I don’t know how many of you ever read the columns or books written by Molly Ivins. She died this week, after a long bout with breast cancer. Molly was a feisty, irreverent, no-nonsense, characteristically confrontational, and highly intelligent force in American journalism. She was the quintessential populist – a defender of little people and an absolute scourge to their assailants among the rich and powerful. And being from Texas, she was the most insightful, hilarious, and audacious critic of our current president – fellow Texan George W. Bush – whom she labeled a “shrub” more than a bush. Religion wasn’t much of an interest for Molly, but over the only breakfast talk we ever had together, several years ago, she told me that the only kind of religion she ever respected and might even consider is the kind she found in Sojourners. She loved how the biblical prophets would stick it to the powers that be – and, indeed, that is exactly what she spent her life doing. I really liked Molly Ivins and read her stuff as often as I could.
E.J. Dionne wrote a great column today in The Washington Post titled “Molly Ivins’s Joyful Outrage.” He said:
More than just about any other columnist I can think of, Molly was a genuine populist, to make proper reference to a word she couldn’t stand to see misused by charlatans. She believed in lifting up the underdog and hated it when the wealthy made excuses for injustice.
And, along with her political passions, E.J. pointed out:
Joy was the key. Another thing she hated was anybody who didn’t think that fighting the good fight was a kick. She left us all with a charge a few years ago: “Keep fighting for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t 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.”
Her first book was titled, Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She? Well, she can, and she did, and we were all much better off for it. I for one will miss her wit and wisdom. And I didn’t want to miss the opportunity, in her sad passing, of sharing some of the best tributes to her with all of you. Here’s what The New York Times and The Washington Post had to say. Maya Angelou wrote a poignant appreciation, and the Chicago Tribune, where her columns were printed, wrote in an editorial:
Her final column appeared less than four weeks ago, on Jan. 5. Not a lot of mellowing: “The president of the United States does not have the sense God gave a duck – so it’s up to us. You and me.” She promised that in every future column, she would write about the bane of her existence, the war in Iraq.
If you didn’t know Molly, it’s not too late to go out and buy some of her books this weekend. I’m sure she was never called a “woman of God,” but I believe was the kind of woman that God really likes. I suspect she has already been asking the Lord some tough questions. That, she thought, was always the job of a good muckraking journalist.