The Cost of Principles

Here’s a story of a guy who gave up his state job rather than fly the flag at half-staff for Jesse Helms at his place of work. His rationale: “he did not think it was appropriate to honor Helms because of his ‘doctrine of negativity, hate, and prejudice’ and his opposition to civil rights bills and the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.” When told to fly the flag at half-staff or retire, he retired.

My thoughts:

1. I think it’s admirable the man understood that civil disobedience often means paying a price for one’s actions;

2. I’m sympathetic to the man’s position, because Helms was a rotten piece of work, but of the things I’d personally be willing to lose my job over, this would not be one of them (I suspect in my place, had I decided not to fly the flag at half-staff for someone, I simply would have passively-aggressively ignored the e-mail and claimed to have accidentally deleted it, whoops, sorry, and then called in sick for the day);

3. North Carolina is probably legally in the right to demand the dude’s resignation, but it seems a bit harsh. A reprimand on his permanent record would probably have been sufficient, especially since the flag did finally get down to half staff.

(Before anyone paints me as your typical flag-burning hippie, I’ll note that for a couple of years in high school I took it upon myself to raise and lower the flag at my school because no one else could apparently be bothered to do it, and if you want to annoy me, one good way of doing it is to let a raggedy-ass US flag fly from your house or (ugh) from your car. Have some respect, people.

On the other hand, I don’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance, either, for moral and philosophical reasons. Yes, I’m a big ol’ bundle of contradictions, I am.)

Whether I agree this is something worth losing one’s job over doesn’t really matter of course; this guy did, and stuck by it. Whatever happens going forward, I certainly hope he feels the sacrifice was worth it.

68 thoughts on “The Cost of Principles

  1. Good points, but the opportunity to point out a pet peeve can’t be passed. Masts are on ships. It is half staff when on land.

  2. I can understand where he is coming from – and retirement isn’t the end of the world. It does seem some sort of compromise ought to have been possible though.

    If no one will be harmed by his actions, then working something out is completely possible. Shoot, all they had to do was make it public, that he wouldn’t do it and there would be somebody who would show up to do it.

    If nobody did, maybe that proves he was right.

  3. Much as I despised Helms, I don’t agree this guy did the right thing by refusing to fly the flag at half staff (Thanks, David). Quitting rather than do it, so that somebody with less objections could comply? Definitely his choice. But the point was to mark the passing of a former United States Senator, correct? Imagine how we’d all be reacting if some state employer refused to honor a former Senator “because of his support of the homosexual agenda,” or “because he encouraged miscegenation”, or “because he was a Muslim”.

  4. You’re not the only one, John.

    I’m a vet and I will go to excruciating detail to make certain a flag is taken care of properly, but no pledge. It’d probably disqualify me from public office, but while I will stand at attention during the attention, it is without my hand on my heart.

    Not to paint with too broad a brush, but as… motivationally challenged as some state employees I’ve met, I’m surprised that one would bring an early end to his career to thumb his nose at Helms. Gee, sorry, must’ve missed that email. I’ll take care of it after my break.

  5. Nice to see an example of personal conviction out there in the wide world.

    Personally, I don’t think I could justify not lowering a flag to half-staff for a US senator unless I, personally and concretely, knew them to be evil.

    Doing that kind of thing due to anything less than personal knowledge just screams, ‘I have been manipulated by others into a personal hatred of someone I don’t actually know!’ But that’s just me.

  6. It’s good to see principle is not a dirty word these days.

    I’d like to think I would be able to stand by my own if they were put to the test like this. Unfortunately, sometimes principles have to take a back seat to life. In this case (without reading the article), if I had no one that had to count on me for sustenance I would retire/quit as well. But if I was responsible for taking care of a family and my income was the only thing keeping us afloat, I would have had to grudgingly lower the flag. But I would not have been happy about it.

  7. Skar,

    Are you implying that there is insufficient public evidence that Helms is hateful and evil? Like say, for example, his voting record and almost every political speech he ever gave. Really?

  8. I respect the guy. More so than if he’d done the passive-aggressive thing (one of my hot buttons is people who are P-A ). If you really object to something, then freaking OBJECT to it. A principle that you won’t really stand up doesn’t mean much. Now, you might have to weigh the cost of standing up for a principle against other things (feeding your family say)… so I can see times when you want to take a stand but you don’t feel you can because other values preclude it.

    But don’t stand on principles half-assedly. “Losing” the email is cowardice, not a principled stand. If it’s really important to you, stand for it. If it’s not, don’t. The pervasiveness of passive-aggressive, put a finger in the air so you can see which way the wind’s blowing attitudes is just frustrates the hell out of me. Take a stand on things that you care about. Some people will agree with you, some will disagree. But more people will respect you even if they think you’re wrong or a fool to believe what you do.

  9. I’ll chime in as being another that has respect for the flag (including getting annoyed when folks use tattered ones, or festoon streets or used car lots with them for decoration, which is contrary to Flag Code) but who refuses to pledge or sing the national anthem while tyrants occupy the oval office… and I use the plural, because neither of the current candidates to replace the tyrant we’ve got made the slightest bit of a stink over today’s FISA vote, which basically scrubs the Fourth Amendment right off the map when it comes to electronic commo… jive turkeys. I was so looking forward to the possibility of getting to sing again…. as for the gent who took the parachute option, state pay may suck but state pensions are pretty plush as such things go… and it doesn’t prevent him from double dipping. One of the professors I worked with when I was barely more than a lad retired from the state of Georgia, then went over to Huntsville and went to work for NASA Marshall… another six years and he’ll be vested for two pensions and can live on the beach with no worries…. assuming his pension funds don’t get Enron’ed….

  10. I’m ambivalent. Helms was evil and I applaud any public acknowledgment of such. But the guy didn’t just refuse to lower the flag himself, nor did he refuse to order his staff to do it. He ordered his staff not to do it.

    But it’s nice to see someone willing to stand up and call bullshit on all the “wasn’t he a nice man” crap in the media.

  11. Are you implying that there is insufficient public evidence that Helms is hateful and evil? Like say, for example, his voting record and almost every political speech he ever gave. Really?

    Yup. I am not a student of Jesse Helms. However, his voting record and his political speeches only indicate that he held views you disagree with. In my world, disagreeing with someone does not make them evil or worthy of contempt.

  12. The state has him nailed legally, no question. When acting as an agent/employee of the state, you obey all legal directives or they can terminate your employment out of hand. He’s lucky they let him “voluntarily” retire instead of firing him outright for good and sufficient cause–open insubordination.

    As far as principles go, whatever happened to the principle of living up to your employment contract, the terms on which you accepted the job? His choice entirely to comply or quit (or be fired), but its more a case of conflicting principles than a single principle. The idea that you’re “living up to your principles” by sticking to one principle while actively violating another is something I’ve never bought into.

  13. If he believes that following a mostly empty centuries old tradition is so heinous an act that he would rather be unemployed, they certainly, he should stand by his principles.

    But I, personally, believe that North Carolina will be better served when his job is being done by someone whill do all of it, not just the parts he likes.

    This seems an awfully petty thing to pick a fight over.

  14. Terry:

    Like where your seat on the bus is located? That’s a pretty petty thing, too.

  15. As a recent arrival I hadn’t seen your 2002 posting on the pledge, but I bust out laughing when I read it ’cause it exactly tracks my own thinking. Only I didn’t stop saying it until I was in middle school (slow learner, I guess :)).

    What I do when the pledge is recited is review the reasons I think the ol’ US of A is a great place, the problems we’ve overcome and the challenges we’re still working on. Interestingly, there’s enough in all categories that I don’t tend to repeat stuff too often. Equally interestingly, the process always brings me to tears.

    One other interesting tidbit: I’m an elected official (on my city’s school board) and have never been called to task by anyone for what I do (or don’t do) regarding the pledge. Which I chalk up to either my living in the Bay Area or that people just don’t see what they don’t want to see :).

    - Mark

  16. While I admire the guy for having the guts to take a stand and loathed Helms, allowing this would have set a dangerous precedent. I don’t foresee a lot of good from having each minor bureaucrat getting to decide who is appropriately non-evil enough to get honored according to his belief system. If today it is Helms, then someday it will be Kennedy and next thing you know it the flagpole has come yet another battleground for petty political bickering.

    Better to impartially honor people for the offices they held.

  17. I’ve got a feeling I’d like the guy who refused to lower the flag for Helms. But, jeez, dude, pick your fights.

  18. “The idea that you’re “living up to your principles” by sticking to one principle while actively violating another is something I’ve never bought into.”

    That’s when it matters. Living up to a principle where there’s no conflict or cost is easy – it’s when there are two conflicting principles that someone can show what they believe is important to them.

    Those of you saying he should unquestioningly do everything the state asks of him should ask yourselves what you’d do if your company or government told you to do something that violated your deepest beliefs. We don’t sign over our free will when we go to work… we always have the right to say ‘no, that’s something I cannot and will not do.’ The corollary to that is that we need to be willing to accept the consequences of our decisions. The state was well within their right to force him to leave, just as he was well within his right to comply or not.

  19. Soo, when the governor of a state issues a legal executive order that is within his traditional power, state employees should feel free to exercise their discretion? I’m not really a fan of that viewpoint. If each and every state office could choose which lying-thieving-son-of-a-bitch politicians they will or will not render honors to, then The State would not be capable of rendering honors, however undeserving the honoree. Of course, the principal-agent relationship within governmental agencies has long been tenuous. Sorry, but if you as a member of a state agency order your staff to disregard a direct (and legal) order from the governor, termination should be mandatory.

    Note that I’m not really disagreeing with Mr. Scalzi that each and every man ought to feel free to exercise his God-given right to tell his employer to pound sand (if said man is willing to accept the inevitable firing).

  20. If Bill Clinton had died before the expiration of his term, I would have flown my flag at half staff because he was the president. His personality and/or character certainly wouldn’t have inspired me to honor him thus.

    You honor the office sometimes, not the idiot in it.

  21. Chalk me up as another leftie who is annoyed by people flying raggedy flags, but doesn’t like to say the pledge…

    In my previous home, I would walk to work past 6-10 flags, at least 5 of them raggedy because they were never taken down. I REALLY wanted to make up fliers to put on their doors that said “PLEASE burn your flag” and then attach a copy of the US Flag Code (which stipulates how to display and dispose of a flag)

    Then again, I’m also annoyed by US Army uniforms which appear to all have the flag on backwards. The blue is in the upper LEFT people…

  22. Oh, I should mention that saner minds than mine convinced me that the leaflets weren’t a good idea, so I never did it.

  23. Eddie@15:
    Thanks for the links.

    I’m not defending Helms. I vocifereously disagree with most of what he stood and fought for. He may well have been evil.

    My point is simply that to refuse to lower the flag to mark the passing of a former US Senator is a pointedly spiteful and contemptuous act. Pretty vicious for someone you only knew through second and third-hand accounts.

    Not a stand I would care to take from that distance.

  24. Cassie:

    “You honor the office sometimes, not the idiot in it.”

    Yeah. Sometimes it’s harder than others, but, yeah.

    Brian:

    I’ve often thought about sneaking up to the houses where I see a ragged American flag and leaving a replacement flag on the doorstep.

  25. The only problem that I see here is when people don’t say what they mean and mean what they say. Look, I’ve been known to shoot off my big mouth in the past, present, and probably the future, but damn folks, I can’t ever see the down side of trying not to be a lying double-talking hypocrite. I have to say that I didn’t agree with the senators positions, but at least he made no bones about going on the record, no PC, no bullshit. This gentleman from N.C. is of the same type in the sense that he said “this is where I am at, and what I’m for.” I don’t care what the issue is or what your attitude is, right or wrong, be honest! If you are a bastard, be one. If folks don’t like it, they can vote for someone else.
    It ocasionally costs me to be blunt, but life is too short to miss sleep sorting out the lies.
    Dave

  26. what im wondering is- is it really that important that we have to loose our job over this?

    okay- sure- you made your point, you didnt like helms, but what now? are you willing to sacrifice your job just to make a point to everyone? in one hand you have your job, in the other you have a statement you make to the world.

    i know that a guys got dignity and all… but sometimes i think its just best to suck it up and keep things to yourself- thats what i gotta do everytime i get in arguments with the mrs. or something- im gonna have to choose whats more important… me being right or me not sleeping on the couch

  27. Then again, I’m also annoyed by US Army uniforms which appear to all have the flag on backwards. The blue is in the upper LEFT people…

    The reasoning, as far as I’m aware, is that the blue is to the front, as though you were moving forward and the flag was streaming from a standard.

  28. Aside from disobeying a lawful order from his superiors, this guy also seems to consider the lab to be “his” facility. One man’s principles are another man’s ‘personal issues,’ it would seem to me.

    I agree with most here that the senator was a nasty piece of work, but the people Eason works for elected the senator five times, and also forked over the money to build and staff Eason’s lab, and also elected the governor who gave the order to honor the aforementioned nasty piece of work.

    Calling it a matter of principle is pushing things a bit. It was a childish tantrum, and I hope he comes to regret it.

  29. I’m a Tarheel myself, a Republican all my adult life, and I never understood how Helms got away with playing the race card. His positions on to many things were the opposite that any right thinking person should embrace.
    Yet he was revered in this state and many of those views still are, much to my shame.
    I guess I was naive as a teenager, in the sixties, because I always believed that kind of BS would be a thing of the past by this time.
    I understand the man’s position in refusing to lower the flag, but I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to do it myself.

  30. Brian
    “Then again, I’m also annoyed by US Army uniforms which appear to all have the flag on backwards. The blue is in the upper LEFT people…”

    The flag patches are worn with the blue star field to forward do that the flag appears as if being carried into battle. If it were worn with the stars in the upper left it would be in retreat on the right shoulder. If only one flag patch is worn it is worn on the right shoulder as that is the position of honor.

    (I’m not only annoyed by ragged flags but ones flown at night without a spot light.)

  31. I’m in the “honor the office, not necessarily the man” camp. I’m also in the “Would you endorse the same treatment if it was a Senator you admire?” camp.

    I was no fan of Jesse Helms, but a lot of people seem to forget (or seem to not want to know) that he was not “pure evil.” And Eason is not quite correct in proclaiming that Helms was “oppos[ed] to civil rights.”

    With the chair’s permission, I yield the balance of my time to Jeff Jacoby:

    [Walter Russell Mead, a noted scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations], who grew up in the South, recalled listening as a boy to Helms’s “anti-integration, anti-Martin Luther King commentaries on WRAL-TV.” But once the battle was over and the civil rights laws were passed, Mead wrote years later, Helms did something “very revolutionary for Southern white populists: He accepted the laws and obeyed them.” He shunned violence, hired black aides, and provided constituent services without regard to race. Instead of leading his followers into resistance, Helms “disciplined and tamed the segregationist South,” prodding it “into grudging acceptance of the new racial order.”

    Yet rather than hail his statesmanship and acknowledge his contribution to the civil rights revolution, liberals marked his death by reaching for pejoratives. Helms’s sin was not racism; it was his tenacious political incorrectness. Had he been willing to tack left on other issues, his racial wrongs would have been forgiven.

  32. In addition to “honor the office, not the man”, it’s possible to be principled, but still recognize the human value of those who are/were enemies of those principles. So I’d probably lower the flag.

    Bottom line is this is a personal decision for the individual. So I’m not going to second-guess his actions. If he felt that’s what he had to do, that’s what he had to do.

  33. Sorry, I don’t GET the flag-veneration. Its a colouful piece of cloth, for crying out loud!

  34. I’ve lost track of where I got this link; it’s a letter that Jesse Helms wrote in 1965. I don’t know if it was sent, or not, but it shows a different mind than he’s commonly claimed to have. Perhaps it really was that he wanted people to do right things, rather than to just have laws punishing some of them for doing wrong things?

    Letter pdf

    I also think about leaving new flags, or offering a crisp $10 to help pay for a new one.

    The Pledge I say without the “under God”.

  35. Mel, you don’t venerate the “colouful” piece of cloth, you honor the meaning behind it. That’s the “republic for which it stands” part of the pledge. It’s a symbol.

  36. Sorry Paul Havemann @ 36, but no sale. Helms wasn’t just bad because he was conservative. Bill Buckley was conservative. Ronald Reagan was a conservative. Neither came in for this kind of criticism after their deaths. Neither of them earned with the hateful bigotry Helms cheerfully displayed.

    Helms cut his teeth on this kind of slime:

    White people, wake up before it is too late…Do you want Negroes working beside you, your wife and your daughters, in your mills and factories? Frank Graham favors mingling of the races.

    That was back in the 50s, but throughout his carrier he peddled filth like this:”Crime rates and irresponsibility among Negroes are a fact of life which must be faced.”

    He refused to honor Dr. King, calling him a pervert and a degenerate. Against Harvey Gant, the black mayor of Charlotte, he ran the infamous ad with white hands crumpling a letter while a voiceover read, “You needed that job … but they had to give it to a minority.”

    When the first African American woman was elected to the Senate, Helms gleefully told Orrin Hatch, “Watch me make her cry. I’m going to make her cry. I’m going to sing ‘Dixie’ until she cries.”

    He then followed her into an elevator and sang, emphasizing how “good” things were before the Civil War ended slavery.

    Sure, he Helms didn’t actively violate the law he’d opposed. “Jesse Helms: He may have been slime, but he wasn’t a criminal.” There’s an epitaph for you…

  37. Perhaps not Josh, it will be interesting to see how the independent vote reacts to Obama’s yea vote on FISA, telecom immunity. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?

  38. Mel,

    I don’t venerate the flag.

    In fact, I do not venerate anything.

    I do however, honor the things for which the flag stands, including the country in which I live, the principles upon which it was founded as outlined in the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution that outlines rights and liberties.

    I honor those who gave their lives in military service, from the War of Independence to the Civil War to the current war.

    It is the flag that is draped over the coffins of those who have served this country, so when we see the flag we should remember the sacrifices those individuals have made for the country in which I live.

    The flag itself is just an object. It is what that object stands for that I honor.

    And I am continually upset by flags left in the rain, left flying until they are ragged, flags left flying in the dark, and flags printed on clothing and other objects that will eventually be summarily discarded in the trash.

    What does not upset me, however, is the idea of burning the flag. If someone feels so strongly that they believe they should burn the flag in protest, that is a valid symbolic action, and a far better end to a flag than to be wadded up and thrown in the trash.

  39. By North Carolina law flags must be flown at half mast for the remainder of the day and the next that a Senator or Representative dies.

  40. Interestingly, Sen. Obama had no problem joining the rest of the Senate in co-sponsoring a resolution honoring the deceased Sen. Helms.

    Not that I think this reflects poorly on Sen. Obama, rather the opposite. Why make an issue out of a tradition that is done for every Senator upon his or her death? It is just an interesting counterpoint to the discussion.

  41. I study social psychology-specifically I am specializing my research and studies on persuasion and communication. You may be interested to know that there is psychological and research that relate to pledges. In terms of commitment and strengthening people’s commitment to something (such as a cause or country), there are 4 primary elements that influence the level of commitment and more importantly, the amount of future follow through (for example being faithful to the country and trying to do everything in your country’s best interest.
    The four elements are public, active, effortful, and free choice. For example, if someone makes a public commitment (e.g. saying you will volunteer at a homeless shelter once a week in front of others), they will be more likely to follow through and believe in the cause they committed to (whatever their earlier feelings about helping homeless people). Similarly, an active commitment (signing an honor code affirmatively rather than passively acquiescing) has been shown to also greatly increase incidence of follow through and positive feelings towards the object in question (in this case an honor code). Also, the more effort required to put in, the more committed you will be to it and more you will like it (this is why armies and frats have such stiff, difficult hazing and initiating rites). The final element is your perceived free choice; it will also greatly influence your commitment and feelings towards the object/cause in question. For example, if a child thinks he is putting on his seatbelt because he chooses to rather than being forced to, he will be more likely to wear his seatbelt in the future (even when no one forcing him) and have a positive attitude towards wearing seat belts.

    You can see that many social contexts try to take advantage of this (not just armies and frats) but that traditional weddings and joining religions, cults, and other various groups incorporate many of these elements as well.

    An honor code or pledge to one’s country is likely to get more compliance and good attitude (not cheating, patriotism, defense of country, paying taxes, and food feelings) if as many as these elements are utilized. That is a public, active affirmation of commitment (as long as one has a perceived free choice) will be greatly persuasive (even if individual not conscious of it) and increase a person’s compliance with message. So optional (free choice), public, signing of honor code (active) are likely to be very beneficial. On the other hand, raising and lowering a flag everyday (active, free choice, and effortful) may also have a similar effect on patriotism and trying to do the best for the country’s interest.

  42. I suppose that post is more in reference to your old linked post about honor codes and pledges….

  43. What’s wrong with burning the flag? Penn & Teller have a great bit where they burn the American flag on stage in celebration of the right to do so. Oh, and the proper disposal method for a flag that has become tattered? Burning it.

  44. I’m not against burning the flag, I’ve just always thought that it is pointless. Generally, when you burn a flag, the people you are trying to reach stop listening and just get angry, and you are worse off than when you started.

    But if you feel you need to burn it, go right ahead.

  45. I teach teenagers in a public school.

    Since the opening of the Guantanamo Bay oubliette and the revelation of the rendition process, I have ended every recitation of the pledge with ‘with liberty and justice for some.’

    When questioned by students, I merely tell them – the statement is more accurate.

  46. I saluted officers that I didn’t like or respect while serving on active duty. It pained me less when I thought of it as paying respect to tradition and the officer’s rank — rather than the individual themself.

    Someone above mentioned that it is wise to pick your battles. Right now, Jamie Lynn Spears, Lara Logan and Brooke Hogan seem to be what’s on America’s mind right now according to Yahoo’s ‘Today’s Top Searches.’ L.F. Eason III wasn’t even offered a fraction of a percentage of his 15 minutes of fame.

    There are more effective and powerful ways of taking a stand and getting a message across … Mr. Eason has only done something detrimental to himself. I hope his state funded retirement kicks in soon for him.

  47. Excuse me BukaHobbit, but Byrd has publicly, sincerely, and repeatedly apologized for his involvement in the Klan.

    One cannot take back past actions.

    But when such actions are regretted with heartfelt sincerity, it behooves others to let those actions remain in the past.

    Not to bring them up as an act of partisan “well YOUR side is just as evil as OUR side” comeuppance.

    You laud this gentleman as standing up for his principles knowing what the price would be, yet you berate someone who has spent the vast majority of his life doing just that, for an action taken in his youth that was apologized for?

    Who has issues with partisanship I wonder?

  48. Messages of redemption and sincere apology are moving and useful to society as a whole for healing. It’s a powerful message in all of the world’s religions. As Helms was a Christian, I think the story of the penitent thief is rather apt. He’s “Saint Dismas” now. You don’t hear much bout that other dude.

  49. That 2002 Pledge of Allegiance post should be required reading for anyone who takes issue with a certain senator’s lapel pin.

    “…the seniors who were making a big fuss about publicly proclaiming their loyalty were also the ones who cheerfully disregarded the honor code whenever it got in the way of them doing what they wanted to do.”

    Indeed.

  50. Todd,

    You might as well leave out “indivisible” as well. What with the Two Americas and all…

  51. My point is simply that to refuse to lower the flag to mark the passing of a former US Senator is a pointedly spiteful and contemptuous act. Pretty vicious for someone you only knew through second and third-hand accounts.

    Sorry, I was with you until the second sentence there. Would you excoriate for somebody choosing to HONOR a U.S. Senator because they only knew of his good deeds “through second and third-hand accounts”?

    I assume all the folks who would ‘lose’ the e-mail would be hunky-dory with a state official who refused to do so for a liberal, honorable Senator: “Oh, was I supposed to lower the flag to half staff for that kike-hugging faggot? I guess I just happened to miss that email before I went to lunch.”

  52. Someone has made the point that it is encumbent upon civil servants to follow the law and official policies, regardless of their personal principles or desire to do so. Failure to do this should definitely result in some kind of reprimand – but I’d point out the case of the court clerks in California who are at this point refusing to wed same-sex couples, or to issue licenses to them. How many have been fired, or forced into retirement? If I recall correctly, they’ve all been ‘re-assigned’ to other positions, or allowed to do their jobs without doing the portions they didn’t want to do.

    I don’t really see the difference, other than that refusing to fly the flag didn’t actually cause tangible harm or difficulty to anyone else *or* directly relate to the job he was hired to do, unlike refusing to issue someone a marriage license or to perform the wedding.

  53. A quote from the flag code: “When a flag is so tattered that it can no longer serve as a symbol of the United States, it should be destroyed in a dignified manner, preferably by burning.

    Burning is the proper way to dispose of a flag – why are some people’s nickers in a twist about it?

  54. My point is simply that to refuse to lower the flag to mark the passing of a former US Senator is a pointedly spiteful and contemptuous act. Pretty vicious for someone you only knew through second and third-hand accounts.

    He obviously wasn’t your Senator for thirty years.

    Honestly–and I’m a State employee in North Carolina, for whatever it’s worth–it’s not a battle I would have chosen because, hey, he was one of my native state’s elected officials for three decades and the Governor can decree half-staff flags for any turd he wants to. I would have rolled my eyes and gone along with the executive order because, generally speaking, that’s the job description.

    And it’s probably worth mentioning that State employees in North Carolina are at-will hires. The Governor doesn’t need a reason to fire you, tho’ bucking a direct order from Raleigh certainly gives him one.

    Governor gave a lawful order, employee willfully failed to execute it, ’nuff said.

    But as far as spite and contempt goes? The late unlamentable Helms deserves every droplet. He was a bigot, an ignorant prick, a national embarrassment, and–oh, yes–he was a lousy Senator. His biggest margin in an election was around 55% of the vote–for the roughly half of us who were stuck with him after the bigots were turned out by gimmicks like the infamous “white hands” ad (from ’96), the only good thing we can say about Governor Easley’s directive is that it did remind us the prick was dead.

    I’m probably not being fair. There were good things about Helms. To the best of my knowledge, he did not hire a hooker, take her to a motel, drug her, and smother her with a pillow while violating her unconscious, dying body. He never, as far as I can recall being informed, anesthetized a puppy and slowly ate it raw. He was not, at least I don’t think, a vector for typhus.

    I said elsewhere online that I wasn’t going to say anything more about Helms, and I guess this irritated comment makes me a liar. I’ll shut up now, and I’m finished with the subject. Thank you, John, for bringing a news item I’d missed to my attention.

  55. Would you excoriate somebody choosing to HONOR a U.S. Senator because they only knew of his good deeds “through second and third-hand accounts”?

    If someone were to “honor” a person they had never met and knew about only through second and third hand accounts as enthusiastically and vigorously as this Eason fellow dishonored Helms, yeah. I don’t know if I’d ‘excoriate’ them but I’d certainly think they looked a little silly.

    Same principle applies, with the weighting a little towards honoring someone, on general principle. Benefit of the doubt and trying to avoid hateful behavior and all that.

    Hating someone you don’t know because they disagree with you is called prejudice and bigotry, no matter which direction your facing on the political fence. Ironic isn’t it?

  56. Skar: Hating someone you don’t know because they disagree with you is called prejudice and bigotry

    Yes, I’m sure Mr. Eason did all this over mere disagreement. He probably won’t shake hands with people who wear flag lapel pins, either, the prejudiced bigot.

    (Benefit of the doubt and trying to avoid hateful behavior, indeed.)

  57. Tully@#14:

    Tell that to the pharmacists who refuse to issue birth control or the morning-after pill to women on basis of their religious convictions — or, a recent issue in my own country, county-level government workers who refuse to sign wedding licenses for homosexuals despite gay marriage being legal.

    More seriously, I understand the concept of “Speak no ill of the dead” and respecting the office rather than the man, but Helms was a racist and a stain on his country; not merely a bigot but a calculating bigot who appealed to and incited his countrymen’s racism in order to secure his re-election.

    “Standing up for your principles” isn’t neccessarily an admirable trait if those principles are toxic.

  58. If you want to see an example of “lack of respect for Our Flag” (as per the U.S. Flag Code), go to an American Indian Powwow on Memorial Day weekend. Chances are, you’ll see an American Flag draped over an empty chair (carefully arranged so it doesn’t touch the ground of the arena), and one or more (properly-triangularly-folded) ones used as cushions to hold objects — both prohibited by the Code. The objects sitting on the Flag will be a photograph of a young person in Military Uniform, and some medals or ribbons. The person carrying it, out in the Dance Arena during the set of four or six Veterans’ Honoring Songs, will be an old woman, wearing a black shawl that probably has at least one large gold star on it.

    Somehow, I don’t think you’re going to complain about this, any more than I do, or that you’ll be embarrassed about crying in public.

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