That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore

Leah recently posted about a T-shirt she ordered. The shirt's message: "Meat is Murder -- Tasty, tasty murder." As someone who used to have "meat is murder" and "fur is dead" bumper stickers on her car, she fully acknowledges her opinions have changed on the subject. I in no way fault her for changing her mind. As a matter of fact, I commend her for being honest with her past and present. She is a human and it's normal for humans to change their opinions about things. However, there was a time when it seemed like anyone changing his or her mind on eating meat, drinking alcohol, or experimenting with drugs would be subjected to a blacklisting.

These times may still be going on, but I remember back in '97 when people who followed the militant straight edge path were staunchly opposed to any kind of drinking alcohol, taking drugs, smoking cigarettes, or eating meat. For those that broke "the edge," they were seen as traitors and treated like outcasts. For those who were the judge and jury, they tend to make light of it now. Trying to get anyone to fess up to such actions requires mental teeth pulling.

I'm not exempt from making bold claims in my younger years, but I never went so far as being militant about my beliefs. So it puzzles me when I see a former straight edge follower be so candid about his or her once fervent ways. As much as I think everyone should be allowed to change their minds, I get a little ticked off. As someone who just wanted to enjoy the music and didn't really care about Earth Crisis or Good Riddance's political stances, I felt like the odd man out. The music is what drew me to them, but the widespread extremity of their fans just turned me away. It's like I want mental reparations for this. All the shit that I had to deal with is now just a "dude, I was a stupid kid" explanation. I don't think that's enough.

Something unbeknownest to me at the time -- but makes a lot of sense in hindsight -- was what drew me to bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, the Get Up Kids, and Lifetime. This wasn't tough-guy, hardcore-for-life hardcore. There were no politics sung about. There were no donations being made to Food Not Bombs with the sale of each record. This music was about expressing your frustration, sadness and joy without having to wear the right clothing or have the biggest Xs on your hands. So, in doing research for Post, I realized that was a major reason why people were drawn to post-hardcore/emo. I'm not about to make light of straight edge (it was a viable alternative to people that didn't want to adhere to society's pressures), but the extreme views that came from it are sharply criticized.

Taking extreme views are easier to take when you don't have to pay your rent, groceries or electric bill. Speaking from a world where those things are taken care of by your parents, it can seem like you will always live in this cushion. But with age most people are forced to be pragmatic. I give people the benefit of the doubt because people gave me the benefit of the doubt (and still do). As someone who once claimed he would live in a cardboard box in downtown Houston and never drive a car, I'm not exempt. If anything, that was my fear of growing up and becoming somebody I didn't like.

But we have a tendancy to hold people forever to a statement of belief. Take any elected official, Ian MacKaye or even Blake Schwarzenbach from Jawbreaker. Statements made back in a certain time and place are taken out of the context in which they were made. They are believed to be unchangable and timeless, but when it seems like the views have slightly changed, pundits cry out. We don't give these people the benefit of the doubt, but why? It's as if nothing is to ever change. I just can't behind that.

My desire is to have people explain themselves and be honest about their past. The major desire is to just have people admit their past. Hence why I don't enjoy the "dude, I was a stupid kid" response. So many actions and statements get washed over with a sentiment like that. It's like a myth to some, but I remember it as a daily struggle. And I'm not about to make light of any daily stuggle from ten years ago or today. Who knows, maybe my opinion will change on that notion in due time.


Leah Shafer said…
Hey, I'm in your post! :)

I think a lot of the reson I was so militant and vegetarian/feminist/hard-core everthing had to do with youth. The world, as I saw it, was a profoundly unfair, terrible place. Somehow, being part of these groups made me feel like I was making a difference. Not eating meat, flyering cars, going on protests...these made me feel better. Plus there's a certain black-and-white mentality of a 15 year old.

I didn't eat meat for 13 years; I still believe the meat industry is cruel. But the pragaism of age--and perhaps a bit of apathy--has made me less freaked out about, well, everything. I figure as one person, I can make a difference in many ways. I just no longer choose to annoy those around me by pestering them all the time about changing their lives. I live as I see fit; everyone else is free to do the same.
Eric Grubbs said…
Hell yes Leah. Thank you so much for sharing!