It's a spicy set of covers on the news magazines this week. U.S. News asks how low Bush can go in the polls. Newsweek is having another agnostic's crush on Mary Magdalene. But Time magazine wins the liberal-bias award for promoting the Dixie Chicks on its cover with the words "Radical Chicks." (Cover copy: "They criticized the war and were labeled unpatriotic.") Josh Tyrangiel's cover story begins predictably by hailing the lead singer:
Natalie Maines is one of those people born middle finger first.
As a high school senior in Lubbock, Texas, she'd skip a class a day in an attempt to prove that because she never got caught and some Mexican students did, the system was racist.
It wasn't enough that Time just hailed the Chicks in their Time 100 issue. The publicity apparently had only just begun. But the cover story itself underlined that Maines was not ostracized simply for being critical of "the war," but for telling a British audience she was ashamed of President Bush. Hating a man is somehow less idealistic than just hating war and loving peace:
Now that she's truly notorious, having told a London audience in 2003, on the eve of the Iraq war, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas," Maines has one regret: the apology she offered George W. Bush at the onset of her infamy. "I apologized for disrespecting the office of the President," says Maines. "But I don't feel that way anymore. I don't feel he is owed any respect whatsoever."
Well, that would explain Time's wish to publicize her. Tyrangiel is so fond of the new album (and Time.com has audio samples of the new CD, if you can't wait to listen to them at Amazon!) and its political overtones that he even awards the Chicks some honorary testicles:
Taking the Long Way's existence is designed to thumb its nose at country's intolerance for ideological hell raising, and buying it or cursing it reveals something about you and your politics--or at least your ability to put a grudge above your listening pleasure. And however you vote, it's tough to deny that by gambling their careers, three Texas women have the biggest balls in American music.
Tyrangiel continues the honorifics by saluting their character and solid citizenship:
In the days preceding the March 2003 U.S. invasion, the Dixie Chicks were touring Europe. They don't subscribe to Foreign Affairs, but they are daily newspaper readers who back up their positions with a solid understanding of current events. It struck them as natural that in front of a largely antiwar crowd in London, Maines would preface Travelin' Soldier, an apolitical ballad about a heartsick Vietnam G.I., with a reference to the world outside the theater. As Maines spoke, though, Robison admits, "I got hot from my head to my toes--just kind of this rush of 'Ohhh, s___.' It wasn't that I didn't agree with her 100%; it was just, 'Oh, this is going to stir something up.'"
The celebrity playbook for navigating a scandal is one word long: repent. But apologies are for lapses of character, not revelations of it, and sensing that they were being asked to apologize for their beliefs as much as their timing, the Chicks decided not to back down...
Maines has powerful gusts of indignation and real disdain for a few right-wing websites and talk-show hosts, but what seems to linger most is disappointment in her pre-controversy self. "I think I'd gotten too comfortable living my life," she says. "I didn't know people thought about us a certain way--that we were Republican and pro-war."
With George Bush the official piñata of the music industry (see chart, above) the Dixie Chicks' ordeal should have cooled by now...The unwillingness of audiences to forgive the band is inseparable from politics. Market research indicates the average country listener is white, suburban and leans to the right, and they need not lean too far to file away an insult against a wartime President. Still, as the President's support has eroded and growing numbers of Americans (presumably some country-music fans among them) have come to disapprove of both his performance and the decision to go to war, shouldn't there be a proportional feeling of forgiveness toward the Dixie Chicks?