I’m just disgusted.

Dixie Chick Natalie Maines made some comments in London recently, and since then she’s been backpedalling like mad.

First, the comments. Apparently, during a concert, she said “Just so you know, we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.” Then came the follow-up comment, which I find admirable, gutsy, and proper:

“We’ve been overseas for several weeks and have been reading and following the news accounts of our governments’ position. The anti-American sentiment that has unfolded here is astounding. While we support our troops, there is nothing more frightening than the notion of going to war with Iraq and the prospect of all the innocent lives that will be lost.” Maines added: “I feel the president is ignoring the opinions of many in the U.S. and alienating the rest of the world. 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.”

Bravo. That, however, clearly wasn’t enough. Reactionary knee-jerk jingoists bent on stifling dissent started calling radio stations, and the Chicks found themselves being dropped from playlists. This prompted a second statement, this time an almost complete retraction:

“As a concerned American citizen, I apologize to President Bush because my remark was disrespectful. I feel that whoever holds that office should be treated with the utmost respect. We are currently in Europe and witnessing a huge anti-American sentiment as a result of the perceived rush to war. While war may remain a viable option, as a mother, I just want to see every possible alternative exhausted before children and American soldiers’ lives are lost. I love my country. I am a proud American.”

This hysterial reaction is simply insane and, frankly, is about as anti-American as you can get. Maines and her colleagues nail it in their first statement. It is their right — and their responsibility — to make their views known. Quietly going along with the mainstream leads us nowhere good.

Why shouldn’t she be ashamed of a president bent on war who behaves like a spoiled child when the rest of the world won’t go along with his ill-conceived, poorly articulated “risky scheme?” I am certainly embarrassed by his actions and the way in which he has squandered untold national and international goodwill in his bloodthirsty pursuit of a tin-pot dictator. Is Hussein a bad guy? Sure. Was it possible to do this in a way that doesn’t erase whatever legitimacy we had in the wake of 9/11? You bet your ass.

Clearly, Maines’ label has pressured her to retract her comments, since she’s issued not one but two statements since the incident. The first I can respect, but the second is so much kow-towing to a reactionary label and public, and appears to directly contradict her earlier position that, as Americans, we can say what we think. For a moment, I was proud that such commercially driven creatures as the Dixie Chicks could and would express unpopular dissent. Now I’m ashamed not just of my President, but also that a vocal segment of my nation — a nation, it has been said, “conceived in Liberty” — that would quash comments like Maines’.

Where are we going, and why are we in this handbasket?

Coverage: CBS Houston Chronicle CNN Google Roundup CMT

Follow-up: This quote from a radio exec says volumes — unfortunately, his sentiments are rare indeed:

One major market programmer removed the Chicks from his station’s playlist but changed his mind after considering why Americans have fought previous wars. In a letter to listeners posted on the KFKF/Kansas City Web site, program director Dale Carter wrote, “Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are over there fighting for our rights — and one of those is our Constitutional right to express an unpopular opinion. The longer this has gone on, the more I had visions of censorship and McCarthyism. Two wrongs don’t make a right. I agree with the 80 percent of you who abhor what Natalie said in London. On the other hand, I believe in the Constitution.” cite

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