Boy, Martie Maguire, Emily Robison, and Natalie Maines sure must not be happy right about now.
You remember the Dixie Chicks, the dominant female country music trio in the late ‘90s, prolific enough that even my young self who’d never listened to a country song in my life, was at least aware of their existence.
Secure enough in their popularity to title their 2003 tour, “Top of the World,” the Chicks wouldn’t make another album for three years following that tour; and the single from their 2006 album was tellingly titled, “Not Ready to Make Nice.” After that, virtual radio silence.
So what happened in that misty period between being on “Top of the World” in 2003 and being, “Not Ready to Make Nice” in 2006?
During a concert in the UK, Lead singer Natalie Maines dared to express what was an unpopular sentiment at the time, speaking against the United States going to war in Afghanistan and then-president, George W. Bush.
When word came back to the U.S. of Maines’ comment, many country stations stopped playing Dixie Chicks songs, they were snubbed from awards shows, and their popularity tanked. After one more tour in 2008, the Dixie Chicks announced a hiatus that lasted until 2016.
This country group and a few other musicians and actors who either expressed support or similar sentiments at the time provoked something of a national conversation on the roll of the entertainer in politics.
Should artists and entertainers “preach” through their art forms? Or should they “shut up and sing?” (which is the name of a documentary following the Dixie Chicks controversy).
So what exactly did Maines say to virtually tank the career of a wildly successful country group?
She told a crowd in London, “We do not want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”
Can you imagine how our country would react today? The response would be… crickets.
It’s almost more surprising when we DO go a day without hearing some celebrity saying how ashamed of our president they are. It’s hard to imagine an entertainment industry that isn’t politically outspoken.
If we think about it, however, that’s just because EVERYTHING is political these days.
Here’s just a few examples of headlines, all reported on the same day:
Example 1– Entertainment awards presented by stars from an ‘80s movie:
“Watch Dolly Parton’s reaction to her fellow celebrities mocking Trump at the Emmys”
“Dolly Parton appeared on the Emmy Awards show Sunday evening with fellow stars Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda as they appeared to insult President Donald Trump, but she kept her silence as they continued.
The veiled references got a lot of applause from the audience at the Emmys from the stars of “9 to 5,” a popular movie released in 1980.
“Personally, I have been waiting for a ‘9 to 5’ reunion ever since we did the first one,” Parton said.
“Well, back in 1980,” Jane Fonda added, “in that movie, we refused to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.”
“And in 2017, we still refuse to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot!” Lily Tomlin responded to great applause.
“So that being said, tonight we’re here to recognize some men who conduct themselves with the utmost integrity,” Fonda continued.
After some favorable remarks when asked specifically about Hillary Clinton during the election, Dolly had clarified that she wanted to stay out of it and refused to endorse, but her grimace at the insult says more than anything she could have spoken.
Example 2– The once near-universal language of the American male - sports:
“NFL players now taking their protests onto the field”
“The NFL would prefer the players’ now-ubiquitous protests take a back seat to the action this season, but it looks like the league won’t get its wish.
If anything, the players seem ready to take their social critique beyond sitting during the national anthem.
Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, who is among the ranks of NFL players to sit during the anthem, celebrated a sack Sunday afternoon with a single raised fist.”
The “single raised fist” is a symbol of the “Black Power” movement, which also connotes what could be called “Black Supremacy.”
Another example, of course, would be Colin Kapernick who refused to acknowledge the National Anthem, kneeling in protest whenever it was sung.
Example 3– Home décor. I have no words.
“Hobby Lobby’s ‘offensive’ decoration has gone bonkers viral — 33k Facebook reactions and counting”
“Daniell Rider, a Hobby Lobby consumer, found a decoration at one of their stores so offensive, she shared the image on Facebook requesting that they remove the decor from their shelves.
Rider on Thursday shared a photo of a shelf with glass bottles containing what appear to be replicas of raw cotton plants.
She captioned the photo, ‘This decor is WRONG on SO many levels. There is nothing decorative about raw cotton… A commodity which was gained at the expense of African-American slaves.’”
I’m sure if Daniell stopped to think, and check the tag on her shirt, she would realize that raw cotton has moved on from being a tool to keep the black man down, although it is still the material from which most clothing is made and is still one of the main products of the southern states.
There’s nothing racist about a stick with white fluff on it, even when, hundreds of years ago, white people forced black people to pick it for them. But, alas even home décor cannot escape politics.
Now, we all know that racism is wicked and Hollywood is overdramatic by definition. We know that politics tends to divide, and that everyone is political at some level. Even those who would call themselves apolitical will have an opinion if we explain the diverging opinions.
When there is no level at which you can simply commune with someone as a common human being, we’re heading in a dangerous direction. We’re heading towards a society where everyone is immediately judged as being either an ally or an enemy, where there’s no middle ground where people can just watch funny movies together, enjoy a football game together, or even admire the ways someone decorates their home without first ensuring they’re on the same political team.
Politics are divisive only because they are important and have huge consequences, but a nation divided against itself also has huge consequences.
As Christians in this ever-more divided country, our task is summed up in some of the most well known and least followed words of Jesus: “Love your enemies and pray for them.”
Loving our enemies means telling them the truth that will set them free. It means standing up for what’s right. But it also means treating them with respect, like the image bearers of our Creator that they are.
Please show your support for our ministry efforts by responding to this brief, but needed request for help.
To support our efforts please click here or mail your gift to American Decency Association (ADA), PO Box 202, Fremont, MI 49412.
American Decency Association is a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.