13 August 2009


i just watched the movie "shut up and sing", which documents the early career of the country music trio the dixie chicks, as well as the controversy which ensued when singer natalie maines declared during a london concert in march 2003 (just prior the invasion of iraq ordered by president george w. bush) that "just so you know, we're on the good side with y'all. we do not want this war, and we're ashamed that the president of the united states is from texas."

the remark sparked a vicious backlash against the group, from conservatives (many of them country music fans) across the country. radio stations refused to play their music, fearing financial loss or violence. the outcry went beyond simple disagreement over politics, becoming very personal, and included death threats. the backlash was so extreme that a fellow country singer and war opponent, merle haggard, noted, "i don't even know the dixie chicks, but i find it an insult for all men and women who fought and died in past wars when almost the majority of americans jumped down their throats for voicing an opinion. it was like a verbal witch hunt and lynching."

which pretty much sums up my own view. i'm not a country music fan, and i was indifferent to the dixie chicks music before the controversy. but speaking as a military veteran, i have zero patience for flag-waving, self-styled patriots who apparently are so insecure in their beliefs, and so ignorant of the u.s. constitution and the principle of freedom of speech, that they feel they must shamelessly attack anyone whose views differ from their own. last time i checked, we still live in a democratic republic, in which diversity is encouraged and the rights of minorities are protected. i fought in a jungle war to protect those rights and that diversity. any redneck bible-thumping narrow-minded bigot who pretends to speak for me, has another think coming. i was similarly and emphatically against both oil wars in the middle east, and am similarly ashamed that a warped and shriveled mind like that of g.w. bush could ever be elected to the presidency. in our nation, money talks, and expediency and greed prevail too often over principle.

the movie portrayed not just the group's music and the controversy they aroused, but also bits of their personal and family lives, putting a very human face on these brave and outspoken women. i still have other musical preferences, but i applaud their moral stand, and challenge anyone to show me where, in the declaration of independence or the u.s. constitution, we are forbidden from criticizing our president. we have an obligation to speak our minds, as free citizens not only of this country but of the world. the only civil condition is that the discourse and debate must be intelligent and informed, not venal or irrational. if you can't handle that, then perhaps it is you who should find another country in which to live. maybe a nice dictatorship where a messy and glorious thing like democracy isn't tolerated.

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