When a mind actually changes

on Molly Ivins and local journalism

I joke a lot about the hate mail I get. And since beginning my new job as a columnist for my local paper (SUPPORT LOCAL JOURNALISM), I’ve gotten a lot more. It’s a different kind of hate mail. One that feels more intimate when coming from your neighbors. The people you could meet at the grocery store. Maybe they are your friends grandparents. One man who kept sending me emails titled “be careful” is a local businessman whose wife and I have over 30 mutual friends on Facebook.

My general rule for hate mail is this: only reply if you can say something funny.

So for example, when a man emailed me to say I’d never rise above writing for the paper, I said thanks for your feedback here is a link to my book.

Or the woman who wrote me a long email about how much she loved men and they were good and I was hurting them. To her, I replied, “are your arms tired from carrying the patriarchy all day?” Shit like that.

But with this new round of email it feels different. Especially since I have been writing about Planned Parenthood and abortion access. I so desperately want to make my state better for all people. Since then, a couple of people have written me to tell me about how I support murdering babies and did I know that Democrats want to abort babies outside of the womb? And its like, friends, no. No. NO! So to a few of these people I’ve replied sending articles and information saying, “Look this is a lie. It’s spin. You are believing it. This is the real fake news. Find better news outlets.”

And well, today I got this email from a 68 year old man.

I…look

This I think is the value of local journalism. This man is never going to read the New York Times on the regular. He’s not reading the Washington Post. But he does read his local paper. He subscribes. And for better or worse, he is my neighbor. This is where change happens.

This year has felt like a year of despair. If in previous years we were fighting, this year has felt like a year of hopelessness. Mass shooting after mass shooting. Complete inaction from our elected leaders. Even the ones we agree with. Our lives locked in a battle of “sick of protesting the same shit” over and over until we die or the earth is engulfed in flames. My friend, Sarah Weinman, told me to read Molly Ivins, the Texas columnist and I have been reading everything of hers in earnest. So many of her columns are prescient and could easily be written today.

It’s almost depressing. Not much has changed. But she kept on. She believed in her work and loved doing it. She loved the fight, even on days she lost. So many days it’s easy to feel like you lose. But today, I think something was won. Something small and something important.

Molly also wrote this:

So keep fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin’ ass and celebratin’ the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.

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