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.
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.
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.