Vivid columnist Molly Ivins died last week, too young, after battling breast cancer three long times. I’ve been meaning to write about her for days, but the thing about Molly Ivins dying is that it can render you speechless.
I mean, really, what’s to say about a voice that was so dang good at speaking up for herself, and for all the rest of us? And when I say us, I mean everyone who needed a little hoist up onto the old soapbox. The women and children, the artistic and illiterate, the black and brown, the broke and beaten, the neighbors and nations a long ways away. Us.
Molly Ivins was wicked funny and deeply thoughtful at the same time – a capacity I admire more than any other, I think.
Where plenty of funny folk use humour as an escape ‘chute (and who can blame ‘em), Molly used it to plot a direct path in deeper to whatever pesky, troublesome business was at hand.
And where plenty of deep intellectuals and well-intended political thinkers are solemn (and self-important) enough to shut our receptors down, Molly cracked jokes to keep us on our toes. Hers was a single-handed call-to-action; a plan you wanted in on.
And that’s the thing. Molly Ivins glowed and crackled, not unlike her sister-Texan Ann Richards (whom we also lost to cancer this year). These women politicized other women, they chastised apathetic youth, they shook up the steady center, they triggered movement – and movements. These were voices capable of lighting fires under just about anyone.
I had a grandmother like that – all full of intention and charisma. My husband once said of her, “Mame is the only person I know who makes you feel lucky when she asks you to do her a favor.” If you get a whole family or a whole readership or a whole constituency feeling that way, stuff is gonna get done.
Molly Ivins moved on with that charge in her wake. In her last column, in which she pushes a populist crusade to end the war in Iraq, she says, “Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous.” It’s a call to Shakespeare’s fools, to the emperor’s tailors, to us. Hone your rapier wit. Git ‘er done.