Thursday, February 15, 2007

An effort worth making

I mentioned that I was listening to Molly Ivins' last book (see? everything connects!). I recommend the experience as a sure cure for blog wars.

It's a retrospective, a collection of columns presumably left out of her first three books. I have to admit I started reading the book when it came out, but simply wasn't that interested in such recent history at the time. Not all that recent, in blogistan terms, because her essays in this book go back to the end of Reagan's second term. In print, that seemed overwhelming to me at the time. In audio form, with Ms. Ivins' matchless delivery, it is a tonic.

She reminds us, without meaning too, that the lunatics have always been with us, and that they have always been in charge of the asylum. Is blogistan truly the answer, or at least the counterweight, to right wing radio? If so, we've come late and have yet to garner the audience (I suspect) of Michael Savage, much less of Rush Limbaugh at his height (I hear he's been in decline lately. I like to think that's because I don't listen to him anymore, but I started my boycott more than a decade ago, so that seems unlikely, indeed). So, probably not. I think the decline in the influence of the GOP is more attributable to them (in one column from almost 20 years ago Ms. Ivins' notes the rise of Newt Gingrich to majority whip of the House in almost an aside. Only with the benefit of history do we see how truly important, and revolting an emblem of his party, Mr. Gingrich would become, but Ms. Ivins, in just a few choice words, makes it clear that was visible ab initio.)

It helps, in other words, to take the long view; to hear what may have been the first public references by Molly Ivins to Karl Rove (as Shrub's campaign manager for his first run for Texas governor), to hear her calling W. "Shrub" long before he had any political ambitions (when he publicly signed on to help Poppy try to win re-election against Clinton), to be reminded once again that politics has always been a messy and farcical business, whether the politicians are in D.C. or in Austin, and to be reminded that she started writing about politics because journalists simply weren't telling the truth about what was going on in "our" Legislatures. It helps to go back to why she wrote, as she explained it (and the title on that first column is a delightful reference to a memoir by Willie Morris, now better known for a movie about his childhood dog). Laughter, in the end, is good; really good. As Pogo famously explained it: "Don't take life so serious; it ain't nohow permanent." Laughter is good, and so is hope. And these words are worth keeping in mind:

But I believe that in the kindness of Texans, evidenced in their everyday courtesy toward one another, is a mine of civilization which can be worked to make this, at last, a place where people can grow up gentle. It is an effort worth making.

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