Helms was a unique politician. He stood alone in his public pride for his bigotry against LGBT people, and invoked similar bigotry in others. I suppose you could say Helms was the official leader, or Grand Marshal, in the unofficial Bigotry Pride Movement. Bigotry Pride Month is October which coincides with Jesse’s birthday on October 18. Jesse Helms Freedom Day is July 4. That is the day Jesse became Grand Marshal in Memorium of Bigotry Pride Month.
Seriously, when Jesse was not threatening President Bill Clinton with violence (possible assassination if he visited North Carolina), he was insulting LGBT professionals, artists, faith leaders, and politicians. Helms warned Clinton he had better have a bodyguard when he visited North Carolina as the president and his gay policies were so unpopular there. Helms also spent considerable time from 1993 till his death threatening to have me fired as a diplomat with the government.
Whenever I pen a remembrance of Helms I get a reminder of his bigotry in the form of nasty anonymous letters wishing me an agonizing AIDS death. Note to Helms followers: It is 2014 and AIDS is manageable now. I have also seen notes purportedly written by Helms referring to me as a queer. I assure the anonymous Helms acolytes, I do not, any longer, lose sleep over such garbage.
As the U.S. Supreme Court has finally allowed equality and wedding bells to ring in North Carolina for same-sex couples, Jesse Helms Country is moving into the mainstream of LGBT politics. Jesse Helms be damned.
The issue of marriage equality arose in the 1990s as an issue Helms felt he needed to inflame for the benefit of his mob-minded followers. In true fashion, Helms offered his conservative and, in hindsight, prehistoric, opinion on the issue.
“They even want to get married,” the goggle-eyed Helms said to a reporter about same-sex couples. “How do you like them apples?”
The latter statement from Helms requires some translation. According to UrbanDictionary.com, the phrase “How do you like them apples?” is more frequently expressed as "how do ya' like them apples?" The basic meaning is "what do you think about that?"
If you, gay or straight, know little about Jesse Helms, let me assure you he did not intend the phrase to express his admiration for same-sex couples wanting to exercise their Constitutional right to marriage for their pursuit of happiness granted under the Declaration of Independence in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. That would not have been Jesse’s thinking.
When Helms asked the reporter “How do you like them apples?” in reaction to same-sex marriage, he intended it to anger people over a social change, specifically gay rights, that he strongly and, as my mail still reminds me, violently opposed.
The Urban Dictionary goes further. It says “How do you like them apples?” is intended to piss people off. That was the Jesse Helms I knew. He was king of the politics of “I want to piss you off so you’ll send me money so I can pursue an extremist agenda that will make North Carolina a laughingstock for decades to come.”
North Carolina majorities elected Helms to the U.S. Senate five times and he served from 1973 to 2003. In a word, Helms was hate. He refused to consider that change, expansion of Constitutional rights to gays, could bring happiness, value and dignity to people, our Nation and the world.
Change has happened in North Carolina. I suspect his followers had better hire a bodyguard to protect his final resting place from all signs of love and affection from happily married same-sex couples. Senator Hate would not approve.