Dumb Clucks
How to sound stupid about patriotism.


Myrna Blyth

Oops, she’s done it again. Natalie Maines, the pudgy, pug-faced, pugnacious Dixie Chick, just can’t seem to keep her Jimmy Choos out of her mouth — at least, not when she’s talking to someone with a British accent. Last week, the Daily Telegraph’s Adam Sweeting got together with Maines, joined by Emily Robison and Martie Maguire, the other members of the trio, to discuss their recent falling out with the world of country music. They talked over a lunch of asparagus tempura and tuna sashimi or salmon teriyaki with organic greens. As Sweeting remarked, “The Chicks have traditionally been branded a country band, but clearly it’s some time since their diet consisted of ribs, tacos and pancakes.” Shoot, I remember when the trio’s primary goal was not discussing the pros and cons of America’s foreign policy with Diane Sawyer but scoring a cover on Redbook.

At lunch Maguire whined about how poor Natalie — superstar as victim — was mistreated after she apologized to a British audience at a concert for being from the same state as President Bush. It was in the days leading up to the start of the war in Iraq. The aftermath of Maines’s remark “was like the McCarthy days, and it was almost like the country was unrecognizable,” Maguire declared, without a touch of irony.

Then Robison jumped in to diss any singer who was supportive of our country at the time. According to her, all they were doing was “cashing in on being against what we said or what we stood for because that was promoting their career.” In other words, only self-absorbed, liberal, America-hating celebrities can be sincere. Robison continued, “You’d see soldiers and American flags in every video. It became a sickening display of ultra patriotism.”

That really got the mouthy Maines going. Through “gritted teeth” she declared, “The entire country may disagree with me but I don’t understand the necessity for patriotism. Why do you have to be a patriot? About what? This land is our land? Why? You can like where you live and like your life, but as for loving the whole country…I don’t see why people care about patriotism.”

How can we take seriously a singer who doesn’t seem to be so smart about music history, let alone American history? Maines apparently isn’t aware that the lyric “this land is my land, this land is your land” was written by Woody Guthrie, also a critic of our country, but one who not only talked the talk but truly walked the long painful walk across Depression-era America.

What is really upsetting — and what these three may share with too many others today — is their tone deafness when it comes to realizing the enormous opportunities that being an America has given them. Rather, they sulk and complain, and feel oh-so-badly-done-by. Maines seems to think that living in a place she likes and having a life she likes is her right, and is completely unrelated to our country’s past, our system of government, and the sacrifices others have made (and continue to make today) for her well-being.

For the past year, I have been working on a book about the patriotism gap felt by too many these days, and most often expressed by loud-mouthed celebrities, high in the pecking order. Their opinions are fodder for the 24/7 news cycle that in itself constantly emphasizes the negative about our leaders, our troops, and our institutions. Maines take on patriotism is she deserves all the benefits of being American, but can’t understand why she needs to show any loyalty to her country at all.

Of course, one could dismiss her as an ill-informed dumb cluck who unfortunately made the wrong left turn. The reviews of the controversy-seeking Chicks’ recent performances in London have been far from enthusiastic. Last week they gave a concert at the same venue, Sherpherd’s Bush, where Natalie had made her anti-Bush remark. (The T-shirts on sale were printed with the slogan “The only Bush we trust is Shepherd’s Bush.”) Victims again, they complained to their British fans about their new album not being played on American country music stations. But several of the reviewers commented that the once cheerful Chicks looked tired and glum, and one noted they “wear their broken hearts like…bleeding, open sores.” Very entertaining. I guess they may be beginning to learn that when you take the girls out of the country and the country out of the girls, you are left with not very much.

Myrna Blyth, former long-time editor of Ladies’ Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness—and Liberalism—to the Women of America and the upcoming How To Raise an American (out next spring from Crown Forum). Blyth is also an NRO contributor.