Monday, April 12, 2004

Okay, some of you think civility is a waste of time. And I have to admit that Molly Ivins, my favorite, would probably agree with you. In fact, she'd have relished Jason Crowell's performance last Wednesday. In support of that claim, I give you part of the intro to her 1991 book Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?

From the first moment I saw the Texas Legislature, I adored it. Opening day, 61st session, 1971, I walked onto the floor of the Texas House, saw one ol' boy dig another in the ribs with his elbow, wink, and announce, "Hey, boy!Yew should see whut Ah found mahself last night! An' she don't talk, neither!" It was reporter-heaven. Some sensitive souls are sickened by it, a few find it merely distasteful, and others persist in reporting on it in a way that squeezes all the juice and life out of it: "House Bill 327 was passed out of subcommittee by unanimous vote on Tuesday."

One of my heroes is William Brann, the great populist, who edited a paper called The Iconoclast in Waco before the turn of the century. Brann, a fearless man, loathed three things above all others: cant, hypocrisy, and the Baptists. "The trouble with our Texas Baptists," he once observed, "is that we do not hold them under water long enough." But there he was in the Vatican City of the Baptists, and for his pains, one fine day in 1898, on a wooden sidewalk, an irate Baptist shot him in the back. Right where his galluses crossed. But the story has a happy ending, on account of, as he lay dying on the sidewalk, William Brann drew his own gun and shot his murderer to death. Me, I hoped to go like Brann. A martyr to honest journalism.

So in my early days at the Observer, when I would denounce some sorry sumbitch in the Lege as an egg-suckin' child-molester who ran on all fours and had the brains of an adolescent pissant, I would courageously prepare myself to be horse-whipped at the least. All that ever happened was, I'd see the sumbitch in the capitol the next day, he'd beam, spread his arms, and say, "Baby! Yew put mah name in yore paper!" Twenty years, and I've never been able to permanently piss off a single one of them. I have finally had to admit, Texas politicians are unusually civilized people.

I wonder, though, with the rise of Tom De Lay, whether Molly still considers Texas politicians unusually civilized people.


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