Wednesday 31 January 2007
Molly Ivins always said she wanted to write a book about the lonely experience of East Texas civil rights campaigners to be titled No One Famous Ever Came. While the television screens and newspapers told the stories of the marches, the legal battles and the victories of campaigns against segregation in Alabama and Mississippi, Ivins recalled, the foes of Jim Crow laws in the region where she came of age in the 1950s and ‘60s often labored in obscurity without any hope that they would be joined on the picket lines by Nobel Peace Prize winners, folk singers, Hollywood stars or senators.
And Ivins loved those righteous strugglers all the more for their willingness to carry on.
The warmest-hearted populist ever to pick up a pen with the purpose of calling the rabble to the battlements, Ivins understood that change came only when some citizen in some off-the-map town passed a petition, called a Congressman or cast an angry vote to throw the bums out. The nation’s mostly widely syndicated progressive columnist, who died January 31 at age 62 after a long battle with what she referred to as a “scorching case of cancer,” adored the activists she celebrated from the time in the late 1960s when she created her own “Movements for Social Change” beat at the old Minneapolis Tribune and started making heroes of “militant blacks, angry Indians, radical students, uppity women and a motley assortment of other misfits and troublemakers.”
“Troublemaker” might be a term of derision in the lexicon of some journalists – particularly the on-bended-knee White House press pack that Ivins studiously refused to run with – but to Molly it was a term of endearment. If anyone anywhere was picking a fight with the powerful, she was writing them up with the same passionate language she employed when her friend the great Texas liberal Billie Carr passed on in 2002. Ivins recalled Carr “was there for the workers and the unions, she was there for the African-Americans, she was there for the Hispanics, she was there for the women, she was there for the gays. And this wasn’t all high-minded, oh, we-should-all-be-kinder-to-one-another. This was tough, down, gritty, political trench warfare; money against people. She bullied her way to the table of power, and then she used that place to get everybody else there, too. If you ain’t ready to sweat, and you ain’t smart enough to deal, you can’t play in her league.”