Artists And Politics: Should They Speak Out? An Opinion.

By kncitom on July 27, 2018

By Tom Mailey

Eric Church is taking some heat for recent comments he made about the NRA. Church was a headliner at the Route 91 Harvest Festival last October two days before a gunman opened fire, killing 58 and wounding over 800 more. While Eric wasn’t there that night (Jason Aldean was onstage at the time) he said the incident rocked him, and that he felt like he and the other artists were used as “bait” by accused gunman Stephen Paddock to lure their fans into his sights.

In a recent interview, Church laid some of the blame for the vast amount of carnage at the feet of the National Rifle Association. “I’m a second-amendment guy”, the hunter and gun owner told Rolling Stone. But, referring to the extensive arsenal that was found in Paddock’s hotel room, “…nobody should have that many guns and that much ammunition and we don’t know about it. Nobody should have 21 AKs and 10,000 rounds of ammunition and we don’t know who they are”. Church admits the Route 91 tragedy changed his way of thinking, adding that he thinks the NRA has been “a bit of a roadblock” to sensible limits on personal weapon and ammunition possession. Read more of Eric’s comments here 

Church’s comments have been both praised and roundly criticized but he’s far from the only country artist to voice an opinion about politically-sensitive issues. The Brothers Osborne, Maren Morris, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Kacey Musgraves and others have all used social media to voice their thoughts on everything from gay rights to immigration. And, like Church, they’ve all been roundly praised and roundly criticized.

And it’s not just artists who seem to lean left. Country legend Charlie Daniels is famously outspoken for his conservative beliefs, as are singers like Daryl Worley, Kid Rock and Hank Williams Jr. They have all spoken their minds, again to the praise and consternation of their fans and followers.

And I won’t even get into the Dixie Chicks and Toby Keith.

Bottom line, should artists voice their opinion? A St. Louis country station recently commented on the Brothers Osborne, saying they’d prefer if TJ and John kept their political thoughts to themselves. As an example, they cited George Strait, saying he built one of the greatest careers of all time without ever sharing his political thoughts one way or the other.

And that’s true. And it’s fine…..and that is what–I think–the answer is: each artist needs to do what is best and most comfortable for them. Don’t dig politics or believe sharing your thoughts publicly is a no-win proposition? Great. You’re probably right. Don’t share them. That’s what’s best for you.

But not everyone is built that way. And that’s fine too.

Artists are artists partly because they’re expressive. So why should it shock anyone when they want to …express themselves? Especially when it’s so easy now via social media.

What I don’t understand–and yep, here comes my opinion– is this need for fans nowadays to cease being a fan because an artist expresses an opinion different from theirs. I have zero problem with fans disagreeing–that’s as much a right as the expression of the opinion they disagree with. But what bothers me is this trend to eliminate from their lives (or their iPhone) any artist (or actor or author or, heck, friend) who doesn’t line up exactly the same politically.

I’m pretty centrist politically, and so do not align with Ted Nugent’s extremism at all…but I’ll still crank up Stranglehold if it comes on. Jane Fonda’s comments on the Viet Nam war were wrong, and she was wrong, but On Golden Pond and Nine to Five are still among my favorite movies. It shocks me how thin our skin has become. I guarantee just because Eric Church shared his honest feelings about a large, powerful (and yes, polarizing) political group, there will be outrage and he will lose fans, which makes  makes no sense to me. He’s still one of the best, most creative musicians working today…in any format. Why would any music lover cut themselves off from that because he was honest about how he felt?

When Aaron Tippin long ago sang “You’ve Got To Stand For Something/or You’ll Fall For Anything”…it didn’t mean “As long as I agree with what you’re standing for“. It means believe what you want, and stand up for it. And if that means you believe it’s best to keep your political opinions to yourself, fine (that’s probably actually the smartest way to go–I’m not gonna argue that at all). But if you believe strongly about something, and believe strongly about exercising your right to share that opinion, that should be alright too. And the rest of us shouldn’t be so easily rattled that we can’t handle it just because our thoughts about, say, marijuana legalization don’t quite line up with those of TJ and John Osborne.

Me personally, I like artists…and people…who speak out–I appreciate their honesty and courage, even if it’s something I don’t agree with. I have friends I disagree passionately with politically (and vice versa), but we’re still friends…we still fish, play basketball, laugh and drink together. But I have other friends (and family members even) who can’t believe I still hang with them, given today’s political climate. Why? They’re still good people…even if they are wrong (hey, they’d say the same about me!).

Seriously, I guess all I’m saying is, agree or disagree all you want–with with friends, with family, with Eric Church–but let’s not let a difference of opinion divide us permanently, when most of us all still have so much in common.

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