Freedom of Speech — Toby Keith and the Dixie Chicks

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Neil Young has recently been snubbed by his fans for being too preachy. The right is using this as an argument that recording artists should just shut up and sing. That would apply to you too, Susan Sarandon. Speak your lines in the movies and shut the hell up.

A couple of years back, Natalie Maines uttered those not so magical words to the effect that she was not proud that G Dubya was from Texas. That remark set off a firestorm of controversy. The right screamed for her head. Boycotts were all the rave. The Dixie Chics went down in flames. Toby Keith came out in support of the war and toured in Iraq, Afghanistan and all over the world in support of the troops. His song, Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue, was THE (country) Rock Anthem of the Global War on Terror.

Toby Keith was hailed as a hero of the masses by the right. The Dixie Chics were told to shut the hell up. Loudly. Decisively. By the right. The left took them to their bosom but failed to back that up with their pocket books. No matter. I still don’t think the Chics are hurting.

When an artist speaks out, one side or the other is going to scream; “Shut up!”

I disagree.

Song (art) has always been a form of both protest and support (some would say propaganda). It is only really noticed negatively when the artist gets TOO preachy or when a given artist preaches against the ethos of their primary or target audience (i.e., the Dixie Chics). Yankee Doodle was a protest song. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a protest book that Lincoln claimed sparked the War of 1861 to 1865. Common Sense was a protest pamphlet. Many of our most cherished folk songs were protest songs of the age in which they were written. World War II was probably the height of artistic support for a War or political endeavor. Vietnam was the American apogee of war protest songs and movies. The whole M.A.S.H. Movie and TV Series was a protest of the Vietnam War specifically and war in general. Songs of protest are the essence of America.

Musical artists have a right (and I think an obligation) to use their medium to speak their truth. Music and all Art really has been a form of social conscience since the beginning of “civilization.” I agree with Green Day’s “American Idiot.” It highlights growing problems in America. There are all too many of these “idiots” in America. All too many in Europe as well.

How many on the right disagreed with Toby Keith and his right to speak out. Yet, those same people yelled and screamed and sent death threats to the Dixie Chics. They had just as much right to speak their minds as did Toby.

Art has always shown us the way or a different way. Sometimes, they get it right. Sometimes they don’t. That largely depends upon one’s perspective. But they should never just shut up. None of them. I think Bill Maher is about as funny as a talib shooting a woman in the back of the head with an AK47 for not wearing a burqa in public. The left thinks he’s hilarious.

Kanye West told us that President Bush “doesn’t care about Black People” on national TV. He made himself look a bit of an ass in so doing. Much of the far right hated him for it. A great part of the left agreed with him. A greater part of America yawned. Black America was right behind him. He and they were probably correct. Before that statement, I had little opinion of Kanye West. Now, for some reason, I’m a huge fan. Go figure.

I’m a huge Toby Keith fan. I’m also still a fan of the Dixie Chics. They had the courage to stick to their convictions even though they knew that it would kill their bottom line. They have not yet recovered professionally. How many of our politicians would do that? How many evangelicals would do that? The Chicks proved that they possess integrity. That is something that I admire greatly. No matter their political leanings.

Fuck ’em all. Rock on!

I absolutely love and understand both of these songs.

Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)

by Toby Keith

American girls and American guys
we’ll always stand up and salute,
we’ll always recognize;
when we see Old Glory flying
there’s a lot of men dead,
so we can sleep in peace at night
when we lay down our head.

My Daddy served in the army
where he lost his right eye,
but he flew a flag out in our yard
’til the day that he died.
He wanted my mother, my brother,
my sister and me
to grow up and live happy
in the land of the free.

Now this nation that I love
is falling under attack,
a mighty sucker punch came flying in
from somewhere in the back.
As soon as we could see clearly
through our big black eye,
man we lit up your world
like the Fourth of July.

Hey, Uncle Sam put your name
at the top of his list,
and the Statue of Liberty
started shaking her fist.
And the eagle will fly
and it’s going to be hell,
when you hear Mother Freedom
start ringing her bell.
And it’ll feel like the whole wide world
is raining down on you.
Brought to you courtesy
of the Red, White and Blue

Oh, justice will be served
and the battle will rage,
this big dog will fight
when you rattle his cage.
You’ll be sorry that you messed
With the U.S. of A.
’cause we’ll put a boot in your ass,
it’s the American way.

Hey, Uncle Sam put your name
at the top of his list,
and the Statue of Liberty
started shaking her fist.
And the eagle will fly
and it’s going to be hell,
when you hear Mother Freedom
start ringing her bell.
And it’ll feel like the whole wide world
is raining down on you.
Brought to you courtesy
of the Red, White and Blue.

Of the Red, White and Blue
Of my Red, White and Blue


“Travelin’ Soldier”

Two days past eighteen
He was waiting for the bus in his army green
Sat down in a booth in a cafe there
Gave his order to a girl with a bow in her hair
He’s a little shy so she gives him a smile
And he said would you mind sittin’ down for a while
And talking to me,
I’m feeling a little low
She said I’m off in an hour and I know where we can go

So they went down and they sat on the pier
He said I bet you got a boyfriend but I don’t care
I got no one to send a letter to
Would you mind if I sent one back here to you

Chorus: I cried
Never gonna hold the hand of another guy
Too young for him they told her
Waitin’ for the love of a travelin’ soldier
Our love will never end
Waitin’ for the soldier to come back again
Never more to be alone when the letter said
A soldier’s coming home

So the letters came from an army camp
In California then Vietnam
And he told her of his heart
It might be love and all of the things he was so scared of
He said when it’s getting kinda rough over here
I think of that day sittin’ down at the pier
And I close my eyes and see your pretty smile
Don’t worry but I won’t be able to write for awhile


One Friday night at a football game
The Lord’s Prayer said and the Anthem sang
A man said folks would you bow your heads
For a list of local Vietnam dead
Crying all alone under the stands
Was a piccolo player in the marching band
And one name read and nobody really cared
But a pretty little girl with a bow in her hair