CALAMITY HOWLER/Margot Ford McMillen

Raise Hell for Molly

I always wanted to meet Molly Ivins, shake her hand and say, "Thanks. And I agree. The best fun in the world is speaking truth to power and we all appreciate your showing us how to do it."

Because that's basically what she was about -- having the most fun and speaking the most truth -- and that's what we need to keep on doing.

The week after Molly Ivins' death, all the joy seemed to leave everything all at once. We were in an unprecedented cold snap, too cold to bear, and life suddenly seemed so hard. There was ice on all the paths and wind from the north and toilets were broken and light bulbs going out. This happened in every corner of the planet.

I had two meetings that week, both of them itsy bitsy gatherings of peace committees and both of them focused on whether or not we could continue our work. People were running out of energy and perseverance. We were so few and the stupid are so plentiful.

Then I'd come home and there'd be an obituary for Molly in another paper that came through the mail. These obituaries were not universally sad items. Instead, they reminded readers of her best lines. My favorite, when the Texas Legislature was about to convene: "Every village is about to lose its idiot." Or how about, regarding a congressman: "If his I.Q. slips any lower, we'll have to water him twice a day."

Despite the great lines, her message was deadly serious: Government is too important to leave in the hands of those bozos in the statehouse and the Capitol. In her Feb. 1 column in The Progressive Populist she reminded us in every paragraph that "The war is being prosecuted in our names, with our money, with our blood, against our wills … We need to make sure that the new Congress curbs executive power … Now." And she declared that her column would become "like an old-fashioned newspaper campaign." Her plan was to keep writing about the war until we the people figured out how to end it.

This is a great plan, and, in fact, the only plan that will work. And we must all pick it up: Keep putting ideas out, figuring new ways to say it, until everyone in America has heard it in a way that makes sense. If you're a musician, say it from the stage. If you're an artist, say it on canvas. If you're afraid you'll lose your job because you speak the truth, find other people to speak for you, put them on your stage, and quote them loudly and extensively.

Our president, who has come down with a terminal case of Commander-In-Chief syndrome, has proven that he will not listen to us. He will not listen to military advisors that urge diplomacy rather than force. He will not listen to opinion polls or to the Iraq Study Group.

He won't look at maps that attempt to illustrate the complexities of the region, or at timelines that trace the centuries of conflict. He seems puzzled that the rest of the world didn't buy "Mission Accomplished" or buy the edited-for-TV dream sequence of the Saddam statue falling in the city park.

Our only option is Congress. We have to say it often enough, cleverly enough, and clearly enough that they finally hear us.

The itsy bitsy groups I belong to will be sponsoring a tree in the city park with a plaque memorializing the dead soldiers. And we'll be promoting sustainability and the oil-saving benefits of buying locally-produced goods. We'll be at the state capitol lobbying against bad state bills. We'll be singing parody songs with Raging Grannies on Earth Day. In May, we'll be in a city park reading the anti-war Mother's Day proclamation penned after the Civil War. In June, we'll be bicycling across the county for sustainability.

All these small acts will all be fun, community-building work. And it will touch some others, and they'll perform their own brave, fun acts.

Molly Ivins picked up her crusade in her last column, which ran in the Feb. 15 Progressive Populist. She began with a list of the dumb things our nation has done, including "the entire war in Vietnam."

Then she tossed the ball to us, each of us, little as we are: "We are the people who run this country," she said, "And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this 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."

OK, Molly, and thank you. Rest in Peace, dear one.

We can keep going.

Margot Ford McMillen farms and teaches English at a college in Fulton, Mo. Email

From The Progressive Populist, March 1, 2007

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