Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Chick Power

I was delighted to see Libba Bray's web link devoted to the songs she listened to while writing A Great and Terrible Beauty. Because I, too, love a good playlist I will soon be posting an entry on songs that inspired Revising Mr. Right.

In the mean time, however, I submit to you the Dixie Chicks.

Let it first be mentioned that I love a good female bluegrass band. Let it also be said that, as a Civics teacher, I am a firm believer in free speech. And finally, as a feminist I think it's worth noting that the Chicks are the first female group in American music chart history to have three albums debut at #1.

They are also, however, one of the most controversial acts to ever play the Grand Old Opry. This Wikipedia entry summarizes their intriguing free speech brouhaha, but of course I can't resist giving you my own version! Basically, traditional country music fans' adoration of the Chicks turned to loathing when they criticized George W. Bush during a 2003 London concert. This faux pas engendered boycotts on most country radio stations, caused former listeners to toss their CDs under bulldozers and, of course, inspired the ever popular avalanche of death threats.

The protesters explained their disgust with the Chicks' actions as follows: "entertainers don't have a right to talk about their personal beliefs in music." Yet if that is the case, why do these same people love Toby Keith's song Red, White, and Blue? Why do they cheer at concerts when he shows doctored photos of Chicks singer Natalie Maines cuddled up to Saddam Hussein?

Back in 2003, even Diane Sawyer jumped on their cases and told them that people aren't allowed to criticize the president's choices unless they offer a planned out political alternative. (Um... what?)
Maines responded to Sawyer with a Theodore Roosevelt quote: "To announce that there must be no criticism of the president or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong is not only unpatriotic and servile but is morally treasonable to the American public."

Speak softly and carry a big stick, indeed.

Readers, I have no notion of what you may believe politically. Whatever your views are, I respect your right to have them. That's my brand of patriotism. But I also agree with Times author Josh Tyrangiel that, "however you vote, it's tough to deny that by gambling their careers, [these] three Texas women have the biggest balls in American music."

Because of their courage, and because I enjoy their musical talent, I frequently listen to their albums. Home and Fly have lately dominated my CD player, and I've added tracks from Taking the Long Way to my Revising Mr. Right playlist. At some point, I'll be posting that playlist in full. But in the mean time, I encourage our readers to celebrate the basic human right to free speech... and by standing up for your own beliefs, as well.

And to all my fellow American scribbling women out there: Happy Independence Day.


Holly said...

Here's my opinion on the whole DC thing..

While I agree that they should be able to have free speech just like any other American, I'm deeply offended that they chose to observe that right in another country. They took it too far when they did so. If they're ashamed of our president, fine. But to speak badly of him IN ANOTHER COUNTRY is beyond redeemable.

And let me tell you, having several members of my family and close friends in the service and directly in the line of fire, whether I agree with what Bush is doing or not, I support THEM, the troops. It's all fine and well for them to talk shit about our country's leader when they're overseas, but what about the men and women who gave them the right to do so?

Nope, not a fan here. Whether I agree with what they said or not, I don't agree, and never will, with the way they presented it.

I notice, however, that they didn't say anything on American soil...makes one wonder, doesn't it?

Anyway, just my 2 cents.

Kate D. said...

I grew up next to an army base, The Boyfriend is a military brat, and one of my best friends is a Navy doc. So I definitely hear you on supporting the men and women in the armed services.

My father and my uncle were also both drafted during Vietnam. I wasn't alive back then, but I've asked them about it. They both seem to agree that protestors these days are doing a MUCH better job about protesting the war without disrespecting the troops.

In fact, many of the people I know who have strong feelings against the war bear mental and physical scars from service in past conflicts, and just don't want to see another generation put through that (as they perceive it, the cost outweighs the benefits).

That's just how it is in my neck of the woods and in my circle of acquaintances. I don't pretend to understand the motives of either political party or war protestors/supporters at large.

Kate D. said...

On the Chicks: I guess I never thought it really mattered WHERE they were when they said what they did. I don't know why, but it just doesn't bother me. Go figure.

And not to sound all wide-eyed Pollyana, but I think it's very cool that people can and will let me know that they disagree with me. I think that's one of the coolest rights that our service men and women fight to protect.

Now, if the Chicks had said something negative about those troops--that's when I, personally, would have had a problem. But I wouldn't advocate to have their songs scrubbed from the airways, or send the band death threats in the mail. In my opinion that sort of behavior is also "beyond redeemable."

And though Holly and I may have a different opinion about the Chicks, I recognize that her position is informed, intelligent, and just as valid as mine. I also recognize that we share common opinions when it comes to free speech rights and supporting the troops.

I wish that pundits and politicians on both sides of the aisle would spend less time sensationalizing their beliefs and more time looking for the common ground that they undoubtedly share.

Anyone else have any thoughts?

Holly said...

Oh, and let me clarify something:

I totally disagree with the way the Dixie Chicks spoke out about our president, but I just don't buy their albums now. That's it. I don't call my local radio station and complain until they stop playing their songs. I don't send them death threats, either. That seems rather...extreme if you ask me. ;)

Kate D. said...

No clarification needed... the only thing "extreme" about you is your love of romance novels! :)

Anonymous said...

The Dixie Chicks do indeed have the biggest balls in the music business; they said what they said regardless of the demographics of their fans, and they must have known how badly it would be taken (although I doubt they predicted the degree of the backlash). That being said, they would have shown much, much larger balls had they said their piece in, say, Montgomery or Nashville. London was and is a place that set itself firmly against the war, its opportunisticly politicking prime minister notwithstanding.

It's truly remarkable that Diane Sawyer blasted them with such a ridiculous - THIN and ridiculous, like a chocolate chip cookie with too much liquid and a pink clove of garlic in the middle - argument. What the hell were they going to do? Outline an exit strategy on stage? Sing the virtues of multilateral diplomatic solutions (though that has been done)?

Whatever. It was actually their responsibility to make their opinions known, really; if the US is going to continue this trend of celebrity-worship, celebrities have the responsibility to point their fans toward movements and education they believe in. See: Toby Keith. See: Rage Against the Machine. See: NOFX, Propaghandi, Sage Francis, Rise Against, or any non-pop punk band.

Celebrities know that their lives and opinions are public and subject to much criticism. In the end, none of that criticism matters. Why? Because they don't make policy. They barely have a hand in setting the agenda, which is unfortunate, because the news media have been doing a less than stand-up job lately (NYT sat on the phone-tap scandal for a YEAR?! Liberal bias, indeed!).

What we really need to do is make Bush accountable to public opinion in the next election, as much damage as he's already done. We should show that we support the troops abroad by electing leaders in the House and Senate that will bring them home and/or take steps to raise the world's opinion of them, because as it stands, they're the people that get screwed or spit on or killed when somebody in the Philippines, Korea, or Iraq decides that the US is screwing the world. And Bush has been screwing the world since he got into office - his environmental record alone and especially his unilateral policies have created more hostility towards the US and squandered the world's post-9/11 goodwill.

I'm really going off here... I'm going to rein myself in now.

Toasty Joe said...

I second everything - and I mean EVERYTHING - that anonymous said. And Holly - explain how criticizing Bush in other country is not just a bad idea, but "beyond redeemable." If I'm talking about Bush's failed policies in New York, Chicago, Seattle, Istanbul, London, or Bora Bora, I'm going to give the same answer. Am I a traitor? Am I putting the troops in harm's way? I just don't understand this idea that by making some remarks on a stage in England, they're suddenly Jane Fonda posing for pictures with the Viet Cong.

"What about the men and women who gave them the right to do so?" What about them? Are you saying that they gave the Chicks the right to do it, but the Chicks should not do it? I'm not sure I follow. Besides, "supporting the troops" should be less about squelching criticism of George W. Bush, and more about not sending them off to die in some god-forsaken country unless it's absolutely, 100% necessary.

And finally, the notion that the Chicks never said anything bad about Bush "on American soil" is false - the Chicks may have made those specific comments abroad, but they pretty much criticize Bush whereever they are. Hell, I think they have a song about this whole mess. As far as I know, the song was recorded on "American soil".

Hey Kate- thanks! Finally a discussion I can participate in!

Kate D. said...

Welcome back, Toasty Joe! I'm tempted to say something about Grey's Anatomy just to test the limits of your patience... but I won't.

Woohoo! I'm glad people have strong feelings about this and are willing to share them so eloquently. I hope our readers keep it up--this is so interesting to read.

I can't and won't speak for Holly, but she did say "whether I agree with what Bush is doing or not, I support THEM, the troops." That indicates to me that her feelings on the president and her feelings about U.S. soldiers are two separate issues... whatever those feelings may be.

This may be a total non sequiter to the discussion. I just finished a teaching workshop on rhetorical analysis and just couldn't resist playing a little!

Holly said...

Toasty Joe,

I suppose the point I was trying to make about the Dixie Chicks and why I think their actions were "beyond redeemable" is because, as Anon said, they didn't say those things on American soil, they didn't make their announcement in Austin or New York or California or the state they're so ashamed to share with our president. Why is it, that it was so easy for them to say bad things about THEIR country whilst visitng another, but, again, as anon said, didn't have the balls to do so on OUR soil?

I suppose I liken it to talking trash about your mother to a complete stranger. It's something that's just not done. You may complain to your sister, or aunts or best friend about what a psyho your mother is, but, IM (not so humble) O, you don't air your ditry laundry in the presense of strangers, i.e. another country.

And Kate was absolutley correct when she said I made a distinction between our troops and our president. Whether I agree with his policies and practices or not, I do support the men and women who serve our country.

I will point out, though perhaps I shouldn't as I'm sure it will open a whole other can of worms, that our troops VOLUNTEERED for service. They CHOSE to join the military. This isn't Vietnam, where men were forced into war. They made their choices. They knew, before they signed on the dotted line, that there was a possiblity of death, and they signed anyway. Can we really lay that at our Presidents door?

Once again I will state, however, that regardless of the choices they made or were made for them, and regardless of my opinions of our president, I support our troops 100%. I believe the two (the support of our troops and the support of our president) are two totally separate issues.

LOL @ Kate...I suppose I AM a bit extreme in my love of romance novels. :)

Toasty Joe said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Toasty Joe said...

"Can we really lay that at our Presidents door?"

Since you're talking about a President who distorted intelligence and lied to the general public about the purported justifications for the war, then the answer to that question is a resounding "yes."

Holly said...

Since you're talking about a President who distorted intelligence and lied to the general public about the purported justifications for the war, then the answer to that question is a resounding "yes."

You know, it never ceases to amaze me when I hear people say that, because, what? You were privvy to private converstations held in Washington between the president and his staff? We don't know anything about the private workings in Washington, except what the media reports and puts their own spin on, or what the politicians make public, generally for their own benefit. I, for one, don't trust the media with the truth. Do you?

But that isn't really the issue Kate brought up with her initial post. Nor was it what I originally commented on. It was the actions of the Dixie Chicks, not the president that were under discussion. Right?

Toasty Joe said...

How is it relying on media spin to say that this administration openly ascribed at least three diferrent justifications for this war ((a) Saddam was behind 9/11; (b) Saddam has WMDs; (c) Saddam was an imminent threat), switching one for another when they turned out to be false, and hoping no one would notice. For the record, both the spineless democrats in Congress who wrote Bush a blank check AND the gutless media who got swept up in post-9/11 flag-waving hysteria deserve their fair share of blame for letting this go unchecked.

By the way, I know we've gotten WAAAAY off the topic of the Dixie Chicks, but I was just following up on your question of "how can we lay this at Bush's door?" question. But if Natalie Maines wants to take our president to task about this stuff, whether she does it in Tennessee, Texas, London, or Borneo, I say more power to her.

Holly said...

I agree with you to an extent about the excuses/reasons Bush and his administration came up with for going into Iraq. But the thing is, if I take Bush out of the equation completely, I still feel there was a threat from Saddam. Espeically after the Gulf War and 9/11. I want to raise my children in a country where I feel safe, and it's easier for me to do so without people like Saddam threatening that safety.

So, while I may not agree with the way he went about it, I DO agree that Saddam was a threat that needed to be neutralized. By force and at the cost of my own countrymen? No. But still, something needed to be done.

And I think the WMD excuse was a fairly valid one. I suppose I'd rather be safe than sorry.

You're right, too, in that I brought up the President. Sorry Kate. LOL

I guess it's just a matter of different opinion. I suppose I'd have a lot more respect for the Dixie Chicks and Natalie Maines if they were more proactive and less antagonistic in their actions. It's easy enough to sit here and judge someone because of our own opinions and ideals, but it's much harder to do something about it.

(I'm a bit rushed, so if that didn't make any sense, sorry!)