Today is the birthday of the late, great Molly Ivins. ‘Late’ on account of she’s been dead since 2007, which is far too long. ‘Great’ on account of she was the smartest and wittiest and sharpest political writer since the invention of political writering.
I don’t recall the first time I came across Molly’s writing, but I’d been a fan for quite a long time before I ever saw her speak. I only saw her speak the one time. I was a grad student at the American University back in 1990 or 91, and I heard she was going to be interviewed at some local event. So I put on a sport coat and a tie and took myself to some grand Washingtonian venue and joined the other couple hundred folks who’d come to hear Molly speak.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t the tall (in her cowboy boots she had to be over six feet tall), awkward-looking woman with the unfortunate haircut (it looked like she’d cut her own hair…with pinking sheers) who walked onto the stage. Then she sort of dropped herself into a wing-backed chair and grinned — and there was so much joy and delight and orneriness in that grin that I completely fell in love with her. She grinned like a pirate.
I couldn’t tell you what she talked about. I just don’t recall. What I do recall is that she was charming and clever and thoughtful and uproariously funny. I don’t know if she was exaggerating her drawl or if she was moderating it, but there was no doubt Molly Ivins was from Texas. And laugh…lawdy, that woman could bring a laugh. Nothing demure about; she laughed all the way down to her boots.
It was the breast cancer that killed her. One more reason to hate cancer and donate money to kick its ass.
“Having breast cancer is massive amounts of no fun. First they mutilate you; then they poison you; then they burn you. I have been on blind dates better than that.”
That was Molly Ivins. She’d bring you the Truth in all its ugliness. And she’d make you laugh about it. She didn’t make light of it, she didn’t want you to ignore the ugliness; she wanted you to feel the sting of the ugly. But she didn’t want you to forget to laugh. She didn’t want you to forget that having fun isn’t just how we tolerate the ugly. It’s how we defeat it.
A few of my favorite lines from our Molly:
[W]e’ve bounced back from this same mistake before—the mistake of thinking that we can make ourselves safer if we just make ourselves less free. We get so scared of something—scared of communism or crime or drugs or illegal aliens—that we think we can make ourselves safer by sacrificing freedom. Never works. It’s still true: the only thing to fear is fear itself.
I don’t have an agenda, I don’t have a program. I’m not a communist or a socialist. I guess I’m a left-libertarian and a populist, and I believe in the Bill of Rights the way some folks believe in the Bible.
A populist is someone who is for the people and against the powerful, and so a populist is generally the same as a liberal—except we tend to have more fun.
In Texas, we do not hold high expectations for the [Governor’s] office; it’s mostly been occupied by crooks, dorks and the comatose.
I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults.
I have been attacked by Rush Limbaugh on the air, an experience somewhat akin to being gummed by a newt. It doesn’t actually hurt, but it leaves you with slimy stuff on your ankle.
So keep fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin’ ass and celebratin’ the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.
Aw lawdy, that was a woman. They say the good die young. I don’t know about that. What I do know is this: the great die too soon.
Happy birthday, Molly Ivins. We miss you.