Molly Ivins Documentary

Last night, we had dinner with a friend. She served us wonderful chili and treated us to a documentary about Molly Ivins entitled, Raise Hell: The Life And Times Of Molly Ivins.  I have been a Molly Ivins fan for years. I cried when she died; not because I was a fan, but because I felt like the world had lost one of the bravest and most articulate observers (and critics) of politics whose words I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

Several years ago, I received a solicitation, asking for donations to help fund the development and production of the documentary we watched last night. It was one of the only such solicitations I recall thinking was unquestionably worthwhile, so I donated. I don’t know how much; probably a very meager $10 or so. Regardless of how much I donated, though, I am glad I did. That having been said, on reflection after watching the documentary last night, I think the work could have been much better.

In reflecting on what we watched last night, I think too little attention was paid to the substance of Molly’s writing in favor of picking one-liners from her writing and videos featuring her. I understand the rationale behind using the one-liners; they are powerful and funny and memorable. But Molly was much more than a talented writer and deliverer of one-liners; she was a brilliant thinker and writer whose words should make us think about what we are doing to ourselves by electing the likes of Trump and Pence and the Congressional stooges who give the two men their undying loyalty, even after rightfully labeling Trump as utterly unfit for office. But that’s another story.

Despite my morning-after disappointment, I enjoyed the documentary and I think it’s worth watching. My point is that it could have been much better. But if I think it could have been much better, why didn’t I get involved in making it? Good point; I’m being a Wednesday morning quarterback, the sort of person who doesn’t have the wherewithal to do something myself, so criticizes someone who does. Yech!

As I consider who might be a current-day Molly Ivins, I can’t come up with anyone. The only one close, in my view, is Rachel Maddow. However, as much as I enjoy watching and listening to her, Rachel isn’t as “pure” as Molly in the sense that Molly focused on right and wrong, whereas I think Rachel focuses on right and left. Molly wasn’t afraid to be a heretical liberal, arguing against popularly-held liberal positions (through, for the life of me, at this moment I cannot think of a specific example). I lean far left, but I believe in discriminating between right and wrong. Just because something is embraced by the “left” does not mean it is “right.” That’s why, occasionally, I do not vote straight ticket; sometimes a Democrat is so utterly bad that a Republican is preferable, even though the Republican’s views might conflict with mine.

Back to the documentary: Something that occurred to me during the film, but was on my mind more afterward, was the fact that Molly adopted a strong Texas twang and behaved in stereotypical Texan style (she even mentioned her boots, pickup, beer-drinking, etc.). I think she had more of an impact on conservative Texans by behaving like them than she would have had had she behaved and dressed like the stereotypical Smith graduate (she was a Smith graduate, although certainly not the “stereotypical” one).  In that way, I think she connected with people who otherwise might have dismissed her entirely. She never presented herself as better than others; she never suggested her education and the family she was from made her a better person than “shit-kicker cowboys.” That lesson might be one today’s liberals could learn from. I tend to see or perceive an attitude (through dress and demeanor) that says “I’m smarter than you” when liberals engage with conservatives. And, to be honest, I often feel that way because I cannot for the life of me understand how a person who otherwise seems intelligent can possibly hold certain political views; I assume the “otherwise seems intelligent” is an erroneous perception on my part.  I have to try to do better.


I’ve been up since around 4:00 this morning and have written a poem I plan to read tonight at Wednesday Night Poetry. But after thinking about what I just wrote, I may revisit the poem; not because it relates in any way to Molly Ivins or politics, but because it may be too high-falutin’ to have any value.  Back to the drawing board and then, later, perhaps back to sleep.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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