Wednesday, December 19, 2007

To Read Molly Ivins is to Love Her (Again)

My kind friend Rachel at the ACLU recently sent me a copy of Bill of Wrongs: The Executive Branch's Assault Against America's Fundamental Rights, which was the last book Molly Ivins wrote, along with Lou Dubose. (Molly passed away in January of this year after a long battle with breast cancer.)

I dove into my present this weekend, and while obvious time constraints (uh, boys, boys, more boys, The Holidays, etc.) mean that despite my deepest longings, I simply cannot devour an entire book in a single sitting the way I used to, I can certainly tell you this: Even the introduction shrieks Pure Molly. That fierce and fearless voice--it's why we loved her so, and why we miss her so.

Never one to pull a punch, here she goes--and this is just a few pages in. (Emphasis mine):

Most Americans still believe this secret-police, secret-detention stuff applies only to foreigners, to illegals, to resident aliens--to people who are not "real citizens". No one likes the messenger tho brings the bad news, but pay attention, Americans: Your ass is on the line. And so we have included in this book some genuinely dismaying stories.


As a Texas liberal, I have developed a positively British case of phlegm. According to medieval medicine, "phlegm" is one of the four "humours", and it accounts for those of us who are hard to startle. If ever there was a group that knew how to survive political reverses, your Texas liberals are the past masters. I do not discombobulate easily. Experience has taught me that things are likely to get worse, so these will eventually turn out to be the Good Old Days, and think what a fool you'll feel like later if you don't enjoy them now.

So please, weigh into this claim my forty years of bearing with perpetually awful political news. Now, as the man said, "My hair is on fire." I am so freaked out about what is happening to freedom in this country, if I were anyone else but me, I'd be staging a pitched, shrieking, quivering, hysterical, rolling-on-the-ground, speaking-in-tongues fit.

Fortunately for you, I have phlegm. Instead of a pitched fit, I have stories to tell, each of them about "an ordinary, certifiably normal" human bean. Too many of whom have blundered into a "phantom of lost liberty."

This has happened before in our history--in fact, it's a pretty predictable reaction to fear. We get so rattled by some Big Scary Thing--communism or crime or drugs or illegal aliens or terrorism--something that scares us so much, we think we can make ourselves safer by giving up some of our freedom. Now, not only does that no hold a drop of water as a logical proposition, but it has consistently proved to be an illusion as a practical matter. Empirically, when you make yourself less free, you are not safer, you are just less free.

Thank you, dear Molly. With any luck, your wise words will find their way into many conservative stockings this Christmas (and I do hope you approve of that little double entendre).

Also at Cogitamus.

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