Since Jesse Helms, the controversial former long-time Senator from NC, died a few days ago, I've seen numerous commentaries about his life, career, and views. Almost all negative.
Stephen Lemons, columnist for the local version of the NEW TIMES alternative newspaper, grew up in North Carolina. His online column response to Helms' death, "Tramp The Earth Down: The Unlikely Debt I Owe The Late Sen. Jesse Helms", is, I think, one of the best.
The section that sums it up:
I now realize, with the wisdom of a few more years, that I owe ol' Jesse a strange debt of gratitude. There are those raised in more enlightened climes that have never been exposed to such base, political villainy. I didn't enjoy that luxury. As a result, my antennae are acutely tuned to the malevolence, lies and smear-tactics of those who would use race, nationality and/or ethnicity as their bugbears. These individuals are common enough in Arizona, of course, save that here they're more concerned with brown instead of black skin.In short, the good that Jesse Helms did was to serve, publicly, as a Bad Example.
I also learned from Helms' that the good fight is the one you win, and only the one you win. Metaphorically speaking, you need not become a snake in order to overcome the reptile. But you must overcome it, or suffer the consequences. Half-measures do not work against water moccasins like Helms. For teaching me that, I owe him one.