Straight Edge for our time

A couple of days ago, I happened to be looking up Rev. Hank Peirce, and stumbled on a 2008 interview with Hank in Double Cross, a hardcore fanzine. The interviewer asked Hank about his straight-edge reputation:

[Doublecross:] When did you become Hank Straight Edge and not just Hank? Were you straight edge the second you heard of the concept?… Are you still proudly straight edge?

…You are right on with the description of how I became Straight Edge, as soon as I heard the concept I was sold. I already wasn’t doing drugs or drinking and was so psyched that there was a name for it and bands who were singing about it…. I just looked at how all of the idealism of the 60s shit the bed once drugs were introduced. Fuck, the kids getting high and drunk in [my home]town were the ones who I was getting into fights with every day, so why the fuck would I want to be like them in any way?

I would have been as psyched as Hank had I ever heard of straight edge back when I was listening to punk rock. During college, I was a very peripheral part of the punk rock scene, a sort of groupie for a college band called “The End” whose lead singer was a poet named Indran Amirthanagayam. Outside the punk scene, I mostly hung out with kids who had literary or artistic pretensions, and they all drank and did drugs. I watched the effects of drugs and drink on my friends, and decided I preferred the sweaty physicality of loud punk and hard dancing to the chemicals they were using. I was politically aware then, and would have agreed with Hank that “all of the idealism of the 60s shit the bed once drugs were introduced.”

Hank goes on to say:

Am I still Straight Edge? Hell yeah! I don’t even allow alcohol at any church events, of course like at most churches there are lots of recovering drunks and they don’t need to be confronted with it at some bean supper. I just think that alcohol and drugs are something that we as a society can do without.

These days, I admit I’m sympathetic with politically-aware people who drink or do drugs. The world is such a crazy messed-up place, I can understand the need to escape for a short time. After I stopped going to punk shows, I did start drinking very moderately; but recently I stopped even that, and I don’t miss it. Personally, I’ve decided that I’d rather confront the problems of the world straight on, without any escape hatch. But that’s just me; as I said, I’m sympathetic with socially conscious and active people who occasionally need to escape harsh reality with moderate use of chemicals.

Hank goes on to make one more point about straight edge:

It is amazing the impact that SE [straight edge] has made in the larger culture, and to be honest I wish no one did drugs or drank. However, just having kids in their teens not drinking or getting high is great, even if after college they start to drink. I hate to add that last part but it is true, let these folks get some experience under their belts so that they hopefully make better choices. It is also interesting to see how SE has evolved in these 25 or so years, the vegetarian thing is understandable, and I have to admit so does the Earth First stuff. Not that I’m a vegetarian or burn down McMansions, but if I lived in Utah I bet I would want to blow stuff up too.

It really is good to see the personal politics of SE interface with radical politics of justice. What did Mark Anderson say, “How radical is ‘rock-n-roll all night and party everyday’ in a world of starving children?”

Not radical at all, Hank, not radical at all.

And don’t miss the second part of the interview.