Celebrating the unsinkable Molly Ivins: We bleeding hearts remember one of our own kind

By Emma Claire Sohn

In a recent work, syndicated columnist and author Molly Ivins wrote: “Keep fighting for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce.”

These are words I wish were fresh in memory when I trudged home last Wednesday from a meeting of the Daily Illini Opinions Staff feeling depleted and bearing a transient desire to break away from politics, to be not-so-opinionated for a change. These thoughts, brewed with a biting Champaign wind made for an especially bleak evening which was downright ruined when I received a call from my dad informing me that Molly Ivins had passed.

Ms. Ivins, a longtime inspiration, died in Austin at 5:30 p.m., just as we sat down to our weekly meeting. Born in California but raised a distinct Texan, she was a writer devoted to the common good. After graduating from high school with the likes of none other than the Current Occupant, Ivins went on to explore the breadth of journalism, writing for a variety of publications nationwide including the New York Times.

But she found her niche, just as I have, in furthering her definitive good common sense through the written word, though with eloquence and vehemence beyond my loftiest aspirations. She began her career as a columnist in 1982 for the now de-funct Dallas-Times Herald, breaking into the realm of independent journalism in 2001.

Contemplating Ms. Ivins’ writing in the past week I reestablished the influence of her distinct voice over my own work. But I also questioned her impact on my peers, some of which are disinterested in politics, unengaged by writing or may be a member of the opposing conservatives.

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    The answer I’ve come to is that the University community has lost one of its own.

    No matter what your political persuasion, Molly Ivins’ writing exemplifies the audacious “question authority” attitude that is bred in the University environment, the kind of credo which we as young forward-thinking students subscribe to.

    But Molly Ivins went beyond questioning authority: she ridiculed, reprimanded and reformed it. Her pervasive protests against corruption from both sides held politicians to their word- a forced accountability uncommon to even the most distinguished journalists.

    This is what we are trained to do in our public university, to critically evaluate the norms of our society. This is, in fact the very root of democracy, the ideologic foundation of our nation, and the ambitious dream of our forefathers- ideals that are slipping fast through our fingers as the American middle class is depleted into two polarized economic categories, as our lawmakers continue to reject concepts like universal healthcare, and as we persist in an unrelenting war to the financial benefit of a privileged few and to the detriment of the increasingly unwilling public.

    This is the paradox that agitated Molly Ivins into her most scathing critiques- the concept that our democratic philosophy be squandered before our eyes in favor of the elite. And so she bellowed from the top of her lungs, holding her beliefs steadfast in a nation perpetually swaying from the left to the right and then back again. A true liberal in a nation befuddled by grimy smoke-and-mirror politics.

    Like many things, liberalism is a way of life. True liberals are fueled by an idealistic sense of hope, democracy, and the golden rule frosted with a good sense of humor. Molly Ivins brought these qualities to life. Her sense of personal conviction and excruciating wit graced our media with an unlikely voice which will continue to resonate altruistic beats nationwide.

    And so in death Molly Ivins furthers the sense of hope instilled in me. And I realize why the political spectrum occupies such a sizeable portion of my bleeding heart. Because as Molly Ivins wrote in her final column, “We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders and we need to raise hell.”