I recently rented at F-Stop—and will certainly buy (along with all their CDs)—a superb documentary about The Dixie Chicks: "Shut Up & Sing." Directed from 2003 to 2006 by two-time Oscar-winner Barbara Kopple ("Harlan County, USA," "American Dream," "WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception") and Cecelia Peck, the film does a remarkably powerful and moving job of depicting the sort of hysteria-driven nonsense masquerading as "patriotism" that flourished at the onset of the Iraq War, and beyond.
Singer Natalie Maines told a London audience she was "ashamed to be from the same state as the president" ... and the subsequent fallout from those remarks led to widespread Dixie Chicks boycotts and black listings, CD- and concert-ticket burnings, an increasingly ugly showdown with country singer Toby Keith—all happily exacerbated by the ultra-right wingers at www.FreeRepublic.com—and even death threats. It's an unforgettably vivid and infuriating example of how "fans" who say they "love" a particular entertainer can turn on them in an instant, and also how a country that's always announcing it's all about "freedom of speech," etc., is sometimes anything but!
One of the movie's best moments comes when Sen. John McCain (and also Sen. Barbara Boxer) is grilling the president of one of the largest U.S. radio networks, asking him how he can seriously claim there isn't an ongoing organized Chicks boycott when the president has just admitted publicly "all our radio stations fell into line" (with the boycott idea).
Frightening, enlightening, depressing and inspiring, the movie is also a glorious example of how genuine friendships can get you through a lot, and how standing up for what you believe in is arguably the most important aspect of a democracy. (And since when does threatening the life of a pregnant woman ever have anything to do with "patriotism" or "democracy"?)
Those of us who, in one way or another over the past four years, have arrogantly and rudely told palpably indignant, courageous war protesters like Natalie Maines and others to "shut up" have a lot to answer for; you only have to visit the www.pva.org Web site to see just how much.
The Dixie Chicks, in fact, remind me a lot now of that beautiful song "Kid Fears" (on the "Indigo Girls" CD).
I think we're all a lot better off having these amazing ladies living among us, and expressing themselves freely.