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Spouting celebrities no reason for pouting

Published August 17, 2003

I own three country CDs. One by Charlie Daniels, whose music I like although I don't agree with most of his political views; two are by my friend Jon Semmes, whose music I like and whose political views I actually don't know.

Very soon now I will add a fourth to my collection, the most recent release by the Dixie Chicks, Home. I am not that big a fan of the Dixie Chicks, and only really familiar with one of their songs, Goodbye, Earl, the video of which I thought was hilarious.

But what I am definitely not a fan of is book-burning in any form, or pseudo-patriotic moronic talk-radio hosts and fans blathering about how horrible it is that a member of the band dared to voice her dislike of George W. Bush before a London audience.

Public CD-burnings - some of them promoted by radio shows that favor, surprise, volume over substance - obscene T-shirts, pickets at concerts, the Dixie Chicks got it all, and, as pointed out by my former colleague Anne Hull in a Washington Post story, it's too early to tell whether the band's career will be affected by their having dared to express a viewpoint.

Daniels' ranting (in an open letter to celebrities with viewpoints different than his) about how people like Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins have no right to speak out on political and social issues is insanely self contradictory. In the same spiel he wants to tell us about, or insult us for not agreeing with, his views on abortion, military spending and trade sanctions, and to think that Saddam Hussein was uplifted by a visit from Sean Penn.

Charlie's views seem to have changed since the days of Uneasy Rider, which seemed to accept that everyone doesn't have to look and think the same way, and In America, where he used the line, " 'cause we'll all stick together/and you can take that to the bank/that's the cowboys and the hippies/and the rebels and the yanks."

I guess the hippies aren't invited any more. I don't feel compelled to make a show out of burning my one Charlie Daniels CD, and I would never let his politics or mine get in the way of reminding people about his contributions of time and money to the Angelus, a Pasco group home for developmentally handicapped adults and children.

Neither would I boycott reruns of Ben Hur because I don't agree with Charlton Heston about guns or of Magnum P.I. because I don't agree with Tom Selleck about hardly anything.

I assume that they have as much right to speak about political issues as anyone, and the fact that they can reach more people doesn't necessarily mean they are more effective. A lot of records got burned, but I don't think many people left Christianity to worship John Lennon when he said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus in 1966 and one country singer's remarks about George Bush didn't seem to kick off any impeachment proceedings.

Deadhead though I am, I never went to Jerry Garcia for advice on healthful living, and never listened to any music recorded by my doctor. I am unlikely to take to the barricades because of anything Barbra Streisand says and am only interested in Arnold Schwarzenegger's candidacy for California governor out of morbid curiousity - now that I no longer have need of humor material.

All of that said, I also realize that voting with your wallet is as American as capitalism itself, and is a very effective way of expressing approval or disdain.

When Muslim fanatics were calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie because they felt Satanic Verses was blasphemous, I went out and bought a copy immediately.

I don't know how anyone figured out what the heck it was about, but kept the copy as part of a litmus test for dates. I figured any woman who understood Satanic Verses, Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow or James Joyce's Ulysses was too smart for me - or nuts.

So let those whose views are skewed by anyone in entertainment or real or alleged news media (including me) use their buying power to make whatever statement they wish, and I, alone or with company, will do the same. I already know the Dixie Chicks are attractive and well-educated. Maybe now I will become a fan. It worked in my favor with Sarandon, Robbins, Penn, Baez, the Chad Mitchell Trio, the Beatles, Arlo Guthrie, and, just to fatten the mailbags, Jane Fonda.

Why stop now?

[Last modified August 17, 2003, 01:32:33]

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