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Is Jesse Helms in Hell?

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"To rob the Negro of his reputation of thinking through a problem in his own fashion is about the same as trying to pretend that he doesn't have a natural instinct for rhythm and for singing and dancing." — Sen. Jesse Helms (R), responding in 1956 to criticism that a fictional black character in his newspaper column was offensive.

Yeah, we all knew they called ol' Jesse a racist. No question about it. He didn't care much for queers, either. Lord, those queers. They got him nearly as upset as the Negroes did when they took to sitting in the downstairs areas at the movie theaters in Raleigh.. And Commies. Ol' Jesse would always let you know without even asking that he was way ahead of them Commies. And Socialists and Liberals, too. It's true, ol' Jesse was just about eat up with keepin' track of all those sumbitches trying to mess with his way of life, the real American way of things.

Ol' Jess was a fighter, though.

See, ol' Jesse grew up back in Monroe, NC, during the Depression and even though folks was starving and maybe quietly eatin' the family pet when necessary, ol' Jesse still had fond memories of those warm and sunny Southern times. He wrote once, "I shall always remember the shady streets, the quiet Sundays, the cotton wagons, the Fourth of July parades, the New Year's Eve firecrackers. I shall never forget the stream of school kids marching uptown to place flowers on the Courthouse Square monument on Confederate Memorial Day." Now, isn't that nice? Quiet Sundays. Parades. And don't forget picnics. He left out picnics.

Lord, those were the days, Jim. I mean. Things were entirely different back then and ol' Jesse tried his gosh-darndest to keep 'em that way. He wrote editorials, he worked in radio, he gave lectures and speeches. And not just to his fellow Southern Baptists. No, ol' Jesse would speak at the Rotary and the Elks and the VFW anytime he got asked. He was a veteran, you know. Navy. '42 to '45. Yeah, he was in the Big One. Funny, though, how he always thought we should have maybe joined up with the Germans and the English and fought against the Russian Commies and the yellow race and cleaned things up for good. Oh, well. When his country called, ol' Jesse answered.

He was a great defender of tobacco, too. Never smoked. His mom told him early on that 'bacca was dirty and poisonous as well as sinful. Jesus never smoked. That was all you needed to know, she said. Jesus never smoked. And, far as we know, neither did His Disciples. But, even so, ol' Jesse could plainly see that hundreds of small farms in North Carolina and, hell, all over the South was raising tobacco and got paid by the government in Washington to do it, too. So, what did that tell you? Couldn't be all bad, could it?  'Course, the government was run by Liberals and Commies but, hell, even a stopped clock is right twice a day, right?

So, ol' Jesse threw in with the tobacco companies and they gave him a really good life in return. There are honest-to-god thousands, heck, maybe millions, of pro-tobacco documents laying around Congress that have ol' Jesse's name on 'em. Yeah, he would do anything for big Tobacco. Lie? Shoot. Wasn't lying. The tobacco companies had lots of proof from bunches of scientists and folks that tobacco was absolutely harmless. Hell, the Injuns smoked it for hundreds of years, right? Are they all dead?  Well, just look around at all those casinos over near Hickory and the Georgia state line. There's your answer.

But, ol' Jesse, like I was saying, would do anything for the tobacco companies. When that Socialist Surgeon General in 1960-somethin' said you could catch cancer from smoking 'ol Jesse got a bunch together who said you couldn't. And that settled it. See, it was stuff like that what made ol' Jesse rich and well-known down here and proved he was a Christian man because he didn't just help the big tobacco companies over in Winston-Salem; he also helped the local farmer with his ten-acre allotment and made sure prices stayed up no matter what and there was no taxes on the 'bacca that went overseas. Ol' Jesse loved the little man. He truly did. That's why he got sent to be a Senator all the time, what, maybe thirty years or so, even when that Charlotte Negro Harvey Gantt tried to take over. Ol' Jesse never did forgive Harvey for being the first colored person to attend Clemson University. 'Course, Clemson's in South Carolina, not North, but still.

Now, I know what you're thinking. All that death and destruction and disease some say tobacco causes. Well, who's to say that wasn't all part of God's plan? So, they tell us millions of people die all over the planet every year from tobacco. I know, I know. Sure, you can get all het up about that if you want, but folks gonna die of something sometime, right? Who knows if tobacco really got 'em in the end. Hell, lots of those folks had other problems, too, you know. Sugar. And overweight. Consumption maybe. Hit by a car. Gunfight. And, we all gotta go sometime, right? Like I said, God has his plan and ol' Jesse was a very important part of it.

So, when you hear them saying ol' Jesse was responsible for more death than Hitler, Stalin and the Chinese Communist guy all run together, well, that's just a bunch of crazy talk. Ol' Jesse was a real godly man, a Christian till the Lord called him home. In fact, what you want to bet that right now ol' Jesse and The Lord aren't sitting around up there in Heaven having a good old-fashioned roll-your-own like they did before tailor-mades came out?

Now, wouldn't that be something?

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Mike Malloy is a former writer and producer for CNN (1984-87) and CNN-International (2000). His professional experience includes newspaper columnist and editor, writer, rock concert producer and actor. He is the only radio talk show host in America to have received the A.I.R (Achievement in Radio) Award in both (more...)
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