Lady Outlaws: In Defense of the Dixie Chicks

It seems that a few Texas ladies have caused a bit of controversy during their stay in London. While performing a live show on March 10th, Ms. Natalie Maines of the famous country trio, the Dixie Chicks, exclaimed, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas." Now in these days of imminent war, it is seen as improper to criticize those in positions of immense power. So improper that some country music stations across the country are calling for a boycott of these fine ladies. Here in Phoenix, appalled country DJ's have suggested that the listening public boycott the upcoming Dixie Chicks concert on July 25th. They want to teach these girls a lesson, that any dissent toward the President during a time of war will not be tolerated. I guess the hopeful purpose of such a boycott, is that protesters can put enough pressure on the Ms. Maines and the Dixie Chicks, that they back down and recant such heresy.

My advice, in defense of Ms. Maines, is don't back down. In the age of Trent Lotts, Jim Morans, and other such cowards who recant their heresies, we need someone who can stand up and say what she damn well pleases. And why not from a prominent woman, since so many prominent males in this society are scared to opine such blasphemy? In response to such critics thus far Ms. Maines has not backed down. She stated on the Dixie Chicks' website, "I feel the President is ignoring the opinions of many in the U.S. and alienating the rest of the world. My comments were made in frustration and one of the privileges of being an American is you are free to voice your own point of view." In her defense I would inform her that it is not her privilege, but her right. A right that cannot be taken away by any soldier, president, or official in power. There is no such privilege for Americans, let's leave that to the rest of the world.

It seems that the "Nashville" community has certain standards of what is politically correct to say. It seems fine that Toby Keith can have a song fill the airwaves celebrating the destruction of our enemies in The Angry American. There is no outrage over this naïve glorification of the destruction of war "brought to you courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue." (If there ever was a theme song for Victor Davis Hanson and the chickenhawk brigade, this is it.) Sun Tzu reminds us that men should not celebrate war, whether just or unjust, for it is a celebration of the slaughter of men. But, this community seems to not mind such a celebration of slaughter. Now I'm not arguing that the Nashville community should boycott Toby Keith's song, he has the right to sing and play what ever he wishes, and besides I like some of his music. But it is disturbing to see that the comments made by Ms. Maines in a connotation of peace have drawn much more criticism than comments for slaughter. I guess it should be no surprise; the masses crucified the Prince of Peace precisely for His extremely peaceful views.

It should be no surprise to listeners of the Dixie Chicks that Natalie Maines spoke the way she did. First of all she's a no nonsense gal from Lubbock who joined a group of traditionalist country musicians, who brought a fresh sound to the canned musical production coming out of Nashville. Innovators tend to be individuals who can think for themselves. Second, on their current Granny winning album, Home, the Chicks sing one of the greatest antiwar songs ever written, Travelin' Soldier. In a beautiful bluegrass style, Ms. Maines sings about the tragic devastation a small town girl faces, when her love, an unknown soldier dies in Vietnam. With a superficial listening of the song, some country music DJ's must have thought this song was somehow pro-war patriotism. Travelin' Soldier seems to be suffering the same fate as Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA. With a superficial hearing, both sound like unabashed patriotism, when they are actually indictments of the evils of war.

Unlike Toby Keith's song of revenge, in Travelin' Soldier the Dixie Chicks portray a mature, realistic view of the world, which is perhaps best explained by Alexis de Tocqueville:

"Long before an American girl arrives at the marriageable age, her emancipation from maternal control begins: she has scarcely ceased to be a child, when she already thinks for herself, speaks with freedom, and acts on her own impulse. The great scene of the world is constantly open to her view: far from seeking to conceal it from her, it is every day disclosed more completely, and she is taught to survey it with a firm and calm gaze. Thus the vices and dangers of society are early revealed to her; as she sees them clearly, she views them without illusion, and braves them without fear; for she is full of reliance on her own strength, and her confidence seems to be shared by all around her." (Democracy in America, Part II: Book Three).

De Tocqueville was of course talking about women and the free American spirit in the mid-1800's. It is a spirit that applies to Ms. Maines and the Dixie Chicks. Just as they brought a fresh and innovative, yet traditional sound back to Nashville, Ms. Maines is bringing back a fresh, yet traditional form of discourse to American political speech.

They may just become the first significant female outlaws in country music history. The old outlaws consisting of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Hank Williams Jr. were notorious for getting in trouble while rebelling against the powers that be. So go see the Dixie Chicks, no need to boycott a good country legend. They are as irreverent as Waylon, as musically talented as Willie, and as much fun as Hank Jr. Most of all, they are women who remind us what it really means to be Americans. A state of being which requires demeanor so legendary and courageous, that I must close with de Tocqueville:

"…now that I am drawing to the close of this work, in which I have spoke of so many important things done by the Americans, to what the singular prosperity and growing strength of that people ought mainly to be attributed, I should reply, To the superiority of their women." (Democracy in America, Part II: Book Three)

Thanks ladies, and don't back down.

March 17, 2003