Justifying Straight Edge


Straight edge defines those who opt not to do drugs, drink or participate in any real “chemical” enhancements. This movement was created in response to the hard core music scene where it was all about drugs and alcohol, but really – being straight edge is how we’re all born. It is a natural state of being.

Once you start applying “enhancements,” such as intoxicants that are made to alter your reality, then you are adding something to yourself that isn’t there naturally.

Yet for some reason, our culture is so used to people using intoxicants that we don’t quite get why people can live their life free from these influences. It’s like we need you to be altered in some way to fully understand you… because altered existences are more commonplace.

Kind of sad statement on society, I think.

I see it happen all the time with actor/comedian/musician Hal Sparks, who lives his life straight edge. He’s never done drugs, smoked cigarettes or drunk alcohol. Whenever he says this in any kind of public forum, far too many people look at him like he’s some sort of anomaly OR that he’s lying.

This is especially true in regards alcohol. “You mean you’ve never had one drink… EVER??”

You’d think he’d just admitted he was some sort of alien life form…because the next thing these people do just annoys the ever loving SHIT out of me. They want him to explain why he’s “made the choice” to be straight edge.

Isn’t that the nuttiest? Someone needs to explain to me why remaining in a naturally occurring state requires any explanation whatsoever… because that makes absolutely no sense to me.

I think that’s when it ceases being about Hal and starts to reflect more on the person requiring the explanation. What it comes across as is “defend your position to me because it makes me feel somewhat lesser knowing that I get something out of altering my consciousness.”

It’s a funny human quirk that seeing other people participate in behavior we know deep down is not in our best interest makes us feel somehow more justified for having done it.

Strangely, though, most people I have met in my life seem to get why you wouldn’t want to smoke or do any kind of illegal drug. Those vices have been successfully demonized in our culture that we can understand it’s not good for us, and can applaud the “strength” of those who have successfully avoided picking up these habits.

I know because I’ve never done either, and never felt judged or questioned for making those choices. Life-long smokers have even told me that I’ve made the right choice because it’s a helluva habit to kick.

Alcohol, however, seems to be a completely different animal.

Though I have never smoked or done hard drugs I do drink, so therefore I’m considered “normal.” I made it into the club somehow and don’t have to justify or defend the fact that I got the ripe old age of 41 without ever doing the other two.

Conversely, since my first sip of wine at 14, I’ve never had to justify this ongoing choice to drink to anyone outside of the religious community. This could be because the people I’ve gravitated towards are people who likewise drink, and it’s an activity we can enjoy together. (The exception to this rule is my darling hubby, who likewise does not drink.)

But from what I’ve seen regarding the Hal thing I think it’s more than that. It’s pretty universally accepted, especially in our culture, that drinking is just what you do when you reach a certain age, and if you don’t you’re somehow “missing out” on a huge chunk of “normal” life.

For example Steven’s “excuse” for not drinking is that he had a bad experience with it as a teenager, and thus decided he didn’t want to do it again.

So people seem to take that better in stride than if he had decided never to drink alcohol, much like Hal has done. In a very real sense drinking alcohol is a rite of passage that everyone must go through. And we’re conditioned for it from a very early age.

We’re bombarded with images and commercials that basically take drinking alcohol as a given. This is especially true during popular sporting events, many of which count as another universal activity that unifies middle (conservative) America.

Consider that there are alcohol sponsored race cars in a country where drunk driving kills someone every 50 minutes, and no one bats an eye at the mixed messages being sent.

coors car

These are the images we’re exposed to from our childhood. Ask anyone from my generation about popular icons from the 80s and you will find those who know what a Spuds McKenzie was, or who Bartles and James were. As a result our culture responds in kind and adds alcohol to almost every social situation or celebration without a second thought. *Not* having alcohol now goes against the norm.

Even Jesus was a drinker, and some religious ceremonies include alcohol as a form of worship.

We’ve accepted this idea that life is *better* when we partake of this nationally accepted pass time that takes our natural existence and “enhances it” (or “numbs it” – based on your particular perception.)

That’s why we look at someone who has decided to remain in their natural state almost as though they’re an oddity when they have made the conscious choice to actually *stay conscious.”

The really ironic part of this very strange phenomenon is that Hal takes this questioning so completely in stride. He lets all the comments, jokes and disbelief roll like water off a duck’s back. And all the while he doesn’t spend one iota of energy judging those (or questioning those) who have made the opposite choice.

Perhaps he has a type of clarity that is sadly missing from those of us who are us-plus-alcohol.

Personally I get why he made the choices he has, and I especially love that it gives a younger generation permission to follow his example. This is especially commendable considering we live in a culture that thrives on peer acceptance, and far too many kids participate in negative behavior because they feel pressured to do so to “fit in.”

Having alcohol be one of our socially accepted rites of passage doesn’t help much.

It’s not a rite of passage. It’s a choice. And people have the right whether or not to make it, no justification required… except of course to your own spiritual path.

Maybe instead of questioning why someone like Hal would live his life without drugs and alcohol, you would be better served in questioning why you decided you needed to add those things to yours.

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