Wednesday, January 31, 2007

R. I. P. Molly Ivins, Aug. 30, 1944-January 31, 2007

George W. Bush has yet to attend a single funeral of the nearly 3100 troops that have died in Iraq and don’t go looking for him to attend Molly Ivins’, either.

This is the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to write since Hunter S. Thompson’s suicide on February 20, 2005. Molly Ivins is dead and with her last breath, the Batman-class criminal enterprise known as the Bush junta breathed a sigh of relief.

What’s there not to like about a columnist who’d once written, “I’m not anti-gun; I’m pro-knife.” Molly’s point was, typically, half serious, tongue in cheek. If you use a gun, you don’t need to be in shape as you would if you had to kill someone running with a knife. Using knives, she said, actually would promote physical fitness.

But there was much more to the life and noteworthy career of a fighter who would’ve stood out even in San Francisco or New York City let alone in a conservative red state like Texas. Just before her too-early death from breast cancer, Molly Ivins had launched what she’d called an old-fashioned “newspaper crusade” to end the war in Iraq.

In Molly’s last column, published just this past month, she’d written a phrase that ought to be put on her headstone: “We are the deciders”, words that were echoed by Sean Penn at the peace rally in Washington, DC last Saturday.

Indeed, Molly’s words were, as always, well-timed and well-written. In its simplicity, it was at once a rebuttal to Bush’s childish “I’m the Decider” rant and, distilling in its elemental perfection, a well-timed reminder to Americans as to who’s ultimately in charge of our national destiny.

A liberal’s liberal, Molly was genuinely home-spun and humble, a genuine product of the Lone Star state. She stood in stark contrast to the faux cowboy currently taking up space and oxygen in the Oval Office, a Connecticut Yankee desperately running away from his Ivy League upbringing and education and, in the process, giving hubris and arrogance an even worse name. Molly not only never ran away from her liberal roots in the one place where liberalism is perhaps the least welcome, she embraced it and let her freak flag fly high and proud.

A life-long gadfly of the conservative and absurd, Molly’s opinions stood in stark contrast to her counterpart on the east coast, Maureen Dowd. There were no French phrases and hyper-cultural references that only a professional Pharisee could understand, as is all too often the case with Dowd. Molly was warm, common and accessible. When Dick Cheney talks about the Iraq war and the war on terror as being existential, Molly showed us how absurd both have become. She was a grownup Alice looking with perpetual wonder down the rabbit hole of American politics.

Molly never wrote her last two columns; she dictated them even as breast cancer had come back “with a vengeance” and had metastasized through her body, embodying that indomitable spirit that led Matisse, when crippled by a stroke, to tell his assistant to “tie the brush to my hand.”

Molly Ivins stood for the best of liberal values with the best of intentions and with the best words, providing a vivid counterpoint to the neocons who never admit defeat or wrongdoing or forgo hubris as much as they finger former accomplices. It’s all too easy to say that Molly will be missed. That is already a meaningless bromide. Molly, especially in our existential day and age, was absolutely indispensable.

(Crossposted at Pottersville.)

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