On March 10, 2003, Dixie Chicks member Natalie Maines made a comment, quickly heard around the world, that brought the trio's skyrocketing career to a screeching halt: While performing at Shepherd's Bush Empire in London, England -- the kickoff show of their international Top of the World Tour -- Maines told the crowd, "[W]e're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas."

On March 10, 2003, Maren Morris was just shy of 13 years old. Kacey Musgraves was 14. TJ Osborne was 18, and his brother John was 20. Kip Moore was 22. And while Maines' remark effectively torpedoed the Dixie Chicks' career -- many country radio stations immediately stopped playing their music, and several of their fellow artists spoke out against the threesome -- and has contributed to a culture of silence within the country genre, what happened to the superstar trio hasn't silenced country music's rising generation.

While Natalie Maines' remark effectively torpedoed the Dixie Chicks' career and has contributed to a culture of silence within the country genre, what happened to the superstar trio hasn't silenced country music's rising generation.

When Maines made her comments in 2003, the world was buzzing about America's impending invasion of Iraq, following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks (the U.S. had already begun its war in Afghanistan, in October of '01). In the 15 years since, the discourse surrounding various social, economic and political issues -- gay marriage, gun control, etc. -- has only gotten more heated; it's 2018, and the divide between political parties feels as though it's at a high, as does the vitriol. If you think the hate the Dixie Chicks endured was bad, imagine what it would have been like if the internet and social media were the forces they are today!

The fact that we're living in such a hate-filled climate makes it easy to understand why so many artists choose to remain silent when it comes to hot-button topics (though it's still frustrating that they do); however, it's encouraging to see acts such as Morris, Musgraves, Brothers Osborne and Moore, among others, voicing their opinions on polarizing topics. In the past six months alone, Musgraves has been vocal about the debate surrounding the removal of Confederate statues and monuments; Moore preached love and acceptance, and urged his fans to speak out against racism, following August's white supremacist, white nationalist, Ku Klux Klan member and neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va.; and Morris has encouraged a conversation around gun laws.

The men and women in this younger generation of country artists are proponents of being yourself, speaking up for yourself and loving yourself.

Beyond making their positions on big issues known, though, the men and women in this rising generation of country artists are proponents of being yourself, speaking up for yourself and loving yourself. The Osbornes champion music with a message. Morris and Musgraves (the woman behind "Follow Your Arrow," remember) will tell off a rude Twitter follower or concertgoer. Cam (among others) isn't standing for sexism in the country radio industry, and the all-women artist collective Song Suffragettes came together for a song in support of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.

It's easy to dismiss younger generations' tastes and interests as silly, or to think they're self-absorbed; the generation gap isn't a new phenomenon. But the up-and-coming crop of country artists has something to say, and they aren't going to stay quiet just because of something that happened 15 years ago.

The Boot and Taste of Country’s collaborative Point / Counterpoint series features staff members from the two sites debating topics of interest within country music once per month. Check back on March 20 for another installment.

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