Straight Edge: This Bond We Share
I’m a person just like you
But I’ve got better things to do
Than sit around and fuck my head
Hang out with the living dead
Snort white shit up my nose
Pass out at the shows
I don’t even think about speed
That’s something I just don’t need
I’ve got the straight edge
I’m a person just like you
But I’ve got better things to do
Than sit around and smoke dope
‘Cause I know I can cope
Laugh at the thought of eating ludes
Laugh at the thought of sniffing glue
Always gonna keep in touch
Never want to use a crutch
I’ve got the straight edge
– “Straight Edge” by Minor Threat
When Ian MacKaye, the lead singer for the Washington, D.C. hardcore- punk band Minor Threat wrote these lyrics in 1981 he had no idea it would change the hardcore scene forever. The song was written after the band’s drummer compared their ideals to a straight edge ruler (They didn’t drink, smoke, or do drugs. They also abstained from promiscuous sex). The 42 second song “Straight Edge” was MacKaye’s reaction to the actions of punks he had seen at D.C shows. He didn’t care about starting a movement or a rebellion, but MacKaye wanted to share his ideals with his fans. This lifestyle appealed to punks looking for a different way to live. Soon, “The Movement” was born. After listening to Minor Threat, hardcore fans wanted to spread this substance free, sexually responsible lifestyle by forming their own bands (Haenfler 7). Some of the early “Straight Edge” bands include: Chain of Strength (California), Teen Idols (D.C.), Department of Youth Services (Boston), 7Seconds( Las Vegas), Judge ( New York City), Youth of Today ( D.C.) , and Uniform Choice ( California). They would draw black X’s on their hands, a symbol used by D.C. club owners to mark underage concert goers, even if they were over the drinking age as a sign of unity against drugs. (Haenfler)
I was in the St. Gabriel School’s gym at my youth group’s weekly open court basketball night. I was never a good basketball player and me being the youngest member of the group (I was the only 6th grader) I hung out in the coach’s room with 8th graders I had become friendly with, Brendan and James. Brendan was telling us about a party he went to the week before and what it felt like to be drunk for the first time. “Yeah it was really fun, I felt like I was on top of the world and I think I kissed a girl. I’m not sure though, I can’t remember. The next morning sucked though.” I was in complete shock that and 8th grader could go out and get drunk. I was in 6th grade and still thought people waited until they were 21 to drink. What happened next changed my life forever. After Brendan finished his story, he asked James if he had ever gotten drunk. “No man, I’m Straight Edge. I don’t drink.” Brendan looked confused an inquired about Straight Edge. James responded, “I draw black X’s on my hand and don’t drink or do drugs. It’s for life, dude”. This was the first time I had heard of Straight Edge and was intrigued. As my time in St. Gabriel’s School progressed, I eventually forgot about Straight Edge but still continued to live a “poison-free” life. Although I did try vodka in eighth grade, I do not count that experience as “drinking” because I only had a sip and once I realized the glass of coke had alcohol in it, I quickly put it down.
I started Xavier High School in the fall of 2005. I was thoroughly excited to start my high school career and I found myself in a group of friends who happened not to drink. I was in my “safe zone”. But as my high school years progressed, I became one of the few students who didn’t drink. I got angrier and angrier when I heard my friends talking about their experiments with alcohol. It was only recently that I realized that I wasn’t angry because they were “drinking”, I was really worried that they would hurt themselves or make “stupid decisions” while intoxicated. I needed something more and remembered my talk with Brendan and James. I began researching Straight Edge on the internet and officially claimed my “Edge” on New Year’s Eve 2008. It was my junior year in high school.
I also come from a family of addicts. My grandfather was an alcoholic and a smoker of two cigarette packs a day for most of his life. I saw how much the alcohol and smoking hurt him and my family. He developed emphysema and asthma but he still kept smoking and he would sneak drops of vodka in his coffee while he watched me when I was younger. This life of addiction eventually caught up to “Poppy” and he died of liver disease and lung cancer in April 2005. He was my best friend and I spent almost every day with him from age 5 to the day he died. My Uncle Mike is also an addict .He had the perfect life: a wife, two children, a house in New Jersey, but that all came to an end when he became addicted to painkillers. I am not too sure of what happened exactly but I just know he lost everything. From these experiences, I promised myself that I would never be like my family.
Heavy Metal had always been my favorite music genre and I was always the kid in the “Slipknot” or “Korn” t-shirts. Those bands had helped me deal with my problems when I was younger, but in my search for something more in life they had sort of become obsolete. I started listening to more punk-inspired hardcore music, specifically Straight Edge bands. These bands such as Armed for Battle, a.k.a. xAFBx, and xTyrantx were more militant in their Straight Edge beliefs and advocated violence against drug dealers/users. I began “X-ing up” (drawing black X’s on the back of my hands) everyday, even though I wasn’t going to a concert, and wearing shirts with sayings such as “Kill Your Local Drug Dealer”. I was shoving my beliefs down people’s throats and my goal of showing people that there was “another way to live” wasn’t working. I still needed something more.
While continuing my search for something more in my life, I found four bands that changed my life forever: Have Heart, Good Clean Fun, Casey Jones, and Stick to Your Guns. These four bands introduced me to a whole different side of hardcore and Straight Edge, the positive side.
Have Heart was a Straight Edge melodic hardcore band from Boston, Massachusetts that paved the way for many of today’s “Edge” bands. I started listening to Have Heart in my senior year of high school and they quickly became part of my daily playlist. To my knowledge Have Heart’s front man, Pat Flynn has never used the words “Straight Edge” in any of his songs but the message is still strongly felt in every one of their songs. For example in my favorite song, “Armed with a Mind”, one verse specifically makes me think, “It’s the absent minded fool who’s afraid to think, to extend an open hand, to dare to earn a thing. It’s the gift inside our heads not to take for granted…Because an unexamined life is a seed unplanted.” (Armed with a Mind, Have Heart) Flynn speaks about following your heart and examining one’s own mind in order to gain strength and knowledge.
Another Positive Straight Edge band is Good Clean Fun from Washington, DC. They are a vegan youth crew revival band, which means they are heavily influenced by the youth crew bands of the late 1980’s, and often make fun of current trends within the hardcore community. For example in the song “A Song For The Ladies”, the lead singer Issa speaks out against the hyper-masculine persona that seems to have taken over the scene. The bassist, Erin, even joins in on the last verse of the song.
“…hardcore still needs another song for the ladies. Girlfriends are great, please don’t get me wrong. But it’s time to put down that coat and come sing along. Because I can’t hear your voice from the back of the crowd. Move to the front, and shout it out loud. Keep your eyes on the prize, you know what I mean. If we can’t change the world, then let’s change the scene.”(A Song For The Ladies, Good Clean Fun)
The third band that caught my attention was a band called Casey Jones. Casey Jones is the side project of the metalcore band Evergreen Terrace. They are heavier than Have Heart and Good Clean Fun and are more heavily influenced by metal than punk. Casey Jones may fit into the “Militant Straight Edge” genre because they do not take their commitment to the movement lightly but they are certainly not advocating violence against drug dealers. They sing about what they love and are proud of what they represent. The band’s lyrics often speak about their friends “breaking edge” or selling out then making fun of them for still being Straight Edge. I can relate a lot to the lyrics because I am the only Straight Edger I know and have taken a lot of slack because of my commitment to living a positive lifestyle. My favorite song is “No Donnie, These Men Are Straight Edge” because the lead singer is telling the world that he is proud to be different and doesn’t care what other people think about it.
“Without shame I’ll put this black X on my hand. Without shame I’ll speak up and make my stand. In the end will use this use this for my voice… I am still edge. Carry these words high, straight edge. I am still edge” (No Donnie, These Men Are Straight Edge, Casey Jones)
My favorite band out of those I’ve mentioned is a metalcore band from Orange County, California called Stick to Your Guns. Although they are not an “Edge” band, all of the band members are either Straight Edge or Drug-Free. Their lyrics are what make them my favorite band. They are positive, uplifting, and motivational. In my favorite song, “Impact”, the lead singer Jesse speaks about making an impact in society and proving everyone that ever doubted him wrong. The line “WE’LL BLOW THEM AWAY WITH THE IMPACT WE’LL MAKE!” (Impact, Stick to Your Guns), motivates me to make an impact on the world. After listening to this song on a high school retreat in senior year, I set a goal for myself in life: To make an impact in at least one person’s life. Hopefully if I can change their life, they will do the same for another and the cycle will continue.
In conclusion, music has always helped me get through tough times in my life and Straight Edge can and will only help me overcome obstacles and achieve my goals. I do not judge those who choose a different path, but I will question their actions just as people question mine. But in the end I do believe Straight Edge is the best lifestyle for me and although I may not have other Straight Edge friends I know that there are other people like me out there and we share a special bond.
This is mine
this is what I stand for
–I’m so Lucky, Down To Nothing