Friday, February 02, 2007

In Memory of Molly

The world lost another strong woman this week, but not before she said what she had to say. Her name was Molly Ivins, and after 62 feisty years, cancer was the only thing that could shut her up.

There’s a saying that well behaved women rarely make history and Molly was living proof. She was nothing if not a hell raiser. As a political humorist known for a trademark Texan vocabulary that often spilled into her hard hitting, left leaning editorials, she is best known for coining the nickname “Shrub” to refer to our current periwinkle of a president. In her prolific writing career, she wrote for the Houston Chronicle, the Texas Observer, the New York Times, Minneapolis Tribune, the Dallas Times Herald, and Time Magazine and her freelance work has appeared in Esquire, Atlantic, The Nation, Harper's, and TV Guide, to name a few. Four times she was a best selling author and three times a Pulitzer prize finalist.

But all that’s not to say she was what she might’ve called a high-falutin bigwig reporter or even a career oriented modern day conventional woman. Quite the contrary, she was as down to earth as they come. Perhaps even a bit too down to earth. When she worked for the New York Times, she had a habit of going barefoot in the office. And among her two greatest honors? When the Minneapolis police force named its mascot pig after her and when she was once banned from the campus of Texas A&M.

Molly was never one to pull any punches and as an outspoken feminist, she collected her share of controversy. Her first column for the Star-Telegram began as such:

“Should you happen to contravene a law made by the only politicians we've got, this too will become a matter of some moment to you. For example, if you happen to possess six or more phallic sex toys, you are a felon under Texas law. In their boundless wisdom, our solons decided that five or fewer of the devices make you a mere hobbyist."

Only her first choice of words instead of “phallic sex toys” was dildo, not to be confused with the first name of our current CIA name leaking vice president.

Her satirical wit often targeted the big and powerful, state and federal politicians and big business lobbyists, in other words, those who were often too big for their own britches. “There are two kinds of humor,” she once told People magazine. “One makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity,” she said. “The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule. That’s what I do.”

And dayum good she did it, too.

On Bush she once quipped, “The poor man who is currently our president has reached such a point of befuddlement that he thinks stem cell research is the same as taking human lives, but that 40,000 dead Iraqi civilians are progress toward democracy.”

On fuel prices: “The price of gas in Texas is now so high that women who want to run over their husbands, have to carpool.”

Molly’s feistiness didn’t waver with illness. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, she even joked, “After cancer, there are no more bad-hair days.” In an article titled “Who Needs Breasts, Anyway?” for Time magazine, she matter of factly mixed harsh reality with humor. “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.”

In an America where women are still often silenced, if not as obviously as they were in the past, Molly often didn’t fit in. She needed a bigger America, one that isn’t, in 2007, still debating whether a woman could or should be president. She needed an America with more of an open mind, with which to encompass both her 6 foot wild red headed physique and her sharp often wielded weapon of choice, the mighty pen.

In the end, cancer had the last laugh. But up until she died she never stopped writing. Less than three weeks ago, she wrote her strongest column yet, encouraging mass outrage over Shrub’s latest hair-brained troop surge scheme.

“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!’”

It isn’t particularly funny, but it cuts straight to the bone, in typical Molly fashion. The only question which remains is will we listen?

Her Archived Articles

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