferior.

Helms’ legacy is therefore a testament to intolerance and intransigence. Rather than see himself as a cog in the wheel of humanity, he saw himself as the pilot designated to steer the course of his fellow man. In the end, his legacy is steeped in arrogance and wholly lacking in the ability to demonstrate the very humanity he must have believed his actions were upholding.

The Los Angeles Times has an excellent obituary; alone among the mainstream news outlets (at least as far as I’ve seen), they don’t treat Helms’ racist, homophobic background with kid gloves, or dance around it. Most notably, for me, the LAT article explodes the right-wing myth that well-known Southern white racists like Jesse Helms were only racists because they were Democrats — the “party of Jim Crow.”

This corrupt, intellectually dishonest argument has been thoroughly discredited too many times to count, but that doesn’t stop right-wingers from continuing to make it. Several Republican bloggers referred to this canard in the context of Helms’ political history — even Ed Morrissey, who is arguably one of the more respectable rightie bloggers. Ed approvingly quotes “Dave,” a blogger at AOL’s Political Machine, who lies shamelessly, claiming that Jesse Helms’ racial bigotry was part of his Democratic past, and ended when he became a Republican:

Let’s get to the meat of the controversy around the late great Senator No: Jesse Helms.

It’s not because he was a racist bigot in his years as a Southern Democrat. Oh yes, you didn’t realize that from Ken’s diatribe did you? That when Senator Helms was saying those hateful things, he was a Democrat, as were nearly all of the racist segregationist dixiecrats of the era.

In fact, the person who led the filibuster against the civil rights bill of 1964 and was a full member of the KKK is still a Democrat and a lionized member of the Democratic party. I haven’t seen Ken Layne write any screeds against Senator Roberty Byrd [sic] or threaten to kick him out of the party lately. So the problem with Jesse Helms can’t be his segregationist past, or else the Democrats would be craven hypocrites on this issue.

This is flat-out false. Helms has been a Republican since he ran for the Senate in 1972, and as numerous wingnuts have admiringly pointed out, he was an integral part of the Republican strategy to lure Southern Democrats into the Republican Party in the late 1970s, as part of the drive to get Ronald Reagan into the White House. That strategy (the Southern strategy, it’s called, although of course Republicans never call it that) was nakedly racist, as even the head of the Republican National Committee, Ken Mehlman, publicly acknowledged in 2005.

This is what Republicans like “Dave” always leave out: The reason Helms and so many other Southern white politicians as well as massive numbers of Southern white voters defected from the Democrats to the Republicans is the fact that the Democratic Party at that time was moving away from its past as the party of slavery and Jim Crow. Republican strategists nakedly sought the votes of Southern whites who no longer felt comfortable as Democrats because the Democratic leadership had begun to support civil rights.

A registered Democrat in the years before he ran for the Senate in 1972, Helms was not the only Southerner of his generation to defect to the Republicans after the Democratic Party championed the cause of civil rights and, as he put it, “veered so far to the left nationally.” Nor was he, at his death, the only politician defending the traditional values of a rural South that had long since been urbanized.

But Helms will be remembered as different from his contemporaries in that he was unyielding on issues that were important to him. Unlike other conservatives, such as Mississippi’s former Sen. Trent Lott or Georgia’s former Rep. Newt Gingrich, who fought for their causes but found ways to reach accord with Democrats, Helms seldom gave in.

Long after the 1970s, Helms continued to make it clear that he had no use for civil rights and no interest in the concerns of black communities in this country. He filibustered the bill to make Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a federal holiday, and was the only senator to vote against it.

For the next 29 years, Helms opposes every piece of civil rights and affirmative action legislation. He chastises homosexuals, votes against federal funding for AIDS programs and blocks black judges from being considered for the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In 1982, he votes against the extension of the Voting Rights Act, something even his good friend, conservative President Ronald Reagan supports. The following year, Helms single- handedly tries to stop passage of the federal Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

“King’s view of American society was thus not fundamentally different from that of CPUSA (Communist Party of America) or of other Marxists,” Helms said on the Senate floor in 1983. “While he is generally remembered today as the pioneer of civil rights for blacks and as the architect of nonviolent techniques of dissent and political agitation, his hostility to and hatred for America should be made clear.”

Helms opposed busing, supported the racist apartheid regime of South Africa and for years blocked attempts by President Bill Clinton to appoint a black judge to the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A staunch adversary of liberals, Helms renamed the University of North Carolina, “The University of Negroes and Communists.”

When he made an appearance on CNN’s Larry King Live in Sept. 1995, a caller praised him “for everything you’ve done to help keep down the niggers.”

Helms looked in the camera and replied, “Well thank you, I think.”

Did you notice that Helms said that in 1995? Helms never repudiated his racist history or expressed any public regrets about anything he had done.

Unlike many old school Southern racists, Helms went to his grave a more-or-less unreconstructed bigot. Governor George Wallace apologized for his pro-segregation crusade. Even Strom Thurmond mellowed enough to vote for the MLK holiday.

Whereas, Helms couldn’t even muster more than a perfunctory whitewash in his own autobiography. “I did not advocate segregation, and I did not advocate aggravation,” he wrote.

Via Sara Robinson, here is an eloquent recounting of what Jesse Helms meant to the lives of millions of black Americans:

Helms’ and his fellow travelers racist demagoguery drove more Black folk from North Carolina than GM, Ford and Chrysler vehicles combined. My mother, father and at least eight other uncles and aunts ran like runaway slaves from that intentionally racially backward-ized state during Helms’ media heyday of 1960 to his Senate Tenure beginning in 1972 and at least a decade into it.

He giddily meant the million or so African Americans in the state, and the twenty-nine million outside his state in the greater United States nothing but ill will and used his legislative cudgel to beat them down every single chance he got. There is no redeeming feature in my eyes to remember him with. Unlike several undeniably talented bigots who strode the last century like colossi—the likes of a Leni Rifenstahl or a D.W. Griffith—genuinely evil-enabling people who still boasted world and culture changing talents, Helms was not talented. Nor was he particularly smart. What he was, was dogged, and vicious—and he applied that doggedness and viciousness to the task of promoting White Supremacy for the better part of half a century. If he had a talent, it was in the application of his personal racial animus in writing and voting for oppressive legislation that denied people of color their so-called inalienable rights. He damn sure managed to somehow make inalienable, “alienable”, so in that respect alone perhaps—in his blunt-trauma-to-the-skull harshness—he was a “talent”. But then…Charlie Manson clearly evidenced a proficient “talent” for psychotic murder, so take that for what it’s worth.

Helms left this mortal coil early this morning of The Fourth Of July, Two-thousand and eight, and I could not help but note the brutal irony of that “timing”.

He passed away on Independence Day…a holiday celebrating this country’s finally breaking the shackles of a brutal tyranny, while he himself worked his entire life towards the unjust shackling of the freedoms, dreams, aspirations and in many cases, the actual legs and arms of some thirty million African Americans.

[…]

I pray in that steamy place beyond where he has gone to, the words of Frederick Douglass are blasted at him full-volume from a massive, vintage boom-box on an endless loop—with Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power” instrumental in the background:

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.”

Those words were for the likes of you, Jesse Helms. You.

Now, you are gone…and the world spins on without you and advances past the boulderous roadblocks you pushed into place.

I shall shed not a single tear. Nor will those who truly cherish the ideals of freedom, justice and equality.

Be on your way, Senator.

21 Responses to “Jesse Helms: Satan’s Values”

  1. Chief says:

    Kathy,

    You have written and posted a lot of good pieces. None more apt and apropos as this one. Mr. Helms truly represented all (or mostly all) that can be bad about the human species.

  2. gcotharn says:

    The left reserves special enmity for Jesse Helms, because:
    1) his political/governing success was frustrating, and
    2) his moral certitude was galling.

    The left accuse many of racism. Doing so is not just a reflex: it’s a foundation of left-side doctrine, i.e.

    the right are greedy/selfish/racist/homophobic/evil, which is why the right disagree with our self-evidently virtuous prescriptions for running the world.

    However, the left detested Sen. Helms more than most persons they accuse of racism/homophobia/evil. Sen. Helms’ political/governing success rated extra enmity. It was a badge of honor for him.

    Sen. Helms was morally confident. The left like it when
    a) they accuse a Repub politician of insensitivity, then
    b) that Repub politician – often fearing his treatment in the media – rushes to bow/grovel/apologize (irrespective of however tortured was the logic behind the accusation).

    Repub politician fear gives the left power over them. Repubs act guilty even when they are not. They appease their accusers. They make a political calculation that it is better not to fight.

    Sen. Helms neither bowed, groveled, apologized, nor appeased. He did not fear. He did not act guilty. He was morally confident. He fought. The left detested him extra for that.

  3. Kathy says:

    Sen. Helms neither bowed, groveled, apologized, nor appeased. He did not fear. He did not act guilty. He was morally confident. He fought. The left detested him extra for that.

    That’s a load of crap. Slaveowners were morally confident. Eichmann and Hess and Hitler were morally confident. Their actions and their beliefs were still just as wicked and evil.

    Jesse Helms was “morally confident” about his firm conviction that black people are inferior to white people, and that they had to be kept down. He may have been “morally confident” that his beliefs about black people and gays and lesbians and so many others were “moral,” but they weren’t moral. They were and are sick, twisted, perverted, and profoundly immoral.

  4. gcotharn says:

    Accusing people of racism is tricky. None of us can see inside someone else’s heart.

    It’s legitimate to take strategic action based on strong suspicion of someone else’s racism. Yet, even as we take strategic action based on our suspicion: we ought not lie to ourselves that we actually know what is in the other person’s heart (unless we have an overt statement from that person, of course). Objectively: we cannot know what is in someone else’s heart.

    People who worked in the Senate with Jesse Helms during the 80s, 90s, and 00s have said they do not believe he was bigoted. He hired lots of black staffers; placing them in powerful positions. He championed democracy in South America: action which helped brown and black peoples. He championed AIDs prevention and treatment in Africa: action which helped black people. He championed Israel’s cause: helping Semitic people. His well run Senate office helped innumerable black citizens in his state. In his lifetime, Jesse Helms did far more for black people than Barack Obama, for instance, has yet done. At what point do we give up the false belief that we can know a man’s heart, and instead look at a man’s works?

    It is true you believe Sen. Helms’ conservative policies hurt all people – but that’s just political disagreement. Sen. Helms believed his policies helped people. It’s unfair to twist political disagreement into accusation of greed/racism/evil.

    Homosexuality is one area where we do know exactly what Sen. Helms believed. Yet, even here, I do not find hatred in his heart. I find intellectual disagreement. Sen. Helms simply believed gay people chose to be that way. I’m confident he loved the sinner, and simply disagreed with the “sin”.

    Whatever Sen. Helm’s racial views might or might not have been in the 50s and 60s (and I don’t know what they were – and make no accusation either way) – it’s only fair to appreciate what he did for all people in his last three decades in the Senate. A racist in the 1950s would not be hiring black staffers and helping black citizens in the enthusiastic fashion Sen. Helms did. An economic conservative racist would not endorse huge U.S. expenditure to help AIDs victims in Africa.

    Helms frequently commented, during his last quarter century in the Senate, that he couldn’t understand why some accused him of bigotry. Couldn’t those accusers see his work? Couldn’t they see the good he was doing for all? It looks to me like he had a point.

    Some of Sen. Helms beliefs and methods were not my preferred beliefs and methods. Yet, I can see and appreciate his work. I can see and appreciate the good he did.

  5. gcotharn says:

    When I said: “A racist in the 1950s would not be hiring black staffers ….”, I should more properly have said: a 1950’s style racist. I did not intend anyone read into my statement that Sen. Helms was not a racist in the 1950s. He might have been a racist then. He might have made statements proving he was a racist then. I’m not as interested in what he did then as I am in what he did later – in his Senate career.

  6. Kathy says:

    It is not necessary to see inside Jesse Helms’ heart to know he practiced racism. I don’t care what might have been in his heart; I care what he said and what he did and what he advocated.

    You say:

    “People who worked in the Senate with Jesse Helms during the 80s, 90s, and 00s have said they do not believe he was bigoted.”

    That’s not exactly persuasive. I’m sure you can understand why it isn’t persuasive.

    You say:

    “He hired lots of black staffers; placing them in powerful positions.”

    I’m aware of James Meredith. He joined Helms’ staff in 1989. He was a Republican, and according to Wikipedia, agreed to work for Helms because he wanted access to the Library of Congress, and after writing to every member of the House and Senate asking if he could work for them so he could gain that access, Helms was the only one to answer. That’s pretty weird, by any measure, I think, and it certainly does not serve as an indication that Helms was not a racist.

    You say:

    “He championed democracy in South America: action which helped brown and black peoples. ”

    That is false. Helms championed autocracy, torture, and terror in South America. He enthusiastically supported men like Augusto Pinochet in Chile and Roberto d’Aubuisson of El Salvador. Both men were responsible for unspeakable atrocities and the disappearance and murder of thousands of people. One of Pinochet’s signature ways of disposing of Chileans was to put them on planes and drop them over the ocean. That was Helms’ idea of championing democracy.

    From a Mother Jones article:

    “Confronted with evidence that D’Aubuisson directed death squads to murder civilians, Helms made it clear that some things are more important than human life. ‘All I know,’ he replied, ‘is that D’Aubuisson is a free enterprise man and deeply religious.’ ”

    You say:

    “He championed AIDs prevention and treatment in Africa: action which helped black people.”

    Towards the end of his political career, and *only in Africa,* where AIDS victims are heterosexual. This did not help black people in the U.S., heterosexual or homosexual, and it certainly did not help homosexual AIDS sufferers.

    You say:

    “In his lifetime, Jesse Helms did far more for black people than Barack Obama, for instance, has yet done. ”

    That is highly debatable, to put it kindly. Barack Obama was a community organizer in Chicago for many years before he entered the political arena, and unquestionably accomplished a lot of things that directly helped poor, black people in as direct a fashion as possible. Another thing Obama did that directly helped black people was during the time he was Illinois state senator. From CNN:

    ” While an Illinois state senator, Obama was key in getting the state’s notorious death penalty laws changed, including a requirement that in most cases police interrogations involving capital crimes must be recorded.

    The changes enacted in 2003 reformed a system that had sent 13 people to death row, only to have them released because they were later determine to be innocent or had been convicted using improper methods.

    “Without Barack’s energy, imagination and commitment I do not believe the very substantial and meaningful reforms that became law in Illinois would have taken place,” said author Scott Turow, a member of the state commission that recommended many of the changes.”

    You say:

    “Sen. Helms believed his policies helped people. It’s unfair to twist political disagreement into accusation of greed/racism/evil.”

    Objectively, though, his policies helped only white people, and hurt black people, gays and lesbians, and victims of right-wing terror in Latin America. It’s not an issue of political disagreement. It’s an issue of fact, and of truth.

    You say,

    “Homosexuality is one area where we do know exactly what Sen. Helms believed. Yet, even here, I do not find hatred in his heart. I find intellectual disagreement. Sen. Helms simply believed gay people chose to be that way. I’m confident he loved the sinner, and simply disagreed with the ‘sin.’ ”

    And I am confident that’s a steaming load of cow dung. It doesn’t matter whether he thought homosexuality was a choice or not, or whether it is a choice or not. It’s not like being gay or lesbian is bad, or evil, or criminal. If Helms had thought homosexuality *was* innate, and not a choice, he would still have thought it was perverted, and that view reflects a narrow-minded religious fundamentalist mindset and not the truth. Homosexuality is not a sin. The belief that it is, IS, in and of itself, indicative of bigotry and hatred — or at minimum a lifetime of miseducation.

    Furthermore, Helms’ public statements about AIDS victims and about gays and lesbians in general really give the lie to your characterization of his position as an “intellectual disagreement.”

    This:

    “He fought bitterly against federal financing for AIDS research and treatment, saying the disease resulted from “unnatural” and “disgusting” homosexual behavior.”

    is not “intellectual disagreement.” It’s not love. It’s hatred.

    This:

    “1993: On the nomination of a gay rights activist to a federal post: “She’s not your garden-variety lesbian. She’s a militant-activist-mean lesbian, working her whole career to advance the homosexual agenda. Now you think I’m going to sit still and let her be confirmed by the Senate? … If you want to call me a bigot, go ahead.””

    is not intellectual disagreement. It’s not love. It’s hatred.

    This:

    “The Bible is unmistakably instructive on the sin of sodomy,” he declared in 1994. “I confess I regard it as an abomination.” Aids, he suggested, was acquired through “deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct” and he became an ardent opponent of government funding for Aids research and education. In 1987 he described Aids prevention literature as “so obscene, so revolting, I may throw up.”

    is not intellectual disagreement. It’s not love. It’s hatred, inspired by religious fundamentalist orthodoxy.

    This:

    “The government should spend less money on people with AIDS because they got sick as a result of deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct.”

    is not intellectual disagreement. It’s not love. It’s hatred.

    This:

    “Over the years Helms has declared homosexuality “degenerate,” and homosexuals “weak, morally sick wretches.” (Newsweek, 12/5/94) In a tirade highlighting his routine opposition to AIDS research funding, Helms lashed out at the Kennedy-Hatch AIDS bill in 1988: “There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy.” (States News Service, 5/17/88)”

    is not intellectual disagreement. It’s not love. It’s hatred.

    (All quotes above are from Obsidian Wings.)

    And finally, you say:

    “Some of Sen. Helms beliefs and methods were not my preferred beliefs and methods. Yet, I can see and appreciate his work. I can see and appreciate the good he did.”

    I’ll bet you’re not black or homosexual, though. I think that, when it comes to someone like Jesse Helms, the fact that the vast majority of African-Americans and gays and lesbians revile Helms and believe him to be a racist bigot and a homophobe should be given some respect. I don’t think that you or I can say, with personal authority, what Jesse Helms meant to black people and gays and lesbians, not to mention other groups that he harmed. I think it’s very disrespectful, and wrong, to trivialize or deny the reality of their experience.

  7. gcotharn says:

    My comments in bold:

    Kathy,

    Never have I read a more elegant and comprehensive reply with which I so disagreed! It’s an honor, and fun, and enlightening, to conduct this conversation with you. You have taught me things about Sen. Helms which I did not know.

    Kathy on July 7th, 2008 1:37 pm
    It is not necessary to see inside Jesse Helms’ heart to know he practiced racism. I don’t care what might have been in his heart; I care what he said and what he did and what he advocated.

    Re: “what he did and what he advocated”
    Some of your argument, below, re: S. America and homosexuality, equates to assertion that conservative ideas and policies are bigoted. I reject that assertion.

    You say:
    “People who worked in the Senate with Jesse Helms during the 80s, 90s, and 00s have said they do not believe he was bigoted.”

    That’s not exactly persuasive. I’m sure you can understand why it isn’t persuasive.

    My point is that what was in Sen Helms’ heart is not an open and shut case.

    You say:
    “He hired lots of black staffers; placing them in powerful positions.”

    I’m aware of James Meredith. He joined Helms’ staff in 1989. He was a Republican, and according to Wikipedia, agreed to work for Helms because he wanted access to the Library of Congress, and after writing to every member of the House and Senate asking if he could work for them so he could gain that access, Helms was the only one to answer. That’s pretty weird, by any measure, I think, and it certainly does not serve as an indication that Helms was not a racist.

    Would be “pretty weird” if Sen. Helms were a committed Christian trying to do the right thing? It would not be.

    My point is the demonization of Helms because of bigotry:
    a) is shallow, and
    b) depends on supposition.

    You say:
    “He championed democracy in South America: action which helped brown and black peoples. ”

    That is false. Helms championed autocracy, torture, and terror in South America. He enthusiastically supported men like Augusto Pinochet in Chile and Roberto d’Aubuisson of El Salvador. Both men were responsible for unspeakable atrocities and the disappearance and murder of thousands of people. One of Pinochet’s signature ways of disposing of Chileans was to put them on planes and drop them over the ocean. That was Helms’ idea of championing democracy.

    From a Mother Jones article:
    “Confronted with evidence that D’Aubuisson directed death squads to murder civilians, Helms made it clear that some things are more important than human life. ‘All I know,’ he replied, ‘is that D’Aubuisson is a free enterprise man and deeply religious.’ ”

    Mistakes are always made, and Sen. Helms made some big ones. However, do you think Sen. Helms’ intention was to champion “autocracy, torture, and terror”? I do not. My intent was to show a few areas in which Sen. Helms was not acting as a 1955 style racist would be acting. It’s possible Sen. Helms’ racial attitudes evolved (as many persons’ attitudes did).

    You say:
    “He championed AIDs prevention and treatment in Africa: action which helped black people.”

    Towards the end of his political career, and *only in Africa,* where AIDS victims are heterosexual. This did not help black people in the U.S., heterosexual or homosexual, and it certainly did not help homosexual AIDS sufferers.

    Thanks for conceding Sen. Helms did something to help Africans – many or most of which were black persons. Thanks also for the how-to lesson on caveats. 🙂

    You say:
    “In his lifetime, Jesse Helms did far more for black people than Barack Obama, for instance, has yet done. ”

    That is highly debatable, to put it kindly. Barack Obama was a community organizer in Chicago for many years before he entered the political arena, and unquestionably accomplished a lot of things that directly helped poor, black people in as direct a fashion as possible. Another thing Obama did that directly helped black people was during the time he was Illinois state senator.

    The point is: it’s debatable. In this debate, I would prefer to argue Sen. Helms’ side.

    From CNN:
    ” While an Illinois state senator, Obama was key in getting the state’s notorious death penalty laws changed, including a requirement that in most cases police interrogations involving capital crimes must be recorded.

    The changes enacted in 2003 reformed a system that had sent 13 people to death row, only to have them released because they were later determine to be innocent or had been convicted using improper methods.

    “Without Barack’s energy, imagination and commitment I do not believe the very substantial and meaningful reforms that became law in Illinois would have taken place,” said author Scott Turow, a member of the state commission that recommended many of the changes.”

    The point in Helms’ favor remains: it’s debatable.

    I do not dispute either CNN’s or Scott Turow’s editorial opinions. However, I also do not trust those opinions, and thus also cannot concede these points without further investigation.

    This is not the place for detail, yet I feel compelled to say, in the matter of Barack’s legislative career: I see more corruption than accomplishment.

    You say:
    “Sen. Helms believed his policies helped people. It’s unfair to twist political disagreement into accusation of greed/racism/evil.”

    Objectively, though, his policies helped only white people, and hurt black people, gays and lesbians, and victims of right-wing terror in Latin America. It’s not an issue of political disagreement. It’s an issue of fact, and of truth.

    I disagree – especially with “Objectively” and “It’s an issue of fact, and of truth.”

    You say,
    “Homosexuality is one area where we do know exactly what Sen. Helms believed. Yet, even here, I do not find hatred in his heart. I find intellectual disagreement. Sen. Helms simply believed gay people chose to be that way. I’m confident he loved the sinner, and simply disagreed with the ’sin.’ ”

    And I am confident that’s a steaming load of cow dung. It doesn’t matter whether he thought homosexuality was a choice or not, or whether it is a choice or not. It’s not like being gay or lesbian is bad, or evil, or criminal. If Helms had thought homosexuality *was* innate, and not a choice, he would still have thought it was perverted, and that view reflects a narrow-minded religious fundamentalist mindset and not the truth. Homosexuality is not a sin. The belief that it is, IS, in and of itself, indicative of bigotry and hatred — or at minimum a lifetime of miseducation.

    Furthermore, Helms’ public statements about AIDS victims and about gays and lesbians in general really give the lie to your characterization of his position as an “intellectual disagreement.”

    I have not studied enough to declare on either side of the issue of whether Jesus characterized homosexuality as a sin. I have sat in congregations where ministers said homosexuality is a sin. I do not concede their point without further, personal research into the matter (which I haven’t yet been interested enough to conduct, given the many interesting ballgames to be watched, but which I see coming in the my future. Sigh).

    As to everything else you said in the above two paragraphs: I disagree.

    In the following Helms quotes, it’s important to understand Sen. Helms is coming from a particular subset southern Christian perspective in which
    a) the Bible is interpreted as declaring homosexuality to be an abomination, and
    b) every Sunday is about loving the sinner(of all types) and hating the sin(of all types).

    It was not a contradiction for Helms to speak of homosexuality as a perversion, and to speak of homosexuals as lost wretches, and yet to still love homosexuals. It was not a contradiction for him to speak of the sin in the most scathing terms, and for him to condemn the sinners actions in the most scathing terms, and yet to still love the sinners.

    Sen. Helms was in church every Sunday. His religion instructed him to hate sin. He took his religion seriously. HE HATED SIN. He didn’t just dislike it. He hated it, as instructed. He hated all sin. His religion also instructed him that all are sinners – each and every one of us – and we love our fellow man.

    This:
    “He fought bitterly against federal financing for AIDS research and treatment, saying the disease resulted from “unnatural” and “disgusting” homosexual behavior.”

    is not “intellectual disagreement.” It’s not love. It’s hatred.

    I disagree with your conclusion.

    This:
    “1993: On the nomination of a gay rights activist to a federal post: “She’s not your garden-variety lesbian. She’s a militant-activist-mean lesbian, working her whole career to advance the homosexual agenda. Now you think I’m going to sit still and let her be confirmed by the Senate? … If you want to call me a bigot, go ahead.””

    is not intellectual disagreement. It’s not love. It’s hatred.

    I disagree with your conclusion.

    This:
    “The Bible is unmistakably instructive on the sin of sodomy,” he declared in 1994. “I confess I regard it as an abomination.” Aids, he suggested, was acquired through “deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct” and he became an ardent opponent of government funding for Aids research and education. In 1987 he described Aids prevention literature as “so obscene, so revolting, I may throw up.”

    is not intellectual disagreement. It’s not love. It’s hatred, inspired by religious fundamentalist orthodoxy.

    I disagree with your conclusion.

    This:
    “The government should spend less money on people with AIDS because they got sick as a result of deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct.”

    is not intellectual disagreement. It’s not love. It’s hatred.

    I disagree with your conclusion.

    This:
    “Over the years Helms has declared homosexuality “degenerate,” and homosexuals “weak, morally sick wretches.” (Newsweek, 12/5/94) In a tirade highlighting his routine opposition to AIDS research funding, Helms lashed out at the Kennedy-Hatch AIDS bill in 1988: “There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy.” (States News Service, 5/17/88)”

    is not intellectual disagreement. It’s not love. It’s hatred.

    I disagree with your conclusion.

    (All quotes above are from Obsidian Wings.)

    I agree that all quotes above are from Obsidian Wings! I agree! I agree! We agree! Heh.

    And finally, you say:
    “Some of Sen. Helms beliefs and methods were not my preferred beliefs and methods. Yet, I can see and appreciate his work. I can see and appreciate the good he did.”

    I’ll bet you’re not black or homosexual, though. I think that, when it comes to someone like Jesse Helms, the fact that the vast majority of African-Americans and gays and lesbians revile Helms and believe him to be a racist bigot and a homophobe should be given some respect. I don’t think that you or I can say, with personal authority, what Jesse Helms meant to black people and gays and lesbians, not to mention other groups that he harmed. I think it’s very disrespectful, and wrong, to trivialize or deny the reality of their experience

    I am at least mostly white and mostly hetero! I do not subscribe to your appeal to numbers vis a vis: “vast majority”. I disagree that I am trivializing or denying the reality of anyone’s experience.

    I find nothing else to disagree with you about!

  8. gcotharn says:

    Above, re: homosexuality, I wrote 5 paragraphs and then failed to bold the middle three paragraphs.

    I want to add:

    This is part of the reason so many are so certain of Sen. Helms’ bigotry:
    the Democratic Party used Sen. Helms as a hot button for fundraising. The Democratic Party, in order to stir emotion and motivate donors, slandered Sen. Helms for years. The Democratics were full of manure.

    I do not weep for Sen. Helms. He played hardball politics himself, in instance after instance after instance. Some of what he did was distasteful and wrong. However, that I do not feel sorry for Sen. Helms does not mean the Dem Party slanders amounted to truth. They were manure.

  9. Kathy says:

    gcotharn,

    First of all, thank you for that opening compliment. That really made my day, even though I didn’t see it until 7:50 pm. 🙂

    You do know that you can edit your comments, right?

    Much of your response comes down to just plain simple disagreement. I’m not going to argue with you about your reply after each of my Helms homosexuality quotes where I said that was hatred and you said you disagreed. If you disagree, you disagree. I don’t know that we can discuss it beyond that.

    However, I will respond to two of your comments. First, the one about AIDS and Africa. You said:

    “Thanks for conceding Sen. Helms did something to help Africans – many or most of which were black persons. Thanks also for the how-to lesson on caveats. :)”

    That Helms supported programs to help AIDS sufferers in Africa is fact. It’s on the record; it’s fact. That said, you seem to be implying that because Helms supported such programs in Africa, and most Africans are black, that means he did not hate African-Americans, did not regard black people as inferior to white people, did not oppose civil rights, was not a white supremacist, etc. I simply don’t see how Helms’ supporting something that helped blacks in Africa undercuts, or somehow cancels out, the stance that he hated, feared, and opposed civil and human rights for black people in his home country. It’s not a mitigating factor. For all we know, he did it as a deliberate slap in the face to black AIDS sufferers in this country (who are mostly heterosexual, I think) and to gays and lesbians in this country. It clearly is a slap in the face whether meant that way or not.

    I’m not sure what you meant about giving you a how-to lesson on caveats. I know what a caveat is, I just don’t know what you’re referring to.

    “In the following Helms quotes, it’s important to understand Sen. Helms is coming from a particular subset southern Christian perspective in which
    a) the Bible is interpreted as declaring homosexuality to be an abomination, and
    b) every Sunday is about loving the sinner(of all types) and hating the sin(of all types).”

    How do you feel about Rev. Jeremiah Wright, gcotharn?

  10. gcotharn says:

    Now I understand your speculation:
    Bigoted Sen. Helms only helped Africa as a petty method of poking at U.S. blacks and homosexuals.

    I didn’t understand it before. Forget caveats. You’re workin a theory. Jesse Helms was a devious conniver. Your theory could be true.

    It occurs to me that, if Jesse Helms was the Satan you and the Democratic Party depict, then the 1980s era and 1990s era voters of North Carolina were notable dupes and bigots. They had lots of evidence of what kind of man Sen. Helms was, yet they continually voted him back into office. You are arguing that North Carolina voters are contemptible. It’s possible. I say it’s more likely that a 1990s era Jesse Helms sent money to Africa because he genuinely wanted to help people in need, whatever their color. But, I fully understand your theory.

    Jeremiah Wright

    ? I’m trying to understand your point.

    I was arguing that Sen. Helms’ forceful condemnations of homosexuality did not preclude his love for homosexuals as human beings; did not automatically equate to Sen. Helms being a bigot.

    Similarly, Rev. Wright’s intellectual belief in the culpability of white people does not preclude his love for white people as human beings.

    Rev. Wright actually was the impetus for my improved understanding of racism. In the early days of my understanding of TUCC and BLT and Rev. Wright: I wrote, at least two times, that Rev. Wright was racist. Later, recalling LaShawn Barber’s words: “none of us can see into another’s heart”, it occurred to me that I cannot know if Rev. Wright has racial hatred in his heart, and therefore I slandered Rev. Wright by calling him a racist. I apologize, Rev. Wright. As I further mulled Rev. Wright, I came to doubt my original opinion that he has racial hatred in his heart. I now suspect he does not.

    Rev. Wright’s ideology: Black Liberation Theology, is infused with intellectually racist concepts. The intellectual reasoning is objectionable enough, in and of itself, to preclude my voting for Sen. Obama. I will not vote for a candidate who sat 20 years, up until last year, in a church which:
    a) discriminates according to skin color, and
    b) advocates “institutional redistribution of wealth”.

    In plainer language, BLT advocates government taking radically large amounts of money from white people and giving it to black people. The radical wealth redistribution element is bad enough; the racial element is pernicious.

    Sen. Helms did not advocate confiscating personal property (money) according to a citizen’s sexual preference.

    A person may fiercely, intellectually disagree with Sen. Helms. That means Sen. Helms would never get that person’s vote. It does not mean Sen. Helms was either a bigot or Satan.

  11. Kathy says:

    Jesse Helms was a devious conniver. Your theory could be true.

    As you say, Helms’ heart, such as it was, is beyond parsing (and was even before he died, obviously). However, there is no doubt in my mind that supporting health programs for AIDS sufferers in Africa while refusing to fund a penny for AIDS research or prevention or care in his own country, while at the same time using the cruelest, most vile and vicious language to characterize AIDS sufferers in this country, was among the most disgusting things Helms ever did.

    “It occurs to me that, if Jesse Helms was the Satan you and the Democratic Party depict, then the 1980s era and 1990s era voters of North Carolina were notable dupes and bigots. They had lots of evidence of what kind of man Sen. Helms was, yet they continually voted him back into office. You are arguing that North Carolina voters are contemptible. It’s possible. I say it’s more likely that a 1990s era Jesse Helms sent money to Africa because he genuinely wanted to help people in need, whatever their color.”

    Jesse Helms never won an election for senator with more than 56% of the vote in his home state. His campaign strategy was always designed to appeal to white racist sentiment. He did not run broad-based campaigns that aimed to get the votes of black North Carolinians as well as whites. He deliberately courted the votes of whites who hated and feared black people, and settled in exchange for a lower margin of victory.

    So, no, the people who voted for him were not contemptible dupes. They knew exactly what they were doing, and who they were voting for, and why.

    “Jeremiah Wright

    ? I’m trying to understand your point.”

    My point is that I find it striking you can write something like this about Helms:

    “In the following Helms quotes, it’s important to understand Sen. Helms is coming from a particular subset southern Christian perspective in which
    a) the Bible is interpreted as declaring homosexuality to be an abomination, and
    b) every Sunday is about loving the sinner(of all types) and hating the sin(of all types).”

    but reject a parallel justification for Jeremiah Wright, to wit:

    “It’s important to understand that Jeremiah Wright is coming from a particular generation that came of age before the civil rights movement began. Jeremiah Wright is coming from a perspective of having seen daily examples of white’s hatred of blacks and desire to keep them down. Plus, you have to remember that Jeremiah Wright had parents and grandparents, and siblings and cousins and aunts and uncles and friends, all of whom grew up in the context of a rigidly segregated society in which black people effectively could not vote, could not eat or drink or shop or play or live with whites, had to watch where they walked and how they walked and what they said and how they said it, because if they slipped even for a moment, the consequence could be a brutal beating or worse. You have to remember that Jeremiah Wright has probably been called “nigger” and heard the word “nigger” from whites directed at blacks thousands of times in his life. ”

    You have said that Jesse Helms should not be considered a hater and a homophobe because he belongs to a religion that preaches hate and homophobia. And he believes in the religion! How can it be called homophobia, then, for him to have called homosexuals “disgusting” and “unnatural” when his religious faith instructs him to believe thus?

    But about Jeremiah Wright, you do NOT say that he should not be accused of hating white people because he grew up with white racism. You do NOT say that Jeremiah Wright does not hate white people at all; he just hates what white people do and have done.

    The idea that Jeremiah Wright is a racist for saying that white America has been bad to African-Americans (my paraphrase, obviously, but essentially what he has said) but Jesse Helms is not at all a racist for accepting a radio show listener’s praise for everything he’s done to “keep down the niggers” or that he is not at all a homophobe for saying that gay and lesbian Americans are “disgusting” and “unnatural” and “make him want to throw up,” is truly astonishing.

    “I will not vote for a candidate who sat 20 years, up until last year, in a church which:
    a) discriminates according to skin color, and
    b) advocates “institutional redistribution of wealth”. ”

    Jesse Helms sat for considerably more than 20 years in a church that discriminated according to skin color. You don’t think there were any black people in Jesse Helms’ church, do you? You know the old joke about Sunday at 11 am being the most segregated hour in the whole week, right?

    “Sen. Helms did not advocate confiscating personal property (money) according to a citizen’s sexual preference.”

    No, he just advocated standing by and watching while hundreds of thousands of gay men died from a disease for which he refused to fund research for treatments or a cure.

    “A person may fiercely, intellectually disagree with Sen. Helms. That means Sen. Helms would never get that person’s vote. It does not mean Sen. Helms was either a bigot or Satan.”

    Substitute “Jeremiah Wright” for “Sen. Helms” in those two sentences and the statement is equally true, wouldn’t you say?

    I agree that a person may disagree, fiercely, with Sen. Helms, or with Jeremiah Wright, or with any given politician or public figure, and that does not necessarily mean the politician or public figure is a racist . It’s not, of course, *disagreement* that makes someone a racist. It’s beliefs, words, and actions.

    I will, however, grant you that Sen. Helms was not Satan. That title was meant to be hyperbolic, not literal. I don’t believe there is a Satan, anyway, in literal, religious terms, so I could hardly believe that Sen. Helms was Satan. That said, he *was* consumed and eaten up by a virulent social disease — for that is what racism is.

  12. gcotharn says:

    Kathy,

    Maybe we can find some areas of agreement.

    I concede there might be evidence Sen. Helms was a bigot during the 1950s and 1960s.

    Our primary point of contention becomes:
    Can we know if Sen. Helms was motivated by bigotry during the 1980s and 1990s?

    It’s likely most bigots in the 1980s and 1990s neither publicly admitted their bigotry nor committed identifiable acts of bigotry. Does Sen. Helms belong in this group?

    I say: if he was bigoted, he belongs in this group of unidentifiable bigots.

    You say: He identified himself as a bigot via his words and his actions.

    And, maybe we should stop at this point, and say we each clearly understand the view of the other.

    The problem is: we are possibly both in impossible positions of trying to prove negatives. You are trying to prove: Sen. Helms does not belong in the group of unidentifiable bigots. I am trying to prove: Sen Helms did not identify himself as a bigot. Neither of us – and no one else, for that matter – can prove a negative.

    Even if I am wrong about these being “prove a negative” situations, it’s clear that neither of us is going to sway to the other viewpoint at this time. I would sway, if I found evidence Sen. Helms had spoken or acted as a bigot. However, that’s a high bar to clear, and none of your evidence clears it, imo. I have fantasized, for tiny moments, you might see your proffered evidence does not clear the bar of reasonability. Bah! I may as well fantasize Barack represents a new type of hope and change politics.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    I would like my views clearly known on a couple of points. If you have other points you want addressed, I will comply.

    I accuse neither Sen. Helms (circa 1980s and 1990s) nor Rev. Jeremiah Wright of racial hatred. I quote myself (a narcissist’s thrill!):

    Later, recalling LaShawn Barber’s words: “none of us can see into another’s heart”, it occurred to me that I cannot know if Rev. Wright has racial hatred in his heart, and therefore I slandered Rev. Wright by calling him a racist. I apologize, Rev. Wright. As I further mulled Rev. Wright, I came to doubt my original opinion that he has racial hatred in his heart. I now suspect he does not.

    I do accuse Rev. Wright of such intellectual racial buffoonery that Barack is disqualified – based on Barack’s own intellectual racial buffoonery in remaining in those pews – from receiving my vote. Yet, that is not racism. That is intellectual buffoonery and disagreement.

    There’s a notable difference between
    a) failure to recruit black persons into an all white church; and, for instance
    b) overtly advocating white people work to gain economic advantage specifically at the expense of black people. The racial element of that formulation is pernicious.

    You write:
    You have said that Jesse Helms should not be considered a hater and a homophobe because he belongs to a religion that preaches hate and homophobia.

    If you are saying Christianity, or mainstream evangelical churches, teach hatred of human beings: you are misinformed.

    I have visited evangelical churches … well .., for sure over fifty times – if not double that number. They teach hatred of sin, and love of people. They teach that we are all consistent sinners. They pray, in every church service, “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”

    You write:
    And he believes in the religion! How can it be called homophobia, then, for him to have called homosexuals “disgusting” and “unnatural” when his religious faith instructs him to believe thus?

    Sen. Helms was not calling human beings disgusting and unnatural. He was calling homosexual activity disgusting and unnatural. It’s easy to glaze over this distinction, and to miss it, if you haven’t spent time around evangelical thinking. Excerpts from those Obsidian Wings quotes(bolding is mine):

    “unnatural” and “disgusting” homosexual behavior

    the sin of sodomy … I confess I regard it [the act] as an abomination

    deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct

    “Over the years Helms has declared homosexuality “degenerate,” and homosexuals “weak, morally sick wretches.”

    Notice Sen. Helms did not say the persons were degenerate. He said the act was degenerate. Notice you can still love a person (think drug addict, alcoholic) who is a weak, morally sick wretch. I myself am a weak, morally sick wretch a good bit of the time.

    You write:
    [Sen. Helms] advocated standing by and watching while hundreds of thousands of gay men died from a disease for which he refused to fund research for treatments or a cure.

    Was Sen. Helms acting out of bigotry against human beings, or out of what he perceived as righteous, principled opposition to sin? I think Sen. Helms was wrong, btw, if he opposed all funding to jumpstart a cure for AIDs. I can see where he might’ve wanted to effect “tough love” which would save lives in the long run. If so, I believe he was misguided. Sen. Helms said this in one of the Obsidian Wings quotes:

    “The government should spend less money on people with AIDS….”

    Are you certain Sen. Helms opposed all funding for AIDs research? The quote reads as if he might have supported some funding.

    You raised other, peripheral premises and points with which I disagree, yet which do not seem prudent to address at this time. I reserve the right to address them in future, if need arises.

    Sincerely,
    Your Christian Wingnut Boo

  13. Kathy says:

    And, maybe we should stop at this point, and say we each clearly understand the view of the other.

    I kinda agree with this, but, nevertheless, here I go again….

    You write:
    You have said that Jesse Helms should not be considered a hater and a homophobe because he belongs to a religion that preaches hate and homophobia.

    If you are saying Christianity, or mainstream evangelical churches, teach hatred of human beings: you are misinformed.

    No, I think you’re forgetting what you yourself wrote. I’m referring to *your* characterization of the church/religious sect that *Jesse Helms* belonged to.

    Once again, here it is:

    “In the following Helms quotes, it’s important to understand Sen. Helms is coming from a particular subset southern Christian perspective in which
    a) the Bible is interpreted as declaring homosexuality to be an abomination, and
    b) every Sunday is about loving the sinner(of all types) and hating the sin(of all types).”

    I make no judgment nor do I come to any conclusion as to which Christian denominations subscribe to this point of view. I know with certainty that not all contemporary Christian faith communities believe this. In fact, probably many or most don’t. Beyond that, I do not claim to be able to identify all the sects that do or don’t.

    I have visited evangelical churches … well .., for sure over fifty times – if not double that number. They teach hatred of sin, and love of people. They teach that we are all consistent sinners. They pray, in every church service, “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”

    One of the difficulties I have with the above (only one of many, but it’s perhaps the easiest for me to articulate right now) is that “sin” is specifically a Christian concept, and I am not Christian. I don’t believe in “sin” the way it’s thought of and defined in the kind of churches you’re talking about.

    I’m sure this raises all sorts of questions for you, but this is such a profound and complicated subject that it’s hard for me to address it at length in a blog comment. Of course, if you have specific questions, feel free to ask.

    Sen. Helms was not calling human beings disgusting and unnatural. He was calling homosexual activity disgusting and unnatural. It’s easy to glaze over this distinction, and to miss it, if you haven’t spent time around evangelical thinking.

    Yes, but there is no such thing as homosexual activity that is separate from the person engaging in the activity. Gay or lesbian or homosexual, whatever term you want to use, is what a person *is,* not what a person does. Telling gays and lesbians that their behavior is disgusting and unnatural is the same as telling them that who they are is disgusting and unnatural. It’s not like telling your best friend who’s chewing with his mouth open or slurping his soup that he’s being disgusting. It is not possible to separate who one loves from how one expresses that love. This is about how a person falls in love and with whom, and the only choice is whether one is going to keep those things secret from the world or whether one is going to be honest about those things.

    When Jesse Helms attacked homosexuality as “disgusting and unnatural” and said that everyone with AIDS was a sodomist, he was not just attacking behavior; he was attacking the personhood of every individual who is gay or lesbian and/or has AIDS. That is not love.

    Was Sen. Helms acting out of bigotry against human beings, or out of what he perceived as righteous, principled opposition to sin?

    What difference does that make, if Helms’ idea of what constitutes “sin” was rooted in ignorance and was just plain wrong? This goes to trying to fathom the human heart again, and as you have said, no one can do that. What I care about is that people take responsibility for educating themselves so that they don’t act out of ignorance. In this day and age, there is simply no excuse for anyone to believe that same-sex attraction is any more abnormal or perverted than being left-handed or having blue eyes (and I qualify for both).

    If you don’t agree, ask yourself if you would feel the same way about the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia (or any number of other places in the world). When women are denied the right to an education, to drive cars or go out in public without being attended by a husband or male relative, to have sexual relationships outside of marriage, etc., etc., is that coming from hatred of women, or is it coming from what the Saudi male believes to be righteous, principled opposition to sin? Should civilized, humane people condemn such treatment of women and such beliefs about women, or should they argue that such behavior and such beliefs indicate only that Saudi males hate sin, but not that they hate women?

  14. gcotharn says:

    Many, maybe half, of mainstream Evangelical denominations in the South believe homosexuality is a sin/abomination/whatever. Many of these are denominations of Megachurches or very large churches which have thousands of parishioners, control millions of dollars of land, buildings, and other assets, and have entire suburban or neighborhood communities partially or largely structured around the church, it’s schools(Daycare through 12th grade), it’s sports leagues(youth and adult), and it’s daily activities(AA, NA, Bible Studies, Marriage Groups, Community Groups, Professional Christian Therapists, Health Club, and more). These churches are blessings to their communities; they are filled with wealthy parishioners who run those communities; and, at least in the south, approximately half of these denominations believe homosexuality is a sin.

    I surged out that paragraph to show that these are not fringe communities. I also say, with certainty, these parishioners do not hate homosexuals. In fact, these churches are critically important to providing community services which include much loving help for homosexuals in need. I can’t tell you how wrong you are – 180 degrees wrong – if you believe these parishioners hate or despise homosexuals.

    Do they believe homosexuality is an abomination? Yes. So is alcoholism, drug addiction, sex addiction, not caring for your children or your aged parents, and spending too much time reading and commenting on blogs! Do they hate homosexuals, alcoholics, or me for staying up late to compose these comments? No! They have love for homosexuals, and for me – as fallible persons we all are. I’m working from memory, but I’m pretty sure I’m accurate: over 80% of megachurch voters voted for GWB in 2004. Do those voters hate you b/c you wanted John Kerry to be President? Do they hate you for horribly mischaracterizing their opinions and their committment and their faith? No, they do not. They love you.

    Now, if you want to believe these truly wonderful people are attacking the personhood of homosexuals, you get to hold that opinion. The point is, these particular Evangelicals do not believe they are attacking the personhood of homosexuals. They are not coming from a foundation of bigotry. They are coming from a widespread interpretation of scripture.

    It seems you consider it an abomination, or some type of horrible thing, for a government to not fund AIDs research. I disagree. America was founded on the idea of universal God given rights. Americans have no God given right to have the government fund medical research on whatever particular diseases particular Americans have. Such is the job of private enterpirse. Government funding, if it occurs, is not a right but a gift. It is not an abomination, or a horrible thing, or an indication of bigotry, to fail to bestow a gift.

    I do not think Saudi males hate women. I do think Saudi males deprive women of their God given rights to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness through driving(little joke!). Denying God given rights is morally different from failing to bestow a gift.

    One aspect of your argument, it seems to me, comes down to: Evangelicals/Sen. Helms denied (or wanted to deny) rightful rights(TM!) to homosexuals. I disagree.

  15. gcotharn says:

    and, btw: blue eyes are sexy. – Your Christian Wingnut Boo

  16. Anyone hear who is pro-abortion, but hates Jesse; has their priorities mixed up. Specifically, any black who is appalled at his pro-life stance should try to account for abortion’s 25% loss of the black population since 1973.

    What Christian has a problem with his anti-homosexuality stand?

    People want to focus on his racial insensitivites, but as a black man, he may not have cared for us, but white women weren’t the only ones having abortions either. Will someone here compare the loss of 14 million blacks, as opposed to 28 million whites?

    I NEVER heard Jesse publicly utter the word nigger.

    Oh ye! I am anti-affirmative action as well.

  17. Kathy says:

    You are way too young for me, gco, and besides, I don’t date Christian wingnuts.

  18. gcotharn says:

    Our conversation has been infringing upon my consciousness all morning. I probably dreamed about it.

    You and I, being persons of sincere intention, communications skills, and reasoning skills, should be able to carry a conversation to a point where we both clearly understand where we disagree. So, where do we disagree?

    1. You believe Sen. Helms was condemning people, and thus was revealing bigotry.

    I believe Sen. Helms was condemning action, and thus was revealing his particular Biblical interpretation.

    2. You believe Sen. Helms interpretation of homosexuality as choice was so egregiously, obviously wrong that acting upon his interpretation actually constituted bigoted action.

    I believe the case for homosexuality as nature has not been so clearly made. Further,

    3. I do not believe homosexual rights are violated if government failed to fund AIDs research. I do not see how Sen. Helms’ actions oppressed homosexuals, and I therefore do not consider that his actions – in and of themselves – can be fairly characterized as bigoted or oppressive.

    You disagree (please correct if I misrepresent you).

    4. Re: your Africa vs. America argument as evidence of hatred/spite:
    According to your own argument, Sen. Helms showed consistency via sending money to heterosexual AIDs sufferers and withholding money from homosexual AIDs sufferers. This intellectual consistency weakens your theory that Sen. Helms acted out of hatred or spite.

    You say: weaken shmeaken. The man acted out of hatred/spite. I know it, and anyone with any common sense knows it.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    If I missed anything, please add in. I want us to be able to say: here’s where we disagree: here, here, here. I want us to clearly understand where we each stand on our points of disagreement. You and I should not walk away with any haziness or muddled-ness between us. If the air is clear, then we can each at least understand and respect how and why the other person has a different opinion.

    Finally: blue eyes are timeless. As for Christian wingnuts: vive la difference! You know I’m your boo. Admit it!

  19. gcotharn says:

    And, if my hunch is correct that we each are trying to prove a negative, then we’ve each set ourselves up with an impossible task.

    If we, as our goal, work towards fully understanding where we agree and disagree, then we can work together inside the conversation. We can share the same goal. We can be a team.

    I’m trying to bring this nation together! God forbid we should engage in the type of conversation which promotes divisiveness… Such conversation wouldn’t do anything to help Michelle Obama’s children 🙂

  20. gcotharn says:

    I want to enter this on the record, so to speak. One can nitpick this, if one wishes. However, consider the place and time: 1963, in South Carolina; consider the unpopularity of publicly standing up for Harvey Gantt in that place and that time. IMO, the meta message outweighs any nitpicks which are launched from our comfortable 21st century perspective.
    Jesse Helms editorial of support for Harvey Gantt’s entrance into Clemson College.

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