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February 04, 2007

I Miss Molly Ivins

I miss her already. Beyond her genuine funniness, was there anyone else writing about politics for a large audience who was this insightful about humans?

Watching some dipstick the other day on Fox News carry on with great certainty about Hillary Clinton and her evil motives -- and I don't think this guy actually spends a lot of time tete a tete with Mrs. Clinton while she reveals her deepest thoughts to him -- I wondered, "Lord, when are these people going to get over it?"

I think the answer is never, because most people have a very hard time forgiving those whom they have deeply wronged. I know that's sort of counterintuitive, but think about some of the bad divorces you have known. When we have done something terrible to someone, we often need to twist it around so it's their fault, not ours.

This reminds me of some event I saw on C-Span years ago. I think it was an NAACP conference; in any case, everyone on stage and in the audience was African American. After the speeches the people on stage took questions, and a girl who looked about fourteen stood up and asked this:

Why do white people seem to hate us so much? I don't understand. What is it that we did?

Unfortunately, no one gave her the right answer, which is: white Americans cannot forgive black Americans for what white people did to them. Truly confronting slavery and its continuing aftermath would be an almost unbearable experience for white America, because of what is would force us to confront about our capacity for evil.

As "Frenchy" Montesquieu wrote in the 1700s, "It is impossible for us to suppose these creatures to be men, because, allowing them to be men, a suspicion would follow that we ourselves are not Christian." And obviously THAT'S wrong. Indeed, these creatures are not just different from us but are themselves somehow to blame for what we're doing. Maybe we're even doing it for their own good! Indeed, if they're not grateful for all we've done for them, it proves how degenerate they really are! And so on into an ever-deepening spiral of insanity.


Posted at February 4, 2007 02:05 PM | TrackBack

It was another Frenchman, La Rochefoucauld, who made an observation paralleling Ivins': "We can forgive those who bore us, but we cannot forgive those whom we bore."

Posted by: Patrick Nielsen Hayden at February 4, 2007 02:34 PM

Hadn't heard the bore quote, but that rings true.

As does the part about not forgiving the people we've wronged. I don't know where I first came across that idea (surely others have said it before Molly), but it was instantly convincing when I did.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at February 4, 2007 02:56 PM

Oh, blah! PNH you beat me to it. I just tried to locate that quote from de la rochefoucauld, which I remembered as "it is easier to forgive those who have injured us, than those we have ourselves injured" but couldn't find it by googling. I thought it might be chesterfield, too, but no dice. As a woman once said to me, goggle eyed, "that einstein guy made a lot of quotes!"


Posted by: aimai at February 4, 2007 03:15 PM

Thanks, Jonathan. Such a good point and well put, too, including the parting shot.

Regarding Molly, seeing courage in others gives us hope. Hope that may be better than we think we are. The example of that courage and the hope it engenders does not die with our heroes but lives on to fight another day (as you have shown)

Posted by: Griffon at February 4, 2007 04:17 PM

Goodby MOLLY. Too bad that light is lost.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 4, 2007 04:17 PM

Or as the Germans, known for their fabulous sense of humor, used to say to Jews after WWII: "We will never forgive you for Auschwitz."
Laugh? Thought I'd die.

Posted by: donescobar at February 4, 2007 04:18 PM

There's been a trend here recently where the comments are noticeably more enlightening and entertaining than my posts. I strongly disapprove.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at February 4, 2007 06:28 PM

No problem, Jon. I am here to help and lower the mean quality of the comments (mean in both senses of the word).

Many of us are actually grateful to those we have wronged. For they've given us a chance to show how morally superior we are.

You don't understand, but the NYT does. I've stopped counting the editorials lambasting this foreign country and berating that foreign culture and those awful foreign traditions that are so damn racist. Unlike us. Bob Novak says we're not racist any more (there you have it from the expert). Now the NYT doesn't have that sort of stratospheric self-confidence, but it points out with glee how far we've come on the roal to moral superiority. We're light years ahead of everyone else.

And MLK Day is the perfect example. Now, in a normal world, that day should be our "National Day of Atonement."

But look it up. The word atonement does not exist in American English. Same with contrition.

MLK Day is just the name we give to "National Day of Righteous Self-Flattery." The day when we get to pat ourselves on the back for being such a swell bunch: we don't lynch those coloreds any more and we even call them "articulate." Man, they have it good now. Thanks to us! So we should celebrate. That's what MLK Day is all about.

Look at those Germans, they don't even have an "Auschwitz Day" for crying out loud. And the Russians, now would that kill them to have a "National Gulag Day"? Apparently yes, because they don't have such a thing?

So slavery was a good thing. Because no slavery, no MLK. No MLK, no MLK Day! But then how would we edify the world with our moral greatness?

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at February 4, 2007 08:47 PM

FOX's on-air folks are going to shift gears in a big way 2008 if Chuck Hagel's the Republicans' nominee and Hillary's the Democrats'. Big money will pick loyal Hillary over grumpy do-it-his-own-way Chuck. Recall Rupert M's recent hosting of a fund-raiser for Mrs. C.

Posted by: Lloyd at February 4, 2007 09:03 PM

Perused an article LAST NIGHT that I printed of the net last summer about NEVER SUPPORTING HILLARY, written by that Ivins woman, made a hell of a lot of sense. Shows even the dead know better than to vote for Hillary. Seeing how Molly's buried in TEXAS, SHE'LL PROBABLY VOTE AGAINST HILLARY, NEXT ELECTION. Dead folks ALWAYS vote in Texas Elections.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 4, 2007 11:52 PM

ACCUSE, v.t.
To affirm another's guilt or unworth; most commonly as a justification of ourselves for having wronged him.
-Ambrose Bierce

Posted by: King Vidor at February 5, 2007 12:42 AM

1) A related phenomenon, I believe, is that we can never respect the opinion of people who turned out to be right when we were blatantly wrong - hence the job security of the Beltway punditocracy.

2)Maybe the long-term implications of the self-congratulation that most of my fellow white people engage in on MLK Day is what has led Kurt Vonnegut to conclude that the US will never be a humane nation - you can't get there from here if you think you're already there.

3) What happened to all Iran, all the time?

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at February 5, 2007 10:37 AM

What happened to all Iran, all the time?

Curse you!

...though in my defense, I did include that "See also." So it was sort of like 5% Iran, 5% of the time.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at February 5, 2007 12:29 PM

It was Tacitus (the Roman historian, not the sycophantic blogger) who observed, proprium humani ingenii est odisse quem laeseris, it is human nature to hate the one whom you have injured (Agricola 42). Perhaps just one more instance of Ms. Ivins' erudition, lightly worn as usual.

Posted by: Mike Ierardi at February 5, 2007 03:59 PM

You leave out the role of simple fear. White people know that we'd kill anyone who treated us the way we've treated blacks. Look what happened when people thought "the Jews" treated Germany the way we've treated black Americans. The lie doesn't even seem plausible in retrospect, and we still killed millions of people just on the off-chance they might have had some connection to our poverty. Nobody, we seem to feel, believes that crap about turning the other cheek.

Posted by: hf at February 5, 2007 04:56 PM

Mike Ierardi,

As I said above, there's been a trend here where the comments are much more enlightening and entertaining than my posts. Consider this your last warning.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at February 5, 2007 07:08 PM

Nolite mihi fabulas trestes nararai.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 5, 2007 11:54 PM

Illegitimi non carborundum.*

Semper ubi sub ubi.

It may not be much - I only studied Latin for two years, and it was before many of you were alive - still, these words of wisdom have stayed with me all my life [so far].

*About the first phrase, our friends at the Santa Cruz Public Library tell us:

According to Safire's New Political Dictionary, this is "a pseudo-Latin phrase meaning 'don't let the bastards grind you down'. Small signs and plaques carrying this message have appeared in U.S. business offices and army posts for at least a generation, since General "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell used it as his motto in World War II. Carborundum is a trademark for silicon carbide, a leading commercial grinding substance...In politics, the motto was popularized by 1964 Republican nominee Senator Barry Goldwater, who hung the sign in his office." (--from Safire's New Political Dictionary, p. 353)

Source: Safire, William Safire's New Political Dictionary : The Definitive Guide to the New Language of Politics Random House, New York, 1993. (R 320.03 Sa1)

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at February 6, 2007 08:00 AM

Illegitimus Non Carborumdum Est.
I'm NOT a Freemason, but I DO work Damn Cheap.

Nolite Mihi-----trans.
DON'T TELL ME ANY SAD STORIES. of course refering to the Jonathan Schwarz 7:08 pm post

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 6, 2007 06:11 PM

Maybe that's one of the reasons we need to keep having wars, so that ordinary people can feel a sense of investment in the "or government isn't evil, our enemies are" meme. Otherwise, we might fail to identify with past evil actions, seeing them as remote and meaningless in much the same way as the Swedes regard their own history as Norsemen.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at February 9, 2007 01:01 AM