Tag Archives: obituary

Ding Dong, The Bitch Is Dead: Jesse Helms, Dead At 86

I am not one of these people that thinks that all deaths leave the world a poorer place. While I am against the death penalty, I am not above taking a little pleasure in the death of particularly vile people and today is no different. Sometimes I feel a little guilty about such pleasure taking, but not today. Today marks the death of someone who cause such misery in his life that his passing is cause for a massive exhale of relief.
Jesse Helmes was a dark-hearted bastard who was almost a caricature of the stereotypical pre-Civil Rights era Southerner. I say “almost” a caricature because he indeed was racist, homophobic, anti-art, Red-baiting, anti-choice…anti-everything all-purpose bigot. He led the fight against establishing Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a national holiday, blocked ratification of the Test Ban Treat and Kyoto Protocol (not to mention Salt II) and campaigned against womens rights, gay rights and overaLl civil rights for decades in the US Senate.
In recent years Helms was approached by Bono to help the singer in his quest to reduce 3rd world debt and the suffering it causes and like many older staunch conservatives, he worked to repair his image, becoming more “compassionate” in his dotage. Late life reversals not withstanding, the man was a vile human being and like the Reverend Jerry Falwell, the world is a better place without him.

Victor Rabinowitz, 1911-2007

lawyer600.jpgOn Friday night, November 16th my father, Victor Rabinowitz, passed away quietly at home. He was 96 and to say he had lived a full life would be a vast understatement. He was a truly great man of integrity who taught me appreciation for many things including politics, baseball, gardening, photography, chess, Shakespeare and classical music, among others. It was also because of him and my mother that I was able to travel at an early age and develop a love for other countries and cultures.

Despite my early (and continued) support for the dominant New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys, I was taught that in most situations, the underdog was to be supported and that those less fortunate deserved respect and wherever possible, a leg up. Among those items in the above list, “politics” is probably his lasting legacy to me, because it was through leftist politics that I learned an appreciation for all those things in which any good progressive believes.

Social programs designed to help the poor and infirm; the need for universal healthcare; the right of citizens in a so-called free society to speak out against the government when necessary (and even when not…it’s one of those rights that works both ways); that people should be paid a fair living wage for a day’s work and anything less than this is exploitation, regardless of the country in which it occurs; that the US is not the boss of the world and it is not our business to poke our nose in where it’s not wanted simply to make a few rich, white Americans even richer (they can’t get any whiter, trust me).

We spent endless hours discussing the miracle that is baseball. We both had an unending curiosity and appreciation for the sport and could watch it and talk about it for hours. His was such a long life that he once saw Ty Cobb steal home at Fenway Park and went to the 1928 World Series. I can only imagine what it must have been like. He also drove a Model-T Ford at summer camp (it was actually an old car at the time) and rode a trolley past dairy farms in Brooklyn to visit his grandfather in the early 1900’s. I can’t really imagine any of that, either. When he was born there were no commercial airplane flights and a short 58 years later (and 3 days after my birth) a man walked on the Moon. He saw both the rise and fall of the Soviet Union but missed the last Cubs World Series win by only 3 years. During his life there have been 17 presidents, from Taft to “W” and I dare say dad made some trouble for a few of them and they deserved it, too.

During the past few years of his life, his eyesight and hearing were in pretty bad shape, so much so that he could follow almost nothing on TV. As a result he was limited to C-Span, CNN and baseball games. Victor was such a principled and caring man and it’s a real shame that aside from the midterm elections of 2006, recent years held little succor for a man of his politics and temperament. Despite huge gains in said election, the senate continues to be soft and tame under the flaccid “leadership” of Harry Reid and the lunatic, often racist ramblings of Lou Dobbs on CNN drove him batty. Even the Mets failed him this year, performing the worst collapse in baseball history.

He was ready to go, I think. None of us were ready for him to leave, of course, but you never are, really. I never got to show my dad my “chops,” professionally, at least not in full. He was many things, but a man of the Information Age was not one of them. 11 years ago he published his memoirs and wrote them out longhand, on a yellow legal pad. This was not a man to whom it was easy to explain blogs or even indieWIRE, really. He was concerned about my ability to take care of myself financially, of course but I think he was most concerned and eventually pleased and proud, that I, along with my brother and sister, had grown up as a “good person.” I like to think I have a good moral compass, positive personal values and goals and a healthy and appropriately concerned outlook on the world. It’s to his and my mother’s credit that they really never gave me anything to rebel against and as a result, the apple couldn’t have fallen closer to the tree.

He was and remains, my hero. I miss him, greatly.

Here are a few obituaries that have been running over the past few days:
New York Times
International Herald Tribune
East Hampton Star
Time Magazine
Marjorie Cohn: The Huffington Post
Photo, L to R: Victor Rabinowitz, Dr. Benjamin Spock and Leonard Boudin © The Associated Press