Conservatively speaking, I probably spend a few hours each day reading news - in print but mostly online - and maybe an hour a day listening to news on the radio. I guess that makes me a news junkie.
It’s free. It’s real. It’s there. Frequently it beats fiction.
And yet the only way I knew about last month’s march for peace in Washington, D.C., was through a Molly Ivins column that I had to find hit or miss on the Internet.
“Raise hell,” she counseled and I read. “Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we’re for them and are trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush’s proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on Jan. 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, ‘Stop it, now!’”
So I did.
I found an outfit chartering buses, boarded in the dark at 6:30 a.m. and in a four-vehicle caravan rode to our nation’s capital to put my two cents in. The truth be told, I felt a little foolish. What good would it do? What’s the point? Why bother?
But when I saw the nearly 100,000 others who traveled a great deal further than I did I was immediately grateful to be there. There were people on canes or stilts, people in wheelchairs and strollers, people in costumes, old people holding hands, young families with infants, people who had taken the day to protest because they loved their country and couldn’t stand not speaking up.
Together we marched around the Capitol building. There was a great spirit, a ton of veterans and lots of reminders that Iran is next. Despite the dire reason for the march, the deaf ear at the White House, the refusal to listen to past and present generals, there was hope. There was a feeling we were making a difference.
“How can you be cynical?” Tim Robbins asked.
“Silence is no longer an option,” said Jane Fonda to a crowd so still I could hold up my cell phone for a friend in Savannah to hear her speech. Fonda, now 70, said she has sat out the past 34 years of protest (since Vietnam) because she didn’t want to draw too much attention to herself.
Beside the sheer numbers of people, there were great signs.
“They aren’t toy soldiers.”
“Bostonians for the overthrow of King George.”
“Bush Bin Lyin’.”
“How come I know how to say I’m sorry (and I’m 12) and you don’t.”
“James Buchanan: Now second worst.”
“Bush lied. Thousands died.”
There was great street theater, like the four people dressed in black-and-white striped prison garb who were bound together by big black chains and wearing face masks of the Lyin’ Four -- Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice.
There was the young man I sat next to on the Metro. An ordinary man from Rochester, N.Y., late ‘20’s, in Levi’s and a crumbled jacket.
“What does it say?” I asked looking at the rolled-up sign on his lap.
First he had to put on his costume: a snug hat he slipped over his head that had two points on either side looking strangely like cat ears. It all made sense when he showed me his sign: “Purr for Peace.”
This was a Molly Ivins populist crowd.
“We are the people who run this country,” she wrote in the column I read, one of the last she was to write. “We are the deciders. And every single day every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war.”
Now we learn that Ivins, 62 years young -- who once described herself as “a left-wing, aging-Bohemian journalist who never made a shrewd career move, never dressed for success, never got married, and isn’t even a lesbian, which at least would be interesting” -- was so ill with cancer when she was writing this column that she was dictating it to friends from her home in Austin.
Now it’s up to the rest of us -- the populace -- to agitate, to needle, to state the obvious, to unhinge, to point out the elephant in the room.
Like this column she wrote about lying:
“I believe all Southern liberals come from the same starting point: race. Once you figure out they are lying to you abut race, you start to question everything.
“If you grew up white before the civil rights movement anywhere in the South, all grown-ups lied. They’d tell you stuff like, ‘Don’t drink out of the colored fountain, dear, it’s dirty.’ In the white part of town, the white fountain was always covered with chewing gum and the marks of grubby kids’ paws, and the colored fountain was always clean. Children can be horribly logical.”
When Molly Ivins spoke of cooking the case for war or preparing for civil unrest did that mean she was smarter than all the experts, asked columnist Paul Krugman. No, he wrote. She was just braver.
And that, my friends, is the legacy she left and the job we must continue. To be brave, to speak out, not to lose hope.