In a time when country music on the radio is male-dominated, I need to say this: it's kind of our own fault.

We're to blame, and I really think we need to apologize to three women we (country music, country radio, and country fans) turned our back on.

Those three women are Natalie Maines, Emily Robison, and Martie Maguire. Collectively, of course, they are the Dixie Chicks.

Beginning in 1998 and continuing through early 2003, the Dixie Chicks quickly became one of the major groups in country music. If you were around then, you probably remember rolling down the highway in the summer-time with songs such as "Wide Open Spaces", "There's Your Trouble", "Ready to Run", and "Cowboy Take Me Away" blasting out of your radio speakers.

The Dixie Chicks had arrived and they were on fire.

Then, they killed themselves. Or, country music (the country music community, country radio, and country fans) killed them. We stepped right on their throat and didn't let up. We stopped letting them breathe. We stopped letting their wonderful voices and catchy melodies be heard.

What were we thinking?

It all happened because of two sentenced uttered on stage by lead singer Natalie at a concert in England. 17 years ago this week, in a theater with a capacity of just 2,000, Maines stood in front of the microphone and said ""Just so you know, we're on the good side with y'all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas."

Those words elicited a big cheer from the crowd (probably all Maines was hoping for), but also a big response from the United States (probably not what Maines was expecting).

Someone took her words (and video) and threw them out to the world - and, even before the explosion of social media - her words spread like wildfire. She (and the Dixie Chicks) were seen as criticizing the President on foreign soil, and a lot of people thought that was wrong, dead wrong.

Even though a few voices (including this writer, and more famous people like country legend Merle Haggard) tried to stress the idea of free speech, much of the country - and the country music community - wanted no part of that excuse.

A boycott of Dixie Chicks music erupted, and before you knew it, Dixie Chicks songs were gone from the radio, and their name and reputation tattered.

Honestly, Maines didn't help herself with comments afterward, sticking up for what she said, rather than issuing the all-to-common apology and begging for forgiveness. (It worked for every other famous person caught sinning, why didn't she just do it too?)

Soon after it happened, I tried to explain her comments with this idea: "Put a microphone in front of someone's mouth long enough and they WILL say something stupid eventually. That didn't work, so the radio station I programmed (and still do) pulled Dixie Chicks music, too.

Looking back, did she/they make a mistake? Sure, probably. Should she have issued a crying apology and begged for forgiveness, with the American flag behind her/them? Yeah, probably.

Maines, and the band, though, dug in and took it. Oh, how they took it.

Despite some new music and new tours, the Dixie Chicks still remain a part of country music's past, and not a part of the present or future.

Did we - all of us - make a mistake with the boycott? I think so. Sure, we were in a very patriotic period of our country (post-9/11), but we seemed to want to crucify those three girls more than we wanted to forgive them - even though they didn't ask for forgiveness.

Fast-forward to today, and disagreeing with the President has become a normal way of life for many. Hell, crucifying and cursing out the President has become our country's new national sport!

Here in 2019, many lament that we don't have enough female voices in country music. We used to have a big one (well, three) but it was US who snuffed it out (with help from them). Again, it wasn't just country radio, it was country fans, it was the country community. Other than a few lone voices, no one stood up and said, "Let it go. Forgive them. Listen to their music, not what they say."

Everyone makes mistakes. Isn't it time we forgive?

To Natalie, Emily, and Martie, I say, "I forgive you - and, please forgive me - and country radio, and country music." I hope you will add your voice, too. It's time to move forward and hope that, someday, these three girls will return with the music they, and we, love.