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Raise hell, for Molly

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After living in Texas for most of my 40-something years, I moved away three years ago. Part of my reason was personal, but another part was I just couldn't take the Republican domination and hypocrisy of many red-state, red-blooded residents there anymore.

Molly Ivins could take it. In one of the most hard-core conservative states we have here in the union, Molly found a way to laugh about the Tom DeLays and Dick Armeys of that part of the country and poke fun at them without them even realizing it. Rather than giving the evil-doers more power than they deserved by complaining about how evil they were, Molly made us laugh at their follies, making them appear foolish and thus taking away power from them.

Honestly, half the Texans I met when I lived there really thought that Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" was another national anthem celebrating the land of the free. Another 25 percent or so were too busy waiting in line at Wal-Mart or at some supposedly trend nightclub or for tickets to see the Cowboys or Mavericks or NASCAR to give a damn. The rest were pretty cool. And a relatively few got the pleasure of playing charades at one of Molly's parties in her Austin home.

Sure, Molly was born in California, or as the Guvernator likes to say, Kollyfornia. And she moved away from Texas several times to work and see what the rest of the country was like. But she always considered Texas home. Not me. Once I moved, Texas was no longer my home. Sorry, cool people in Texas. I feel for you, though, if that's any consolation.

First, Ann Richards passes in September. Now, Molly. I only met Ann and Molly a few times at some ACLU or journalism or political function, but I felt like I knew them as fellow progressive types. When people asked me why I lived in Texas so long, I could always say, "Aw, well, it couldn't have been that bad, if Ann Richards and Molly Ivins live there." I can't say that now. Their passing left a black hole somewhere west of the Mississippi River.

In Molly's last column, she was more serious than usual, urging that "every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this [Iraq] 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."

As many people, including yours truly, wonder who will rise to fill the void that Molly's passing leaves, I see a glimpse of the answer. It's you. It's me. Stop mourning and find a way to, as Molly said, raise hell.

In 1984, I was a few years out of college, active in the peace and anti-nuclear movement in Texas, attending demonstrations like the 1983 March on Washington, writing and working to avert a nuclear war that the Reagan administration and former Soviet Union seemed bent on initiating. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists set its traditional "Doomsday Clock," which has marked the danger of nuclear war since 1947, to three minutes before midnight in 1984, the closest to midnight since 1953 when it was at two minutes. People wondered what they could do to avert a nuclear war that many in the Reagan administration insisted was winnable.

In this environment, I heard about a 7,000-mile walk for peace, human rights and environmental causes being organized from California to New York via Texas and the Deep South, then through Europe to Moscow, Russia. I answered the call. It was something I could do, a project I could sink my teeth in, increase my contribution to the causes, and perhaps inspire others to do likewise. While it would be years before group reality television shows like Survivor became popular, this walking group experiment was a type of Survivor, only with a higher cause than getting on TV and making some bucks. The project ended up making it to Moscow to deliver thousands of peace messages and letters, while raising a slew of awareness through the media and personal contacts.

By 1991, the Atomic Scientists' clock was back up to 17 minutes after the Berlin Wall fell and the U.S. and Russia signed new arms control agreements. But today, with the Shrub administration hell-bent on an empire and the seemingly unchecked global warming trend, the clock is back down to five minutes, the closest it has been to midnight since 1984.

It's time for all of us who still give a damn about what Molly wrote about and believed to answer the call, once again. I'm not saying that you walk to Iraq, or even across this country. But find your niche, whether it's as showy as unfurling a banner in some public place, Greenpeace-style, or as low-key as calling your Congress representative.

Raise hell. That's the best way we can remember Molly.
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Jackson Thoreau is the pen name of a Washington, D.C.-area journalist/writer. Books include Not Our President: The Movement for Democracy and Against GOP Fascism [updated in 2022], The King of the Internet [2019], and Born to (more...)

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