Writers Who Inspired Me — Molly Ivins
Great writers inspire insatiable curiosity and transform thought. Molly Ivins achieved that, and so much more.
Molly Ivins (1944-2007) was as feared as she was loved.
She was a political firecracker who bled her emotions onto every page. She made half of Texas laugh and the other half want to strangle her. Sometimes, a reader might have both reactions within the same column.
Ivins was the (now defunct) Dallas Times-Herald’s lead editorial writer. She had a field day with the Texas political and culture scene. Her many targets may as well have been lab mice. They were treated as props and punch lines. Long before comedians Jon Stewart and Steven Cobert (actually, their writers) made the daily news funny, hard-driven, chain-smoking fiercely independent beat writers-turned-op-ed columnists in the hearty mold of Molly Ivins were the witty shredders of politicians and power. Ivins didn’t use a television. She used her mind and a typewriter.
Here are some of the provocative “Mollyisms” I gathered from her books and many articles:
I prefer someone who burns the flag and then wraps themselves up in the Constitution over someone who burns the Constitution and then wraps themselves up in the flag.
Being slightly paranoid is like being slightly pregnant — it tends to get worse.
When politicians start talking about large groups of their fellow Americans as ‘enemies,’ it’s time for a quiet stir of alertness. Polarizing people is a good way to win an election, and also a good way to wreck a country.
The first rule of holes: when you’re in one, stop digging.
It’s all very well to run around saying regulation is bad, get the government off our backs, etc. Of course, our lives are regulated. When you come to a stop sign, you stop; if you want to go fishing, you get a license; if you want to shoot ducks, you can shoot only three ducks. The alternative is dead bodies at the intersection, no fish, and no ducks.
There are two kinds of humor. One kind that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity — like what Garrison Keillor does. 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 like, duh. Just when you thought there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties, the Republicans go and prove you’re wrong.
Although it is true that only about 20 percent of American workers are in unions, that 20 percent sets the standards across the board in salaries, benefits, and working conditions. If you are making a decent salary in a non-union company, you owe that to the unions. One thing that corporations do not do is give out money out of the goodness of their hearts.
Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention.
I am not anti-gun. I’m pro-knife. Consider the merits of the knife. In the first place, you have to catch up with someone in order to stab him. A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness. We’d turn into a whole nation of great runners. Plus, knives don’t ricochet. And people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives.
I know: ‘Guns Don’t Kill People.’ But I suspect that they have something to do with it. If you point your finger at someone and say, ‘Bang, bang, you’re dead,’ not much actually happens.
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.
Personally, I think the government is a tool, like a hammer. You can use a hammer to build or you can use a hammer to destroy; there is nothing intrinsically good or evil about the hammer itself. It is the purposes to which it is put and the skill with which it is used that determines whether the hammer’s work is good or bad.
Politics is not a picture on a wall or a television sitcom that you can decide you don’t much care for. That’s not how it works.
I often plagiarize from myself. I like to think of this as ecological journalism: I recycle.
I don’t so much mind that newspapers are dying – it’s watching them commit suicide that pisses me off.
In city rooms and in the bars where newspeople drink, you can find out what’s going on. You can’t find it in the papers.
Texas liberals are the camels of good news. We can cross entire deserts between oases.
Here’s the deal on Texas. It’s big. So big, there are about five distinct and different places here, separated from one another geologically, topographically, botanically, ethnically, culturally, and climatically.
New York is just as provincial as anyone else.
In America, anything’s possible. You don’t believe me? Michael Jackson was a poor black boy who grew up to be a rich white woman.
The reason I take Rush Limbaugh seriously is not that he’s offensive or right-wing, but because he is one of the few people addressing a large group of disaffected people in this country. And despite his frequent denials, Limbaugh does indeed have a somewhat cult-like effect on his ditto heads.
The United States of America is still run by its citizens. The government works for us. Rank imperialism and warmongering are not American traditions or values. We do not need to dominate the world. We want and need to work with other nations. We want to find solutions other than killing people. Not in our name, not with our money, not with our children’s blood.
We’ve had trickle-down economics in the country for ten years now, and most of us aren’t even damp yet.
How the American right managed to convince itself that the programs to alleviate poverty are responsible for the consequences of poverty will someday be studied as a notorious mass illusion
In the first place, any group of folks willing to make asses of themselves in pursuit of a good time should be commended and encouraged: The spirit of human frolic needs all the help it can get.
Although a life-long fashion dropout, I have absorbed enough by reading Harper’s Bazaar while waiting at the dentist’s to have grasped that the purpose of fashion is to make a statement. My own modest statement, discerned by true cognoscenti, is, ‘Woman Who Wears Clothes So She Won’t Be Naked.’
Note: Coming later in this series (notes to self): Raymond Bonner (New York Times), Skip Bayless (Dallas Times-Herald), Andy Warhol (artist), and Ralph Nader (activist)