Molly Ivins was my inspiration for becoming a political writer. A straight shooting newspaper woman of over thirty years, Ivins' critical eye guided millions to a better understanding of how American politics are played out on state and federal levels.
Ivins was characterized as a liberal, but a careful reading of her work shows she had no affiliation with any political philosophy. Her wry critiques were reserved for greedy fools who landed on all points of the political landscape. Just a little over a year ago, she wrote of the overwhelming influence of campaign contributions in the Democratic Party, and how campaign cash contributed to the weakening of long standing policies. It was a clarion call to every American to do away with the current corrupt system, and was the impetus for my "I Am Molly" article, which urged readers to take the political system back from the "greedheads", a term Ivins coined, and fight for clean elections systems across the country.
Sure, Ivins was rough on conservatives and she often was the target of vitriolic attacks from the right. But no one was spared her witty, cynical insights. Former President Bill Clinton described Ivins as someone who was "good when she praised me and who was painfully good when she criticized me."
But Ivins served as more than a writing mentor for me. Ivins is among the last of a breed of political observers who didn't write what people wanted to read. She wrote the truth, as she saw it at least, and was willing to call someone a bullshitter regardless of their political views. She was a torchbearer for such crusading editorialists as H. L. Mencken, Ambrose Bierce, and Mike Royko; writers who put their balls on the chopping block with each successive story they published. In a century quickly becoming known for cowardice and phony machismo, Molly Ivins followed her predecessors into the storm of controversy, knowing how easily her t*ts would get twisted in the wringer of public opinion. It was this same courage she fought the battle with breast cancer for nearly eight years. However uncommon a person Ivins was, she practiced a courage common to all of us.
And if her death is to mean anything, we desperately need to absorb her burning passion for justice. Touch our own courage in ridding our nation of despicable, self-absorbed leaders unconcerned by the plight of common people taking solace in Ivins' words. We are all Molly's, and we can imprint our vision of this country upon neighbors, friends, and leadership alike by applying the same wisdom and bravery Ivins left as her legacy.
Soon, the hole in my heart will heal as I re-read the articles Ivins compiled for her many books, her investigative reports in archived issues of Mother Jones, and her observations on George W. Bush, whom she briefly attended high school with. I will miss her clarity; the pointed commentary so often lost in the din of bloviating pundits. But her words will continue to burn in me, fueling my disgust for the measly "old-boy" network of legislators and executives that pass as 'leaders' in this country.
Hopefully, Ivins words will continue to burn in you too, keeping your senses on alert for the next wave of bullshit our dear leaders have in store for us.