Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Rest In Peace, Molly Ivins

I started reading Molly Ivins when I was 25 or so. First in the newspaper, then her books. Even when her books were recycled columns, it didn't matter, she was worth reading again. She didn't always tell me something I didn't know, but she often helped explain why I believe what I do.

Molly was a liberal, and proud of it. She loved people, but mistrusted the ones with power. She hated stupid wars, hypocrisy, and meanness, but it didn't keep her from being funny as hell. She thought, she knew, that the pipefitter in Houston, the farmer in Iowa, the waitress in Los Angeles, all of them, are just as important as the businesswoman in New York and the politician in Washington. She even subscribed to the antiquated notion that people on welfare were human beings.

In the old days, at least, journalists were supposed to live the cliché of "speaking truth to power." Now, Stephen Colbert makes jokes about "the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration" being a work of fiction. We have Judy Miller and Howard Fineman and Marty Peretz, Tim Russert and Mark Halperin and on and on and on until you want to weep with despair for our republic.

But there was always Molly. She was a 62-year old lady from Texas who wasn't afraid to call out the President of the United States when he deserved it. I guess you've got to be tough to be a Texas liberal. Tough she was. According to her editor, Molly dictated her final two pieces because she was too weak to write. The last words of her last column were:

We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we're for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush's proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on Jan. 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, "Stop it, now!"
Molly Ivins died today. Just the fact that someone like her could get published in almost 400 newspapers around the country was cause for hope. Maybe that's the best tribute. Molly gave people hope.