On the eve of the Iraq war in 2003, Natalie Maines, the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, criticized the actions of George Bush while her band was performing at a concert in London. After expressing that she was against the action of dropping bombs on a defenseless nation, Natalie and the other band members were vilified, ostracized, and received death threats. I was not familiar with the Dixie Chicks before Natalie’s controversial statement, but I love their music now. They are a talented group of women, but their strength and courage in the face of fear has made me a life-long fan.
When people who didn’t like Natalie’s comment boycotted the Dixie Chicks, the band members lost income. Some previous fans even bulldozed over their CDs. Country music radio stations refused to play their songs and the band suffered emotionally. However, they were not intimidated. On the contrary, they went on to make the album Taking the Long Way, which won the 2007 Grammy award for album of the year and country album of the year. The CD includes Not Ready to Make Nice, which won the 2007 Grammy for song of the year. The song is about the emotional turmoil and anger the band members experienced when they were made into monsters for doing nothing but expressing their opinion.
While the Dixie Chicks were going through this difficult time, it brought me back to my own experience with self-expression. When I dared to tell my family that a crime was committed against me as a child, that it was an injustice and that I suffered greatly because of it, I was ostracized, called names, demeaned, and told to “get over it.” I was cut off from two family members and it was extremely painful. There was no love from them, no human openness, no discussion, just a stab in heart with their threats and intimidation.
Not Ready to Make Nice is an inspiration to me. The lyrics so powerfully speak about not backing down to other people’s idea of what is “right” or “wrong” in speaking the truth. The song amplifies how expressing yourself in the face of losing friends and loved ones -and in spite of death threats- is not only courageous, but something that conscious human beings need to do more often. The song also beautifully revealed that Natalie overcame her self-doubt. After continually questioning herself, she finally decided that she would not cater to those who wanted her to apologize for being true to herself. Natalie showed through her music that we all need to be true to ourselves. Natalie and the other band members took their pain and turned it into something dynamic.
Even knowing what I went through when I spoke up about my father sexually abusing me, I would speak my truth again in a minute. If I had backed down to my family’s threats and cruelty, I would have become a lie to myself and would have remained sick and dysfunctional for the rest of my life.