On 31 January 2007, Molly Ivins died of breast cancer, but who can say it wasn’t a combination of Reagan cynical folksy appeal to the inner racist of the white voter, Clinton’s move to the “center” read that Republicanism, and Dubya’s meteoric rise fueled by sheer stupidity? It was as much the stress and strain of lampooning the wretched naked self-serving grasping Texas and national politics as it divided the nation and began the long sinking of our republic into the vast consuming sea of authoritarianism. Who wasn’t be driven to drink living through those times?
Her life was a cautionary tale for all of us to follow: fight the good fight, but take care of yourself so you can continue on. Between her and Ann Richards (died 13 September 2006), we lost two powerful liberal voices in very conservative Texas who could disarm and charm with their humor and fillet and skewer with their biting wit.
When my first wife was in how-to-be-a-social-worker-school in the late ’80’s, Ivins came to one of her professor’s houses to spend the evening with some of the students. In a casual moment, Ivins said to her, “It’s always harder for us big girls.” It is a line that always stuck with me for its instant empathy, connection, and comfort. It stuck with my wife, too. She felt understood, accepted, and affirmed. It was a moment that resonated with both of us, and really reveals Ivins superpower, her warm insightful rapport with readers, audiences, people around her.
Neither my ex or Ivins was obese, they were both tall and big boned, broad shouldered and hipped. They didn’t fit the mold of what the world wanted from women, and Ivins recognized that struggle of swimming against the stream that all women, and all people, really, who are different find themselves doing. They have to expend more energy to achieve the same result. The further away from the mark, white, male, well-groomed, and well-proportioned, the more work it takes.
“I saw a shrink because I thought I suffered from fear of success,” Ivins confides grimly, “but I found out I suffered from fear of becoming an asshole.”The Price of Being Molly in Texas Monthly
It was this perspective of being on the outside looking in that drove Ivins. She was on the outside of Texas politics being a liberal in an increasingly conservative state. She was on the outside of journalism. Even though she had a successful syndicated column, she could only write opinion pieces because it was the only place where divergent ideas were publishable.
It wasn’t until she published a book of her columns, Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She? that she started to gain any national notoriety. And, in her usual self-deprecating style, she described her success, “I saw a shrink because I thought I suffered from fear of success,” Ivins confides grimly, “but I found out I suffered from fear of becoming an asshole.”
I haven’t made any memes commemorating her life because there are no suitable images with a Creative Commons license. However, someone made this meme showing Ivins’ insight into politics and where it was all heading:
If you get the chance to see the documentary of her life, Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, or read the book, you should.
Let me know what you think of Molly Ivins in the comments.
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