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Molly Ivins: A Mighty Voice Is Stilled

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Message Randolph Holhut
DUMMERSTON, Vt. - It's hard to accept that Molly Ivins is dead.

It's harder to accept that we won't be reading her columns anymore, and savoring that one-of-kind mix of Texas wit, undiluted liberalism and plain old common sense.

And it breaks my heart to know at a time when her passion and her humor is needed more than ever, she's not with us.

Former Boston Phoenix media critic Dan Kennedy called Ivins, along with Nat Hentoff, the best columnists to have never won a Pulitzer.

I don't disagree. She was a finalist three times and deserved to win every time.

"If Mark Twain had a female counterpart on today's political and journalistic scene, it is Molly Ivins," wrote Harvey Wasserman earlier this week.

Harvey had that right. Molly could elegantly turn a phrase that could deflate any dim-witted political figure before he ever knew what hit him.

"There are two kinds of humor," she once told People magazine. One "makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity." The other "holds people up to public contempt and ridicule. That's what I do."

While she could be a wicked satirist, she said that "I only aim at the powerful. When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel - it's vulgar."

Molly chose her targets well. She's the one who wrote that Pat Buchanan's culture war speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention "probably sounded better in the original German."

She's the one who wrote of a congressman, "If his I.Q, slips any lower, we'll have to water him twice a day."

She's the one who called Texas "the laboratory for bad government," and enjoyed every moment of the circus in Austin that she called "The Lege."

She's the one who called politics the "finest form of free entertainment ever invented."

She was good enough to spend six unhappy years at The New York Times, and ribald enough to get fired for calling an annual chicken slaughter in New Mexico a "gang pluck."

Her heart was always in Austin and the ass-kicking magazine she once edited and wrote for, The Texas Observer. When she started making money as a columnist, she was quick to dig into her pocket to help keep the magazine going over the last three decades.

Molly was proud to be a liberal, and stood up for those beliefs better than just about any columnist of the last three decades. She may have loved to make us laugh, but she also wanted us to get into the ring and fight. She would go anywhere and do almost anything if she thought it helped to advance the causes of liberalism, feminism and fearless independent journalism.

She worked hard, played hard and never forgot the credo of her good friend, Texas humorist John Henry Faulk, that the fun is in the fight.

"Since you don't always win, you got to learn to enjoy just fightin' the good fight," she wrote in 1993. "Be courageous, 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."

The breast cancer she had battled for the last eight years finally got her on Wednesday, too soon at age 62. And I'm left with pain, emptiness and the memory of a woman I deeply admired and looked up to as one of the best damn political writers out there.

Thank you, Molly, for everything you gave us. We won't forget you, your work, the ideals you stood for and the laughter you brought us.
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Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at randyholhut@yahoo.com.
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