In the Sunday, July 30, Times-Gazette's column "Voice of the Public," the question was asked "Should the Dixie Chicks just shut up and sing?" The response of those questioned was overwhelmingly, "Yes!" One respondent said "I think they're terrible and ought to be ashamed of themselves."
A lot of people across the country share those sentiments.
Over the last three years those one-time "darlings of country music" have become quite controversial, starting with the remarks made by Dixie Chicks' lead singer Natalie Maines in 2003 at a London concert during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
"Just so you know," Maines quipped, "we're ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas."
That was a remark "heard 'round the world."
Now, I may not agree with the political views of the Dixie Chicks, or with many others in the entertainment business, but I will defend their right to speak out on their views.
"Just shut up and sing!?" I hope not. They are Americans, too, and one of the freedoms that we as Americans hold dear is our First Amendment right to the exercise of free speech.
I am a novice to the news business, being employed in my first job at a newspaper for just nine months now. But for more than 30 years I have been a preacher of the Gospel, and feel very strongly about my personal freedom of speech.
I know that there have been times people have disagreed with what I've said from the pulpit. But, I believe I had the right to share my beliefs; that's what preachers do.
I have heard my wife say so many times over the years, "You shouldn't have said that from the pulpit." She may have disagreed with what I said, but I did have the right to say it. (Even though my response to her may have been a humbled, but not quite contrite, "Yes, dear!")
On the cover of the August issue of the conservative newsmagazine NewsMax appears this headline for the cover story, "Hollywood's Most Obnoxious: 16 Stars Who Drive America Mad." The story talks about the outspoken Hollywood elitists such as Barbra Streisand, Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, Michael Moore, TIm Robbins and Susan Sarandon, and others, all of whom are far-left-leaning in their political views.
To most conservatives, the views these people espouse are as grating as fingernails scraped across a chalkboard. I don't agree with much of what they say, but I still believe they have the right to say it. But, I want them to let me say what I believe without shooting me down.
The problem so many people have who stand on their First Amendment rights is they demand their views be heard, but they act like no opposing view should be tolerated.
There are several sides to the Gay Rights issue, several sides to the abortion issue, and several sides to so many other issues, and one side believes they have the right to be heard, just like the other side does. Isn't that the American way?
I have never lived in another country, and haven't traveled to another country that wasn't attached to ours. But, I have a feeling that I couldn't enjoy many of the freedoms we as Americans have if I lived in many places in the world.
I like Johnny Depp as a pirate, but I don't like his remarks like, "America is dumb," or "I'm afraid American culture is a disaster." I may not like what he says, but I believe he has the right to say it.
I grew up on the plains of North Dakota, so I like the Dixie Chicks' song about "Wide Open Spaces." I have not one iota of a soft-spot in my heart for a spouse abuser, so I agree with the sentiment of "Good-bye Earl." But, being the preacher I am, I'm not fond of anyone taking a ride on a "Sin Wagon."
You may not agree with what I have to say in this column, but you know what? I have the right to say it.