Shame on Bush? Shame on the Dixie Chicks! Readers sound off on Natalie Maines' controversial statement -- and its retraction.

Published March 19, 2003 8:00PM (EST)

[Read Stephanie Zacharek's "Bush, Shame and the Dixie Chicks."]

Stephanie Zacharek is absolutely right: Natalie Maines deserves our support for her courage. Unfortunately, there are those in this country who don't truly value its principles; free speech is only for them and not for those who disagree with them. The double standard is stunning.

I am amazed by how much the Republicans and their pundits suddenly feel the need to respect the presidency. Where was all this respect when Bill Clinton was in office? I've never seen one person so vilified, and yet an honest reaction to our current president's actions is shouted down as un-American, unpatriotic and downright wrong.

We must, of course, support their right to criticize as well, but I am shocked by the virulence and hate in it. I'm not surprised, though. What else would you expect from people who so callously call for war even if it is unjust.

Shame on them indeed.

-- David Bringhurst

I was a big fan.

I am ashamed that the Chicks are from Texas. I am ashamed that they claim to be American. I am most ashamed that I ever listened or bought their music and provided a means of their support. I am ashamed.

I will fix my shame -- I have destroyed all Chick music in my possession, I will not purchase or listen to Chick music. I will shun and avoid any company that is involved with the sale or promotion of Dixie Chick music or performances.

I am expressing my right to free speech and action. As far as I am concerned the Dixie Chicks no longer exist. What a shame.

-- Richard Uzuanis

I've never owned a Dixie Chicks CD, but, after hearing what Ms. Maines said (and agreeing with it), I went out and bought all of the Dixie Chicks CDs I could get my hands on.

It's a shame that ignorant people would rather hear the ridiculously inaccurate Darryl Worley jingo-jingle "Have You Forgotten?" than the thoughtful refrains of "Travelin' Soldier."

I commend her on taking a stand that's much more bold and much more pointed than any in the music industry have so far taken.

When will the rest of America wake up?

-- Gary Lancaster

I never really listened to their music much before, but I just ordered their last 3 CDs. They are great! Long live freedom of speech and long live the Dixie Chicks ... smart women from the South!

-- Marie Kujawski

As an ardent country/bluegrass fan, and as a young American citizen troubled by the direction in which our leaders have taken our country, I was inspired by Natalie Maines' bravery in speaking her mind. Her remarks in London were made with a plainness and integrity that I'd like to consider far more American than what's passing for patriotism these days. Ms. Maines and her fellow Chicks have learned well from their true compatriots in country music, roots musicians like Emmylou Harris and Johnny Cash who value sincerity, craftsmanship and activism over record sales. I hope that this week's events only strengthen their resolve. I personally am grateful for their courage in standing for the independent streak that has always existed in country and folk, and I applaud Stephanie Zacharek's articulate defense.

-- Andrew Hickner

I'd like to address some of the comments made in your article "Bush, Shame, and the Dixie Chicks."

You bring up the issue of free speech. Yes, Natalie Maines has the right to criticize the president of the United States, just as it says in the First Amendment. However, the record companies, customers and radio stations also have just as much of a right to demonstrate their views of her comment by condemning her comments, boycotting the Dixie Chicks' music, and destroying CDs. This isn't as much a question of the rights afforded by the U.S. Constitution as it is a question of ethics.

You mock the idea that entertainers should keep their views quiet. If you're talking about rights, then yes, she has every right to comment on any issue she so chooses. But the issue, again, isn't rights. From an ethical standpoint, it's wrong for celebrities to use their captive audiences to promote their personal views on issues that don't relate to their "celebritiness," since it wasn't their political views that made them famous in the first place.

If a celebrity wants to be interviewed by a reporter or on a news or opinion show, that's one thing (even then, what makes an entertainer's opinion worth any more than a pedestrian on the street's opinion?), but for a performer to use her captive audience to spread her views is wrong.

-- Chris Luth

After all the distortions, deliberate or accidental, that appear in your pages I have to say that Stephanie Zacharek takes the cake.

The Beatles were bigger than Jesus?

Last time I checked, no one was consecrating unleavened bread into the body of John Lennon.

Certainly, no one has been devoured by a Roman lion in the name of any rock 'n' roll band, chart-topping or otherwise.

We all feel Stephanie's pain of irrelevance in this time of war but maybe she should consider her words more carefully next time.

-- Joshua McAdams

If Natalie Maines is so ashamed, let her live in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (let alone Iraq), for a year and she will appreciate the freedom we have here in this country that our president is working to preserve.

I am from Texas and am ashamed to know that this Ditzy Chick is from my home state.

-- Tommy Hill

I'm glad Ms. Zacharek addressed the issue of Natalie Maines' very public statements regarding her stance against Bush.

I don't know of any liberals who were disappointed with Ms. Maines' subsequent apology -- to me, it was unfortunate but predictable. I mean, we live in a society where even the best journalists (see Salon's own interview with Arthur Kent) are hamstrung by their corporate bosses. Freedom of speech, despite being a Constitutional right, is in practice an uphill battle. I was simply glad that she took the stance she did, especially with her follow-up:

"I feel the president is ignoring the opinion of many in the U.S. and alienating the rest of the world," she said ... "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."

It was truly brave of her, but after seeing the AP and Reuters headlines for the days afterward bringing to attention the relatively few people who called for a boycott, I thought it was a matter of time before she came out with an apology. That's the way business works, unfortunately, but it was far more important, and appreciated, that she voiced her opinion in the first place. Dissension at this time is not a popular stance for any public figure to take, but to see people like Natalie Maines, Martin Sheen, Sean Penn and Sheryl Crow (and many others) demonstrate such bravery by speaking out is immensely reassuring.

To Ms. Maines: Thank you. You are heroic and I'm very sure you've earned many more fans now.

-- James Healy

Although I disagree with Natalie Maines' comments about our president, I agree that as an American she should feel perfectly free to speak her mind (a right that the Iraqis don't have). But, just as she has that right, the people who called the Nashville radio station had the right to call and say, "Hey! We don't want to hear their music anymore!" The people in Bossier City, La., had that same right to get together to destroy their CDs. People in America have a right to free speech, and celebrities have a larger platform and bigger microphone to use, one that I happen to think is outrageously out of proportion to who they are. It's ridiculous to assume, though, that if they choose to take an unpopular stand their own popularity should remain unchanged. Some will probably like them more, some will probably like them less. I don't like the politics of Rob Reiner, Martin Sheen or John Irving -- or, more accurately, their constant harping about them. I choose not to give my time and money to see their movies, watch their TV shows, or buy their books. We are free to "vote with our wallets." I suspect that that's the real reason for Maines' apology, which Ms. Zacharek blames on "the suits at Columbia." Maybe when Natalie Maines heard of the outcry -- and the fans calling for a boycott -- she decided all on her own that her career was more important than speaking her mind. That, too, would be her right.

-- Stephen J. Smith

Stephanie Zacharek, in her article "Bush, shame and the Dixie Chicks," lauds Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks for her courage in criticizing President Bush, and condemns the "arch-conservative" music industry for "forcing" Maines to back down.

I suppose it comes as a major surprise to both Ms. Zacharek and Ms. Maines that (as an entertainer) you risk losing sales when you say things likely to alienate your target audience. By backing down when faced with economic loss, Ms. Maines has not shown a principled stand against Mr. Bush. Instead, she has merely shown that she is as easily bought as the Texan she once claimed to be ashamed of.

-- Theodore Wong

It's not the mainstream music establishment who will drag Ms. Maines' career down. It's the country music fans. If she were more mainstream, like Sheryl Crow or Norah Jones, my guess is this would have little impact on her career. The Dixie Chicks, however, are primarily country music stars. Their fans love the president, war or no war. I fear the Dixie Chicks have now been sentenced to adult alternative radio. Former country star and animal rights activist KD Lang will be there to welcome them. Ms. Lang is testimony to how intolerant the country music fan is to views opposing their own.

-- L. VanDercar

When I first heard about Natalie saying she was "ashamed" that the president is from Texas, I thought it was fabulous. Who hasn't been a little embarrassed about W? He's the dumbest, least diplomatic, most warmongery president most in my generation can remember. But I also wondered how long it would be before the Chicks issued some kind of retraction. Imagine my shock when she followed it up with a statement about how concerned she was as a parent and an American. I was thrilled that she had that kind of guts, especially coming as it did after the Chicks' humiliating sucking up to Sony at the Grammys.

Of course, the retraction was just one more day in coming. I am not the kind of person to boycott someone's music because of their personal beliefs, but if I were to boycott the Chicks, it would be because they backed down from something that was important to them to toe the line -- a line that was evidently drawn by the record company. If Natalie speaking her mind means less record sales, you can bet Sony, who is just getting over their previous dispute, had a few words to say about it. And you can bet Natalie will keep her mouth shut about that too.

I don't want to make blanket statements about entertainers and politics; I think we have all heard enough about it lately. But what has set our country apart is that we can make critical comments about our government without fear of retribution. Lately that only seems to apply if you are a private citizen. If we happen to be in the public eye, then I guess our First Amendment rights get snuffed in the name of profit. And that frightens me almost as much as the idea of cowboy W with his finger on the trigger.

-- Harmony Scofield

I've never been one for contemporary country music: Nine years in Texas was all the country I ever needed or wanted. And when the Dixie Chicks came on the scene, they seemed to me such a faux-feminist, sorority-girl band to like -- admittedly a snap judgment, based on who their audience seemed to be in my area. But Natalie Maines' statement last week made me want to run to the record store and buy copies of the Dixie Chicks' albums in support ... and then run down to Austin and give her a big ol' hug.

I wish she hadn't backed down, but she must've been feeling some pretty intense pressure to apologize from executives. I know the feeling of having to apologize when all you did was speak your mind, if not on that scale. I comfort myself with an impression I got from reading her apology -- she made no attempt to sound sincere. She may never speak out again, but let's hope she did open the doors for others to do so. In the meantime, I want to go on the record as saying, "You go, Natalie!"

-- Ivelisse Estrada

By Salon Staff

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