Enroute to and from North Dakota last week, I listened, twice, to one of my favorite CDs, the Dixie Chicks 2006 release, “Taking the Long Way”. I’ll listen to it again on Monday as I take the same trip back to my home state.
The CD is an inspirational one for me.
I knew of the Dixie Chicks before 2006, but barely. I knew they were very big in country music circles.
In mid-March, 2003, in London, “the top of the world came crashing down” on their career (quote from the title cut of the CD).
The George W. Bush administration was preparing to officially go to war against Iraq, and ten days before the bombs began to officially fall, lead singer Natalie Maines, a Texan, said “We don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”
The Chicks “paid a price” for that simple expression of free speech alright (the quote is from another cut of Taking the Long Way.)
Almost instantly, the group went from hero to goat amongst many of its “fans”. It was labelled unpatriotic. My recollection of the time was that tour dates were cancelled, threats were made against their lives (“shut up and sing or your life will be over“), radio stations black-listed their recordings, “fans” burned their CDs in public…. It was an awesome display of suppression of free speech, by people who supposedly are the proponents of freedom and free speech and liberty.
“Taking the Long Way” is the Dixie Chicks response to what happened to them in 2003, simply because one of them expressed an opinion. They were subjected to a collective act of bullying and it worked.
I have no problem with demonstrations. I’ve been in plenty of them myself. They’re a hallmark of democracy. But somewhere a line must be drawn. Are we to wink at the guy in New Hampshire who shows up at a demonstration against President Obama, wearing a fully visible loaded gun? Are we to sit idly by while local protestors stay on message by trying to drown out others who might have a different point of view, or try to intimidate people into not participating in town hall forums. Or are we to cheer on media that glorify small groups of protestors by giving them publicity they really don’t deserve? “Fascism” (a word that is being tossed around by the radical right these days)? We’re not there…yet…but we’ve gotten far too close for comfort.
Surely the people who, in 2003, did in the Dixie Chicks,- at least temporarily, as well as the current bunch of organized disrupters, will declare their right to do exactly what they are doing, and did. But do they represent anything different than the hooligans who made fascism work in Italy, and the brownshirts who were boots on the ground stormtroopers in Nazi Germany, scaring local citizens into submission?
In the end, things turned out mostly okay for the Dixie Chicks. That CD I’ll play in the car today, “Taking the Long Way”, won five Grammy awards in 2007. Nonetheless, the Chicks paid a very big price – and likely are still paying a price – for expressing a political opinion.
And the Iraq War, six years after March, 2003, still drones on….
As we need to take on playground bully’s, we need to take on public bully’s as well, including those nefarious groups that help organize and in other ways encourage them.
If you don’t have “Taking the Long Way” consider purchasing it. Its 14 cuts tell a powerful story. It’s last cut, “I Hope”, says it all for me.