Sunday, February 04, 2007

And how shall I deck my song for the large sweet soul that has gone?

Walt Whitman, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed
In all of the tributes to Molly Ivins, all of the notice of her humor, her brilliance, her integrity and her great writing, not enough has been said about what lay behind it all. Molly Ivins was an extraordinarily decent human being. She never lost sight that there were people, both as groups and as individuals, behind it all. She always took them into consideration, sometimes to the exasperation of those of us impatient to ignore individuals and to look at their crimes.

Decency, it would seem, is an embarrassing thing for some people. That’s understandable considering what conventional culture presents as decency. It’s cloying and often dishonest. Sometimes what’s pointed to as decency is only a facade over a pile of rotten garbage.

But I’d recommend it. I’d recommend it because in Molly Ivins we saw what decency stripped of convention really looks like. It’s funny and brilliant and sometimes rather raunchy and funny. It can also be fierce and exacting, a blade to cut right through the crap and to get to the bone of the matter. Decency is one of the strongest tools that we have, in the right hands it will get us a lot farther than craftiness. Cynicism, the opposite of decency, is a road to egomaniacal dishonesty. It’s cowardly and it will always turn on us. And cynicism is the best of a host of poses and attitudes that are a danger to the left. There are worse ones. I can’t prove it to you. I can’t know it objectively, it’s too complicated. I’ve only seen it from examples in people, in their lives. Decency, plain and undiluted with sentimentality, is a good plan.

I can’t get her off my mind and I hope I never do.