Happy Birthday Molly Ivins! You'd Hate 2021, But Oh My, You'd Have Plenty To Say

Culture

Today is Molly Ivins's birthday, and when we finally make this a more just world, it will become a national holiday. As it is, we'll keep celebrating it right here at Wonkette and do what we can to keep alive the spirit of Texas's greatest contribution to American humor and political commentary. She died in 2007, and would have been 77 today, and while we don't believe in an afterlife, we sure understand the impulse.

It's a damned shame Molly missed the last election, and the attempt by Republicans to just make it go away, because we know she's have had no end of things to say about both. When she was still with us, Molly warned about corruption in more familiar forms, like the unlimited money flooding into campaigns, which she said meant elected leaders to "dance with the ones what brung 'em." She wouldn't have been at all surprised by Donald Trump's self-dealing, but the bizarre politicization of the pandemic might have left her puzzled — at least until she recognized the us-against-them meanness at the heart of it.


We are not inclined to think the universe has a proper sense of fun or fairness, given the simple fact that we lost Gilda Radner at 42 and Molly Ivins at 62, while Henry Kissinger still walks this earth in his nineties and has so far escaped prosecution for war crimes.

If someday we wake up in an Elysian field where we find Molly Ivins and Ann Richards drinking beer and sharing profane observations on doings back on Earth, we'll be very happy to have been wrong. (Edit: and Barbara Jordan! Molly's remembrance of her is, as you'd expect, wonderful, as was she.)

There's never a bad time to quote Molly Ivins, beloveds, so let's light some birthday candles, have some of those cakes we like, and remember a woman with a unique talent for looking at public idiocy, holding it up to the light, and blowing it to rags and atoms with a few words. You can find links to previous versions of our Molly quote lists here and here, too.

  • There are two kinds of humor. One kind that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity -- like what Garrison Keillor does.[Remember, this was a long time before that news broke] The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule -- that's what I do. Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. I only aim at the powerful. When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel -- it's vulgar.
  • It's hard to argue against cynics -- they always sound smarter than optimists because they have so much evidence on their side.
  • Even I felt sorry for Richard Nixon when he left; there's nothing you can do about being born liberal -- fish gotta swim and hearts gotta bleed.
  • The trouble with blaming powerless people is that although it's not nearly as scary as blaming the powerful, it does miss the point [...] Poor people do not shut down factories. Poor people are not in charge of those mergers and acquisitions in which tens of thousands of people lose their jobs so a few people in top positions can make a killing on the stock market.
  • [If] we can make ourselves believe that poor folks are responsible for their own problems, then the rest of us are absolved of any responsibility for them [...] The reason we like to blame the victim is because if it's not the victim's fault, why then, it could happen to anybody. It could even happen to you. And that is scary.
  • I believe all Southern liberals come from the same starting point -- race. Once you figure out they are lying to you about race, you start to question everything.
  • 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.
  • [Molly on then-President Ronald Reagan] If he gets even more sedate, we will have to water him twice a week.
  • [On Pat Buchanan's "culture war" speech at the 1992 GOP convention] Many people did not care for Pat Buchanan's speech; it probably sounded better in the original German.
  • Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention.
  • On a personal note: I have contracted an outstanding case of breast cancer, from which I intend to recover. I don't need get-well cards, but I would like the beloved women readers to do something for me: Go. Get. The. Damn. Mammogram. Done.
  • 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 January 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, "Stop it, now!" [from her final column]
Molly would probably be glad to see both of George Bush's wars coming to an end, but heartsick about how everyday people paid (and are paying) the price for our misbegotten adventures in nation-building. She might not be especially surprised that we're only now leaving Afghanistan; she wrote when that war began that "Afghanistan is to nation-building what Afghanistan is to war — pretty much the last place on earth you'd choose, if you had any choice at all."
And if you tire of the New York Times lecturing about the need to be civil at all times, well, feel free to go back to Molly's own thoughts on the matter, when there was a minor dustup over something Bill Clinton said about the old racist turd Jesse Helms:
The lead on two TV networks was that he had waxed somewhat sarcastic on the subject of Sen. Jesse Helms. Anyone who can limit his reaction to Helms to mild sarcasm deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. That poisonous old hate sow, suckling all the little hate pigs -- if ignorance is bliss, that man must be ecstatic (My own civility has distinct limits).

The fear of immigrants? Again, nothing new under the sun, though the cruelty of Trump's family separation policy would no doubt have struck her, as it did most sane people, as something old and dangerous:

You gotta admit, prejudice is as American as apple pie. I hear tell these Mexicans keep crossing the border so they can get on welfare and get healthcare and all these goodies. Funny, we don't have goodies in Texas, but they keep moving here to work anyway.

Big surprise -- you can find the same bullshit today on Twitter, all those lazy Mexicans taking our jobs AND lying around on welfare all day.

Probably best, however, that Ivins was not around in 2018 to hear that recording of children crying for their mamas and papis in a Texas CPB lockup, because that might have killed her. She never had to see her America sink that low.

And what would Molly say if she were here now, witnessing so many Americans dying because they refuse to get a safe, effective vaccine that's free of charge? Or if she saw the racist attempts to once again deny people of color the franchise?

She'd be disgusted, but even more, she'd be pissed. The kind of pissed that has to be turned into action, because the one thing she would never tolerate is moping. She'd be incredibly proud of the climate kids, and delighted by the teens who flooded the Right To Lifer's "Report an Abortion" account with Shrek porn. She'd remind us we've gotten through some damned dark awfulness before, and we have no choice but to push on through the current stupidity.

She'd remind us that Americans really are better than this bunch of crooks in power. And she'd remind us to laugh, because a well-honed sense of the ridiculous is vital for survival. She'd be out there in the streets with us:

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.

Our country's suffering from a Molly Ivins deficit. Go get yourself some Molly Ivins books: We're fond of her first big bestseller, Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She? as well as the election-year warning that she co-wrote with Lou Dubose, Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush, and the posthumous collection, Molly Ivins: Letters to the Nation.

We'll close with a favorite: Here's the first time Yr Dok Zoom -- and a lot of us outside of Texas -- ever heard of Molly Ivins, her 1986 MacNeill-Lehrer Newshour piece on Texas and its many fine examples of Public Ort, which they rebroadcast as a memorial in 2007. Enjoy:


UPDATE: YES IT IS YOUR OPEN THREAD!


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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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