Permit me a few comments on Bob Geary's sayonara to Jesse Helms: "Old Times, Not Forgotten" [Aug. 29].
1. As to the present era in which private racism is smoothed over to look like something else in public: Both the Charlotte Observer and The News & Observer have shifted, from explicitly condemning Helms for preventing any black from sitting on the 4th Circuit bench in Richmond in the 20th century, to doing a squishy balancing act in which they equate Democratic efforts to block some arch-conservative Helms' judicial nominees with Republican Jesse's "holds" on specifically black nominees. In other words, these "liberal" journalists bought Jesse's facile explanations, including the argument that the caseload of the 4th did not warrant a new judge, even if from North Carolina! The editorials are crafted to appeal to their wealthy white suburbanite readers.
2. As to whether Helms got the message that his undiluted opinions had become unacceptable to the majority of folks as far back as 1984, when he almost lost his Senate seat to Jim Hunt: Well, Jesse did play the race and homosexual cards in 1990 and 1996. He linked Harvey to gays and lesbians and the "bloc vote." What is "undiluted"? When you make non-subliminal appeals to fears and prejudices? I would agree that Jesse projected a relatively more moderate facade in 1996, aided and abetted by North Carolina's newspapers that are just not comfortable pointing out uncomfortable truths as to the base nature of Helms' appeals. In a sense, he became them, and they became him. He was smarter than they were.
3. Geary opines that Helms, by ducking out of sight, has never been forced to offer an apology, despite a record in public life that warrants it. Very publicly and arrogantly, Jesse told Phil Jones in a CBS-TV interview a few months ago--when the senator was asked about his relationship with African Americans--that "they know where to find me." He has never entertained the thought of making an apology for his Theodore Bilbo late 20th-century-style racism.
4. Once Sen. Helms became the ranking Republican member of the Foreign Relations Committee in the 1980s, communism and international organizations out to subvert American sovereignty and foreign aid "giveaways" were used more often as substitute bugaboos for gays and blacks and socialists and feminists.
--WILLIAM E. JACKSON JR., DAVIDSON, N.C.
Clogged mail arteries
The problem with the current methods available to the private citizen for avoiding junk mail, phone solicitation, junk e-mail, etc. is that the burden is on the recipient instead of the sender [Front Porch, "Please Mr. Postman," Aug. 8]. I can pay to have Caller ID and screen my calls, which interferes with my usage of my private phone line for its intended purpose; I can order a "junk mail termination kit" and/or contact advertisers individually, with dubious results; or I can resign myself to sorting through endless loads of mail and phone messages for useful content. At home, well over 50 percent of incoming mail is "junk mail"; on the odd day I work from home, I rarely get phone calls that are not from telemarketers; and my e-mail box is full to bursting with "spam."
Why don't we just pass a law that says simply, "If a private citizen has not expressly requested communication from a business or agency, or previously entered into a business relationship with said business or agency, it shall be illegal to contact that citizen via telephone, mail, e-mail, or any other avenue of communication"? No exceptions. If I want to get information from someone, I'll ask, or maybe I'll request to be put on someone's mailing list.
I pay for my phone line, which is for my friends and business partners to contact me. I pay taxes for the postal service, which is so that I can send and receive mail for (solicited) business or pleasure. I pay for my e-mail accounts, which are for expediting communications that I'd normally send or receive via "snail mail." End of story. I'd be surprised to find many people who disagree, unless their personal livelihood is directly related to unsolicited media assault.
--JOHN PRICE, CARY
Got something to say about an Independent article? Send no more than 300 words to firstname.lastname@example.org; to P.O. Box 2690, Durham 27715; or fax 286-4274. Include your name, phone number and mailing address for verification; we cannot publish a letter without confirmation from the writer. We reserve the right to edit letters for length, style and clarity.