Sunday, October 31, 2010

Take a stand—if you DARE

In response to his father’s drinking, my son Marty embraced a Straight Edge lifestyle. Straight Edge is a subculture of hardcore punk music that embraces the philosophy of staying clean and sober, and often extends to eschewing sexual promiscuity. It is often represented by the symbol “XXX,” which signifies no drinking, no drug use, and no smoking. Throughout high school and college Marty has been a bass guitar player in several Edge bands and is now the vocalist for the band Agitator. (One uses the word “vocalist” because hardcore is more screamed than sung.)

In between school and work obligations, Marty and his bandmates have a blast touring the country in a cheap van, sleeping either on the floors of their concert sponsors or in the van in a Wal-Mart parking lot, to perform for small but passionate crowds in basements and churches and record stores. Their upcoming December tour will cover so many miles that Marty pointed out that in the middle of it they’ll need to get an oil change for the van.

By touring Agitator has gotten quite a following, and even when they perform in towns in distant states they find people in the audience who know the lyrics. Just click on this link if you want to understand what a feat that is, because Glee this is not. You can see in the video the way Marty displays the black X on the back of each hand, and further announces his lifestyle choice with his tee-shirt.

What else you will see in this video, if you dare to open it: raw rage and confrontation. I have posted it on Halloween for a reason. It’s scary. Yet even in this I find hope.

Marty was daddy’s little helper, just eight years old on the day of the standoff that ended in Ron’s suicide. At that young age, with only a few sessions of D.A.R.E. (Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education) under his belt, Marty was already made of such moral fiber that when he realized his father was drunk he raced from the house to help me physically battle Ron for his car keys. He already knew that drinkers shouldn’t be drivers, and bore the pinch marks and scratches of that rectitude for several weeks after Ron’s death.

Children look to their parents for the unconditional love and support that allows them a safe place to form their own definition of self. Marty’s father cut out on him that day, physically and emotionally and completely, and I can’t imagine the rage that might cause a young man who is already hormonally predisposed to fight.

And I don’t have to. Thanks to his songwriting and hardcore performances, I can see and hear it. Marty doesn't keep that darkness bottled up inside, where it could gain control of his actions, hurting others and destroying self. In hardcore Marty has a way to express himself that allows those dark feelings full expression, and in a way that other young people can relate to. Funneling rage into one’s art isn’t necessarily healing in and of itself, but at least it’s an honest first step.

I know from my own experience that anger is a necessary part of the healing process, because it is only in identifying what boundaries were violated that we can truly forgive. We need to forgive for the health of our own souls and I hope that both of my sons are heading in that direction.

In my next post, Marty will share his decision to embrace Straight Edge in his own words: he’s allowed me to post the lyrics to one of his songs.

Happy Halloween, everybody. If he had lived, today Ron would have turned 68, and seen the amazing young men his sons have become.


Lisa R. Tomarelli said...

Reading these pieces inspires me to hold up my own moral truths to the light of your story and see them more clearly. Thank you for sharing!

Kathryn Craft said...

Than you for reading, Lisa! Your comments make me smile.