Of the Dixie Chicks, Colin Kaepernick and American Freedom and Liberty

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“I saw on stage three proud American women who love America even if they don’t always agree with what everyone in America has to say, or the decisions it’s leaders make in our names.”

In 2003 the lead vocalist of the Dixie Chicks, Natalie Maines, expressed her opinion of President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq by declaring, “We don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas”.

The crowd in Great Britain roared its approval.

In America, the reaction was decidedly different.

Conservative talk radio, country music stations and anybody else who had an opinion opposed to what Maines had said took to their respective platforms to denounce her and her bandmates.

Their CDs were burned, destroyed and public displays of anger and outrage were everywhere.

While I didn’t personally participate in any of these activities I, too, like many Americans was offended by their decision to denounce our President and his decision in a foreign country.

Today, millions of Americans are debating – denouncing and defending – the decision by San Francisco 49’ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to refuse to stand during the playing of the United States national anthem.

His reasoning was stated by him this way: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Like millions of Americans my immediate reaction was outrage.  How dare this selfish, overpaid professional athlete sully the sacrifice of millions of Americans who paid the price for our, and his, freedom in their blood and lives! If he’s so concerned about the state of the world why did it take him until he was likely to be cut or relegated to a backup quarterback position to take this “courageous” stand?

I’ve tried to read what I believe to be the more reasonable commentaries by those who have an opinion on Kaepernick’s decision.  Attempting to tune out the racists and bigots of every color and backround is difficult in this day and age of opinion by social media.

So, I finally had to tune into my own perspective on Kaepernick’s decision to come to my own conclusion.

But, I had some help in the form of a Dixie Chicks concert at the Minnesota State Fair this past Sunday.

This is the second time I have been to a Dixie Chick’s concert.  The first time was when my son was an infant nearly 15 years ago – long before the ill-fated evening when the band created a firestorm that ultimately toppled them from the top of the music charts.

I don’t remember much about that concert but I remember nearly everything about this most recent concert.

I would be lying if I said I am the biggest Dixie Chicks fan in America.  I am, however, the biggest fan of my wife who does love the Dixie Chicks.  It wouldn’t be fair to say I was dragged to the concert but it would be accurate to say that I enjoyed the concert largely because my wife enjoyed the concert.

But, I found myself watching and listening to these three women on stage who by all accounts are accomplished and successful musicians, parents, Moms, wives, daughters, business people and Americans.

They represent so much of everything about America that I love.  So much of what America is and has been is why they are on that stage at all.

Their freedom to sing.  To tour.  To be women who make their own choices and decisions about their lives and their future.  To take the talents they have and make a living from it.  To speak their minds.  To have an opinion.  To enjoy their liberty.

I saw on stage three proud American women who love America even if they don’t always agree with what everyone in America has to say, or the decisions it’s leaders make in our names.

I looked around me at a concert filled primarily with women of all ages and backgrounds.  Every single one of them there in ways that they would never be permitted or allowed in so many other countries on the Earth.

Some with cups full of beer, but all with faces filled with joy.

I am 53 years old – and when Natalie Maines called out our President 13 years ago my Daughter was not even a year old.

I wonder now, as I wondered that night at the State Fair, if my reaction to Maine’s comments would have been different had my Daughter been 13 years old in 2003 when a brave young woman with her entire life before her had the courage to speak her mind.

Maybe it’s the perspective that comes with age or being a parent, that changes us and how we view the world and what we find to be important – or what we find that offends us – or inspires us.

Whatever it is, something has changed about my opinion of what the Dixie Chicks did in 2003.  Not because of a single concert at the Minnesota State Fair.  But, that certainly helped me frame what they did in 2003 – and what Kaepernick has done in 2016 – in a different light.

I don’t approve of what Natalie Maines or Colin Kaepernick have said or done.  Not then.  Not now.

But, I do respect their right do say or do what they did and have done.

I have no doubt that around a beer Natalie Maines and Colin Kaepernick and I could go round and round about where we stand on how we view the world we live in and the world around us.

I would hope that if we were having that conversation and discussion it would be intense, passionate, powerful and most of all, respectful.

I have encouraged my children to speak their mind.  To have opinions.  To listen to others.

Not to be afraid to have their own perspectives from their peers – and their parents – but to express those perspectives with respect for those who may not share their beliefs and ideas.

I know it’s easier said than done.  It’s much harder to do in a world in which we can express an opinion with 142 characters or the click of a button that lets us give a “Thumbs Up” or “Thumbs Down” on anything and everything that someone has said or done.

I don’t agree with Colin Kaepernick or his reasoning behind his decision to not stand during the nation’s national anthem.  I didn’t agree with the Dixie Chicks or the reasoning behind their decision to denounce our President in a foreign land.

But I hope I am finding my way to better defending their right to have those opinions and make those decisions as Americans.

With the Dixie Chicks it took me 13 years to make myself right with their rights.

With Colin Kaepernick it has taken me 3 days.

Maybe it is possible to teach this Old Dog new tricks.

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