Something has been bothering me for awhile and I would like to get it off my chest.
This business with the Dixie Chicks: one of them made a disparaging remark about our Commander-in-Chief. Embarrassed that he hailed from her home state of Texas. And overnight these young toasts of country music are the subject of record burnings and bans on the playing of their songs.
What? Somebody pinch me.
My colleague at the high school, good friend who (usually good-humoredly) bemoans my liberalism, as I rail at his conservatism, tells this to his social-studies students during the next day’s current events:
“Today’s lesson? If you’re going to say something” – I am paraphrasing what he later told me –, “be prepared to pay the consequences.”
Another colleague, former Navy SEAL, who teases me for wearing sandals and beard as I teasingly (yet respectfully, I hope) salute his patriotism:
“They should limit themselves to speaking about what they know.”
What? Somebody pinch me.
Sure: if we follow Thoreau’s example, refusing to pay our war tax, we should expect the tax man (and the State behind him) to pay a call. But for a young person to speak without thinking? Do our students who similarly let slip such disparagements of us – their teachers, principals, guardians, old fuddy-duddies every one – need to be that worried about the “consequences” of youthful outspokenness?
And if not about what they do not know, of what should they speak? At least about what they care for. Then, engaging their folly with our words, perhaps slowly we might lead them to discover more about the things we say they do not know enough to speak of.
“Hey, Dad,” my child says to me the other day. “What do you want for Father’s Day?”
“I’ll tell you what I want: the new Dixie Chicks CD! If no one else wants to hear it now, I do.”
It had not been long since I saw them performing on TV. I was moved by their song, quite a hit at the time, called “Travelin’ Soldier”. Bittersweet tale of a young man going off to die in Vietnam, on his way out of town giving his heart to the girl who sells him a coffee; the “pretty little girl with a bow in her hair” who alone, at a football game, cries when the name of her dead soldier is read out.
Something has been bothering me about this. Is it not possible in this country, as we are all aroused to the defense of our freedoms, to at once question our Commander-in-Chief and support our troops?
I, middle-aged teacher and writer, have my own concerns about his wisdom, the advisability of his having sent our young soldiers into this particular war in Iraq.
A part of me trembles for our troops as they are abroad in this uncertain and unprecedented “war on terrorism”.
I pray that neither of my high-school graduate daughter’s best friends and my darling students, traveling women soldiers not yet twenty, will die in some foreign campaign that may or may not be in their or anyone else’s best interest.
Granted, that Dixie Chick might have known in advance, as a representative of American country music (a community sometimes noted for certain conservatisms), that her words might spark an outcry a bit harder to shake off than that of the Beatles a few years ago when John Lennon inadvisedly compared their popularity to that of Jesus Christ.
Still, I should have thought that the troops-friendly lyrics of that one song might alone have given all three Dixie Chicks a few points with their fickle public.