Monday, June 9, 2008

Not Ready to Make Nice

Nessma, the music video channel on my Arabic satellite package, advertises itself as “La tele du Grand Maghreb”, the TV channel for North Africa. In line with the trilingual ability of many of its viewers, its songs are in English, French, and Arabic. Although I’ve studied both languages, my youthful dream of being fluent in anything other than English has gone out the window along with many of my other dreams. But I still enjoy the music (and I'm still working on Arabic - as wiser men than me have said, It's not whether you accomplish your dreams, it's whether you're still trying).

They have recently been playing Not Ready to Make Nice by the Dixie Chicks. It reminds me of the tragedy of that group. It’s strange…one writes of them in the past tense as if they passed away. If anyone doesn’t know their story, they are (were?) an extremely talented trio with two sisters who played guitar, violin, and a host of other instruments, and a lead singer with a captivating voice. They had some great songs. I still can’t hear Travelin' Soldier without tears coming to my eyes and a lump in my throat.

And then it happened. During a concert in London soon after the Iraq war broke out, they commented they were ashamed that President Bush was from their home state of Texas. All hell broke loose. Country music stations stopped playing their music, fans burned their records, talk show hosts tore them to shreds, and magazine and newspaper articles buried the remains. Even the president got involved, commenting that the fans had the right not to buy their records if that was their choice. The lives of the Dixie Chicks will never be the same.

Not to even talk about the tragedy that the war in Iraq was and is, or the fact that the vast majority of Americans now feel the same about it as the Dixie Chicks, what would have happened if the President had a different response? What if as soon as they returned to the States from their tour he would have invited them to the White House to perform, say, at a state dinner for visiting Saudi King Abdallah? He could have acknowledged in his introductory speech that the Dixie Chicks publicly disagreed with his policy but, hey, this is America. We accept dissension. And I’m proud the Dixie Chicks are from Texas. I’ll tell you one thing – it would have been an evening the King would never forget.

Did I say something in the first paragraph about dreams flying out the window? It’s hard to imagine that happening today in the America of presidential handlers and advisors such as Karl Rove and James Carville. It’s become all about image, attacking your opponents, and never giving an inch. Somehow the simple advice of Jesus to just treat people the way you want them to treat you has also gone out the window.

Last year I saw a Willie Nelson concert in Monterey, California. Before the concert, the promoter threw out a few jokes about a campaign to elect Willie Nelson for President. When Willie came on stage, he brushed it off with a few comments I can’t remember. I thought he missed the opportunity for a good zinger. He could have said, “Well, after these last few years, I think it’s going to be a lonnngg time before America elects another President from Texas !”

On second thought, it’s probably better he didn’t say that. Looking at what happened to the Dixie Chicks, it might have been the end of Willie’s career as well.

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