So, there’s been a lot of “Oh thank God, may he rot in Hell” about Senator Helms’s death yesterday. As a nearly lifelong resident of NC, I can honestly say that while I hated his policies, voted against him at every turn, and disliked his politics, I did come to respect Senator Helms. For one very simple reason : For all his faults, Senator Helms always made time for his constituents, and always voted for what he felt was in the best interests of North Carolina and the people here. Right or Wrong, I cannot fault him for doing what he was supposed to do as a representative of the state of NC.
And this sounds pretty odd coming from ME. But I have, over the years, come across more and more examples where Jessie did something extraordinary for the people of NC. From the young black man who was getting screwed by a government loan mix-up that Jessie cleared up, to his support of local farmers and industry, to the people he employed with one and only one purpose : to communicate with and care for the people he represented.
The shining example of this came to me early one morning. I had called Sen. Helms office as part of my duties as Chair of TriLUG – specifically to request Sen. Helms vote against the DMCA and similar bills. His staff was patient, gracious, and very kind. They expressed that Sen. Helms would like to get our position in writing, and gave me the address to send it to. At no time were they rude or rushed.
And it was 8:55am September 11, 2001. They were being evacuated from the building, the Pentagon was on fire, and I had no idea this was going on until someone on IRC told me to turn on the news, because holy crap WTF?!?
And yet his staff made time to listen to a group in NC who had a concern for the Senator.
Jessie, we don’t miss your politics. But damn if we won’t miss your dedication, your service, and the passion you took in doing what you felt was right for the people of North Carolina.
Sometimes, I think we need more politicians with those values.