The Dixie Chicks deserve applause from America’s new moral majority–those who said the war against Iraq failed to pass the time-honored code of just war theory and those 56 percent who now say the war was the wrong thing to do.
Their chart-topping album, Taking the Long Way, which sold over 500,000 copies last week, has a song that revisits the pounding that they took for criticizing President Bush’s march to war.
The Dixie Chicks expressed their war opposition to a London audience in March 2003, before the invasion. Lead singer Natalie Maines, said, “Just so you know, we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.”
Leading country music stars slammed these Texans. Hate was spewed. Death threats were made. Their CDs were burned. Radio stations boycotted their music. Sales plummeted.
Three years later, we know the Dixie Chicks were right. We know the president was wrong–wrong to mislead the world into war, wrong for the growing number of dead American soldiers and Iraqi civilians, wrong for squandering the national treasury, wrong for the ill-will created across the globe for secret torture camps and non-combatant massacres.
Those who attacked the Dixie Chicks, and those who carp about one song in particular, are still wrong.
Their song “Not Ready to Make Nice” hits a moral note missing in fundamentalist churches and much of popular Christianity.
They post a fence between forgiving and forgetting: “Forgive, sounds good. Forget, I’m not sure I could. They say time heals everything. But I’m still waiting.”
Despite the popular saying “forgive and forget,” forgiving and forgetting are not the same moral act.
Forgiveness is a moral duty. Yet the biblical witness wisely tells us that human forgiveness takes time, maybe more than a lifetime. Memory is a powerful moral tool for discerning truth and determining direction.
Confessing that they’ve “paid a price” and “keep paying” for their courage to oppose the war, they turn to the captivating refrain, “I’m not ready to make nice. I’m not ready to back down. I’m still mad as hell.”
They haven’t forgotten, forgiven and forsaken their anger. That’s good, for it makes them distant cousins to others who played discordant notes.
The Hebrew prophets didn’t forget the wrongdoing in the marketplace and the corruption in the palace. They didn’t offer a cheap forgiveness to those who went to worship but whipped up on the poor. They didn’t “make nice” with dainty demands for deeds of politeness. No, they thundered their anger for a just society.
Neither did Jesus “make nice.” No, Jesus felt the suffering of the people in his guts, condemned the politician Herod with the derisive label “fox” and cleansed the Temple of its exploiters.
America’s new moral majority shouldn’t “make nice” about what Bush has done. Instead, we need a righteous anger about this war, giving no quarter to the pro-war party, political flip-floppers and pundits of revisionism.
When the war began, a moral minority opposed the war. In a different way from the Dixie Chicks, mainline Protestants, mainstream Baptists, Catholic bishops and liberal evangelical leaders opposed the war.
They did so from a moral foundation but at significant risk, because rank-and-file church members, as most Americans, believed things that were simply not true. Too many church members saw Christ against Muhammad. They confused patriotism with militarism.
Maybe now they will better trust truth moral leaders and distrust the generalissimos of the religious right who justified the war with moral claims and still do.
The new moral majority ought to channel its righteous energy into turning over the tables of the war profiteers and turning out the war makers.
Let’s give some due to the president for his mumbling, politically motivated comments that he had learned from mistakes, however.
Let’s expect him to take larger step toward the admission of wrong needed to heal the breach, including a symbolic statement that he’s proud the Dixie Chicks are from Texas.
As we wait, the Dixie Chicks have given us a thumping refrain for the summer of political change: “We’re not ready to make nice. We’re not ready to back down.”
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.