Opinion: Don’t Compare Meghan Linsey to Natalie Maines and the Dixie Chicks
One could argue both are disrespecting or standing up for America, but the right or wrong of each woman's actions is best left for another forum. Twitter and Facebook seem to be handling the conversation quite nicely — who are we to compete with social galaxies? How they went about their protests (for lack of a better word) are very different, and so is the response to criticism.
Cliffs Notes recap: In 2003 Maines told a London crowd that she and her trio were ashamed then President George W. Bush is from Texas like them. Word spread stateside and radio stations pulled their music virtually overnight. The Chicks would never recover to claim the same commercial success, although they recorded a critically-acclaimed and award winning album and toured arenas several times. They aight.
Linsey was not at the height of her career when she joined dozens of NFL players protesting comments President Donald Trump made, and by extension, racial inequality and police brutality, by taking a knee at the end of her National Anthem performance on Sept. 24, 2017 in Nashville. Steel Magnolia was essentially a one-hit wonder ("Keep on Loving You" went Top 5 in 2010) but Linsey found new success on The Voice, finishing Season 8 as the runner-up. She's making a career of music, but not making millions.
Who Stands With Meghan Linsey's Take on Kneeling for the Anthem?
At their core, the two women — Linsey and Maines — made very different statements. The Dixie Chicks frontwoman's words were, on their surface and in intent, divisive. She ripped wide open a cut that was at that time in country conversations only surface deep. There were opposing viewpoints on how then-president Bush was handling the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and there were certainly millions who championed what she said. But nothing about those words — that she was "ashamed" he was from their home state — was meant to heal or unify.
Linsey, on the other, hand joined an in-progress movement that one could argue (but please not here) hopes to heal divisions between white and black America. There's a racial divide that one side is hoping the other side can better understand and then maybe together a generations-old wound can begin to be sewn up.
"I have a lot of African-American friends, and they can’t stand alone," Linsey told Yahoo afterward.
"I love America. I’m not unpatriotic. I appreciate our men and women in uniform. That’s not the issue," she explained later. "I think the issue is the things that are happening around us with racism, and Trump will come out and openly condemn NFL players for peacefully protesting, but then these white national terrorists bring their tiki torches and cause this violence, and then he has nothing to say. It was important to me to stand with [African-Americans]."
Maines wore a "F-U-T-K" t-shirt when and stoked a feud with Toby Keith in her aftermath. But in short, Linsey is not picking a fight. She's joining one. Unlike Maines, the Steel Magnolia star felt she was put in a situation where she had to do something and that doing nothing was also doing something. The 31-year-old was booked to sing the anthem some time before President Trump suggested NFL owners fire anyone disrespecting the flag. She also had the opportunity to see the early NFL games (the Tennessee Titans played at 3:30PM CT) where dozens of players, coaches and owners responded by kneeling, locking arms or sitting out the National Anthem. Canceling was making a statement. Doing nothing, she believes, would be making a statement. Kneeling certainly was a statement. In her mind she needed to be deliberate with how she handled it, so she made her decision.
Maines wasn't put in the same situation. It was just another show for the Dixie Chicks, one in a foreign country (this particularly irked some, as there was few camera phones and no social media, and thus it was perceived she was bashing America behind her back). She did not ever admit to being "terrified" about what she was about to do like Linsey did.
You Better Believe These Country Singers Will Be Standing
In country music we have very, very few examples of well-known singers standing up for causes that are perceived to be unpopular among core country fans. It's a struggle to find a singer outwardly supporting what Linsey did, but it's not much easier to find some unified against her actions. It's tempting to compare the two moments in our history as a genre, but their motivations, the responses and certainly the issues are much more nuanced. Resist an urge to make that leap. Love or hate what each did separately.
A final comparison will come in the days and weeks to come. If Linsey takes on critics with a T-shirt that reads "F-U (artist's initials)," then maybe there is something to the comparison. But that doesn't seem to be her intent. A few quiet retweets and one thoughtful interview were all that existed until she released a more pointed statement on Monday afternoon: