The Dixie Chicks are a country music band exercised their free speech by daring to question the wisdom of the Iraq War. They were at once vilified for their stance by conservatives, ex-communicated from the country music world, and they received death threats. Who claims the moral high ground here, the singers who speak their mind, or those who stand by their Commander-in-chief?
The Dixie Chicks began playing in 1989, and achieved country music and pop success by 1998. However, they are best known for the controversy they caused at a 2003 concert in London 10 days before the onset of the war in Iraq.
First, the backdrop. On September 11, 2001 everything changed for Americans. We lived in fear of another terrorist attack. We were vulnerable and were willing to do anything to help our government protect us. But by 2003 the Bush/Cheney crowd had convinced us that the focus of evil was Iraq through their lies about Iraq's tie to 9/11 and their weapons of mass destruction. So by 2003 it was obvious we were going to war with Iraq.
At this concert, lead singer Natalie Maines told the audience:
"Just so you know, we're on the good side with y'all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas."
Maines' remarks set off a firestorm of criticism in the conservative heartland where country music is king. Radio stations boycotted their music. They set up stations where people could bring Dixie Chicks CDs to be destroyed. Where have I written this before? Oh yeah the Beatles, John Lennon said the wrong thing about Jesus - Oh right, the Dixie Chicks had death threats too, just like the Beatles in 1966.
Is this the way we treat people who say something we don't agree with? Natalie Maines expressed a view that the war in Iraq was wrong, and at least 1/2 the country agreed with her at that time. But the conservatives ginned up the venom against the Dixie Chicks to the point where they were ex-communicated from the country music scene. They used that whole patriotic nonsense - you should never say anything against your president, especially during war time. To me, it's just as patriotic to stand up and express your point of view, and to fight for that right.
Eventually they re-invented themselves as more of a pop music band, and in 2006 released the single "I'm Not Ready To Make Nice" which is Maines' response to the whole controversy.
Forgive, sounds good
Forget, I'm not sure I could
They say time heals everything
But I'm still waiting
I'm through with doubt
There's nothing left for me to figure out
I've paid a price
And I'll keep paying
I'm not ready to make nice
I'm not ready to back down
I'm still mad as hell and
I don't have time to go round and round and round
It's too late to make it right
I probably wouldn't if I could
'Cause I'm mad as hell
Can't bring myself to do what it is you think I should
I know you said
Can't you just get over it
It turned my whole world around
And I kind of like it
I made my bed and I sleep like a baby
With no regrets and I don't mind sayin'
It's a sad sad story when a mother will teach her
Daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger
And how in the world can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they'd write me a letter
Sayin' that I better shut up and sing
Or my life will be over
It's a very powerful song when you know what the Dixie Chicks went through. This whole incident was like the fear mongering that went on with the blacklistings in the 1950s. There needs to be a better way for people to disagree with each other. To me, having public debate and being able to freely criticize your government is a right we should have.
One last point - in April 2012 right-wing rocker Ted Nugent made comments about President Obama that he would be "dead or in jail by this time next year" if President Barack Obama is re-elected. Was there any liberal outrage and boycots set up against Nugent? Were there death threats? There were only some Secret Service inquiries to make sure Nugent wasn't seriously considering making an attempt on Obama's life, and a lot of right-wingers praising Nugent on what a great patriot he was. Fine - grant Nugent his free speech to say outrageous things but grant that same right to a liberal when he or she speaks their mind!