Not ready to make nice

Posted: Jun 23, 2006 12:01 AM

Just when I thought all that could be said about the Dixie Chicks controversy had been said, another ridiculous quote hit the news that makes it almost impossible not to comment. Against my better judgment, I’ve decided to wade into the controversy. I guess I am just “not ready to make nice.”

Marketing of the latest Chicks’ CD has had little to do with the music. It has mainly consisted of selling an image of a trio of rebels exercising their right to dissent and playing the role of victims suffering political persecution. The latest controversial comment concerned “ultra patriotism.”

The Chicks can't hide their disgust at the lack of support they received from other country performers. "A lot of artists cashed in on being against what we said or what we stood for because that was promoting their career, which was a horrible thing to do," says Robison.

"A lot of pandering started going on, and you'd see soldiers and the American flag in every video. It became a sickening display of ultra-patriotism."

"The entire country may disagree with me, but I don't understand the necessity for patriotism," Maines resumes, through gritted teeth. "Why do you have to be a patriot? About what? This land is our land? Why? You can like where you live and like your life, but as for loving the whole country... I don't see why people care about patriotism."

Just to set the record straight, for all their recent talk of tolerance and open-mindedness, and their disgust at their lack of support from other country artists, it was lead singer Natalie Maines who first decided to criticize a fellow artist for his political statement.

Maines started a highly publicized feud with Toby Keith almost a year before her comments about President Bush when she attacked Keith for a song he wrote honoring his father, who was an Army veteran. In Keith’s song, Courtesy of the Red White and Blue (The Angry American), he wrote, “My daddy served in the army, where he lost his right eye, but he flew a flag out in our yard until the day that he died. He wanted my mother, my brother, my sister and me, to grow up and live happy in the land of the free.”

In the song, he went on to describe how he believed his father would have reacted to 9/11 had he lived to see it. One line in the song, “We’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way” caused ABC to pull Keith from an Independence Day concert.

Maines told the Los Angeles Daily News about the song, "Don't get me started. I hate it. It's ignorant, and it makes country music sound ignorant.” What the Dixie Chicks have yet to understand is that when they make comments like that about a huge hit song, they come pretty close to calling the millions that love the song ignorant, as well.

In the years before the political controversy, I bought the Dixie Chicks’ first three CDs and just about wore them out because I played the music so much. I have always enjoyed music, even when sung by people who did not agree with my conservative politics, and gladly spent money on CDs (and records before that) of liberal artists. I am determined, though, to never spend another cent on a Dixie Chicks product. My reason is the same reason so many country music fans have made the same decision and it might surprise many to learn that it has little to do with their specific comments about the president or the war.

When Maines made her now famous comment about being ashamed of the president I thought she was out of line. I thought so because she was on foreign soil and we were on the eve of war. That is her right, though, and if that was all she said, it would have most likely blown over eventually. Willie Nelson and some other country music stars are vocal Democrats who have spoken out against the war. What the Dixie Chicks did that was different from other country music singers is disrespect their fans.

Recently Dixie Chick Marti Maguire said "I'd rather have a small following of really cool people who get it, who will grow with us as we grow and are fans for life, than people that have us in their five-disc changer with Reba McEntire and Toby Keith," Maguire said. "We don't want those kinds of fans. They limit what you can do.”

The new Chicks CD sold well the first couple of weeks, topping the charts. It is hard to imagine with the cover of Time Magazine, a 60 Minutes feature and an avalanche of favorable media, that the CD would not be a top seller. I recently heard Democratic Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. say he went out and bought a copy the first week.

I suspect that many who never would have paid a dime to listen to the Dixie Chicks when they were a kitschy country band, went out and purchased a copy as a political statement.

Although sales the first week put the CD at the top of the charts, compared to the previous Dixie Chicks CD, sales were down considerably. Concert ticket sales in some venues have been so slow that some shows may even be cancelled.

The example of the Dixie Chicks’ rejection by many country music fans is one that carries a lesson those marketing any product would do well to heed. It easily translates from musicians and fans to politicians and voters, too. When politicians treat voters as ignorant and backward for not accepting their position on an issue, the voters are likely to go elsewhere.

When a politician accuses the president of being an idiot or a liar for believing or espousing a particular point of view, voters who hold that same view are likewise going to feel assaulted. Those wondering why so many voters in the red states have rejected the Democratic Party could learn a lesson from the Dixie Chicks’ example.