Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Good Music, Bad Backstories

As we ease up on what would have been Molly's 69th birthday I find myself continually hearing music in my head. Sometimes I hear Marcia Ball's rousing rendition of "Great Balls of Fire," played at Molly's memorial service. Sometimes it's Marcia, sometimes it's Jerry Lee Lewis. I should have known "Great Balls" wasn't about politics, which is probably why Molly asked that it be played at her memorial service: an end run around sadness. I was only mildly surprised to realize what it was really about.

You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain
Too much love drives a man insane
You broke my will
But what a thrill
Goodness gracious great balls of fire!


Moving on six years.

The whole time we shouted and stomped, chanted and cheered for Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte and Mary Gonzales and Judith Zaffirini in the Texas Senate -- part of a small but strong pod of female Democrats who had the courage to stand up to bullying religious zealots -- another song took up residence in my brain. 

 Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

No matter what I did for the rest of the second special session whenever I saw an orange "I Stand With Texas Women," t-shirt I heard that fabulous anthem midway the first act of  Les Miserables. I got so crazy at one point I was passing the lyrics out to anyone who would accept the paper they were printed on. This, I insisted, should be our anthem, only instead of storming staged barricades, women, men and children from all across the state stormed that bully pulp. Both the real and the theatrical revolutionaries made an impression. Demonstrations at the Capitol went viral and made international news.Texas was finally on the map for something other than executions and football.  

Even more recently, as I read about yet another school scare, another homicide/suicide, another hate crime, that extraordinary piece of work by Rodgers and Hammerstein penned for "South Pacific" surfaced. It was excruciating to recognize its 21st-century relevance: 

You've got  to be taught to hate and fear
You've got to be taught from year to year
It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear 
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid 
Of people whose eyes are oddly made
Of people whose skin is a different shade
You've got to be carefully taught

You've got to be taught before it's too late
Before you are six, or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate
You've got to be carefully taught.

I thought about Molly and how she would have had a way to turn those lines and all the others into a battle cry for political change in a state that often seems to have lost its grip on reality.

I mean, where to start -- with a governor who can't keep straight which border city is in Texas and which one is in Mexico?

A lieutenant governor who (allegedly) drunk-dialed a suburban cop in a failed attempt to intercede on behalf of a relative who (allegedly) failed to pay for $57 worth of groceries?

A candidate for state comptroller who can't pronounce the office he seeks but wants to abolish the IRS, which he can pronounce?

A smirking junior U.S. senator who bogarts media attention with the kind of lunatic enthusiasm usually associated with Donald Trump?

A state representative who sponsors one of the nation's most draconian anti-abortion bills, but then, in public hearings and on the House floor, can't answer a single question about the bill's contents?

Or last, but by no means least,  a U.S. representative who famously argued  that "kids don't need to learn about (sex), because "mankind has existed for a pretty long time without anyone ever having to give a sex-ed lesson to anybody." He clearly missed the memo about Texas having the nation's fourth highest teen pregnancy rate AND the highest repeat teen pregnancy rate.

Worse yet, this same right-wing twerp -- through his well-honed facility for mismanaging accurate information -- has thrust the United States into a diplomatic boondoggle. In a domestic news clip picked up and broadcast in strife-torn Egypt, the one and (thank God) only Rep. Louis Gohmert did something precious few of us have been able to achieve in Texas: Egyptians took one of his anti-Obama diatribes seriously. As a result a dissident faction now believes that Obama is in cahoots with the Muslim Brotherhood.Who ever in the world could envision Gohmert influencing political action halfway around the world. Who? How?

I guess this is just a long-winded way of saying "You're six years gone, Mol, and those of us who knew your voice still miss your special gift for stirring it up."

Mary Tyler "Molly" Ivins:  August 30, 1944 – January 31, 2007

1 comment:

  1. Ellen, you do her proud! No, proudest.