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Jane Ahlin, Published October 15 2011

Ahlin: A reminder from our Mary: Rev. Wright and Dixie Chicks

There I was, halfway through putting an apple pie together and no cinnamon. All I could do was stick the pie – such as it was – into the refrigerator, grab my car keys, and drive as fast as the law allows to the store. I figured I could be in and out in minutes.

Once in the grocery store parking lot, I looked for a spot near the automatic doors, but no luck. I ended up two lanes over and eight cars down. That’s when I hit a snag. On my way to the door, I spotted Mary Contrary in a long blond wig and boots, standing alongside the building holding a sign that said, “Remember the Rev. Wright and The Dixie Chicks.”

“Whoa, Sunshine, where’s the fire?”

“I can’t talk, Mary. I’m in the middle of making an apple pie, but I’m out of cinnamon. Maybe another time.”

Mary shrugged, “Suit yourself, Sunshine. Free speech isn’t important, anyway.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“Like I say, Sunshine, you probably don’t remember old Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the troubles he caused Obama’s campaign. Why, I doubt you know who Natalie Maines is, either.” She pointed to herself. “I mean, if you knew, you’d have noticed that with blond hair, I’m a dead ringer for her.”

“Really, Mary? In a recent picture, her hair is extremely short and brown, and she wasn’t wearing boots,” I said, not hiding my irritation. “So what’s your point?”

“Temper, temper, Sunshine,” she said, but she quickly hurried on. “I’m talking about the flaps over Pastor Robert Jeffress and Hank Williams Jr.”

My head began to ache. “You aren’t making sense, Mary.”

“Of course I am,” she replied indignantly. “See, back in 2008, folks – not just conservatives – were appalled because Obama’s Chicago pastor, Jeremiah Wright, said controversial stuff in his sermons, stuff that sounded anti-white and plain old anti-American.”

“Certainly, I remember that fuss, but your point remains unclear.”

“Sorry, Sunshine. I always have to remind myself it takes a while for your synapses to fire.” Her smile was condescending. “Today there’s a flap about the Rev. Robert Jeffress, a Dallas pastor, and Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, who’s finding out it’s not so easy to run for president. When Jeffress introduced Perry at the ‘Values Voter Summit,’ he more than identified Perry as a good Christian. He dissed another presidential wannabe, Mitt Romney, because Romney is a Mormon.”

“I know what happened, Mary. The pastor later called Mormons a ‘cult.’ ”

“Exactly. And lots of folks – not only liberals – think that’s out of bounds. Romney is making hay on it because Perry won’t wash his hands of the guy. I mean, Perry says he doesn’t think Mormons are a cult, but he hasn’t broken with the pastor.”

“And?”

“Man, talking to you is like pulling teeth, Sunshine.” She took a deep breath. “See, we’ve got a constitutional right in this country called free speech. Perry is no more responsible for what Jeffress said than Obama was for what Wright said. Both Obama and Perry made clear they didn’t agree with their pastors.”

“I get your point, Mary. Guilt by association isn’t supposed to be an American principle.” I paused. “So let me guess, you’re including the Dixie Chicks and Hank Williams Jr., because Natalie Maines had the constitutional right to say she was ‘ashamed’ of President Bush in 2003 the same way Hank Williams Jr. had the right to liken Obama to Hitler.”

“You got it, Sunshine. But in their cases, there’s a little thing called the marketplace. They can shoot off their mouths, but if it affects their commercial appeal, they better be ready to take the consequences.”

“I’ve got to get that cinnamon,” I said, heading toward the doors. “Maybe you can be a Dixie Chick for Halloween.”

“Good idea, Sunshine. And you can go as the Pillsbury Doughboy.”


Ahlin writes a Sunday column for The Forum.