I just finished the book “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Play List.” It was outstanding, if a bit provacative.
The title characters are “straight edge.” A straight edge is a member of the punk/punk rock/hard core/loud, annoying music scene who publicly take a stand against drugs and alchohol. They often commit to abstaining from sexual contact, eating meat, and consuming nicotine or even cafienne. It’s not a particularly new or obscure movement. They are pretty well known and take these comittments very seriously.
While I was aware of the whole straight edge thing, I’d never given it much thought. One of the things that occured to me, while reading the book, was “Finally! People at ground zero of all the destruction caused by drugs and extra-maritial sex are responding to this destruction! We can use this to do some good.”
I’ve tried to explain the second thought I had about four times now and I keep deleting it because it doesn’t sound right. I’m going to give up on trying to be delicate here. I hope that folks who know me know my heart and will be able to hear this the way I mean it.
My second thought was that it’s unfortunate that the whole straight edge thing is mostly a white thing.
This is probably because the larger world of punk rock (or whatever we’re supposed to call it now) is mostly a white thing. And I’m all for people regardless of skin color staying away from drugs, sex, etc. It’s not a bad thing that millions of white kids are making a public stance against these things.
But I wish that it could spread into the neighborhoods of other ethnicities. The problems that straight edges resist are at least as large in African-American communities, Latino communities, even some South east Asian communities.
I found myself wondering: Is there an equivalent to the whole straight edge thing in other communities? A resounding, tough, and cool “No” to things like drugs?
The two closest equivalents I could come up with are going to annoy people. Get ready, if you’re the sort who is easily annoyed.
The closest I can come to the straight edge experience in minority communities is The Black Panthers and the Fruits of Islam of Malcolm X fame.
Both of these groups have done and said terrible things. But these terrible things have been distorted, over generalized, and taken out of context. The Black Panthers, particularly, have done some remarkable things that get conveniently forgotten.
And so this makes me wonder: Do we set these groups up? Out of one side of our mouths, do we wish for more “moral” behavior out of minority groups, but when minority groups actually behave this way, do we fear them and beat them down? (The “we” here is a collective “we.” All of us. Society, the press, the whole thing.)
There is another important question here: Why can’t we, as followers of Christ, create something with the persuasive power of the straight edges? That dude on the MTV music awards was an idiot. But he went after promise rings, not straight edges. Why are Christian morality stances such easy targets? Is it simply because a straight edge doesn’t necessarily take a stance against violence? Do they mantain an heir of cool and toughness because they’ll still stomp you with their combat boots, even if they are sober?
I know that I’ve taken a sabbatical from politics lately and this might seem a violation of my self-imposed exile, to some people. Clearly my reflections here have political overtones. But I’m o.k. with that. I’ve still got lots to work out around the whole Christian/political thing. (And please know that it was so tempting, this week, to post quite explicitly about the goings on recently in politics)
One realization that is crystal clear, through this sabbatical is that in some sense Jesus didn’t at all care about the political ramifications of his actions. He never tried to be political, I think, anymore than he tried to be apolitical. He just was. And if people saw that as political, or if they saw it as apolitical, it seemed to not matter at all to him.
And that’s how I feel about this topic a bit: I think that I’m speaking the truth as best as I can, here. It’s quite irrelevant to me if we label this as a politically charged truth.