Former North Carolina Senator, Jesse Helms, died today at the age of 86. A staunch conservative and fierce supporter of racial segregation, Helms, needless to say, was not what I like to think of being the best America has to offer.

So I think it so terribly fitting that Mr. Helms passed away on this day, July 4th, the anniversary of American Independence. I hope, in the end, that Mr. Helms came to see the error in his policies of hate, fear, and exclusion. I hope Mr. Helms recognized the absolute shame of his verbal hate mongering. I hope Mr. Helms came to realize that no country is ever truly free when you fail to acknowledge the basic humanity of all persons, male or female, black, white or otherwise.

I’m feeling generous when it comes to Mr. Helms to day because it is the 4th of July and the birth of a nation that has it in itself to be great although it doesn’t always behave as such. This is a day for optimism. So for for Jesse Helms, I hope.