I recently read the CLASH piece “HIP HOP IS REALITY AND ART, PUNK ROCK IS A VEHICLE FOR SUBURBAN NOSTALGIA” by Charles Ray Hastings Jr.
While I hate basically everything in that article, I do recommend you check it out because it only makes sense to read something before reading a tirade against it.
Let me start by saying that I might be a little biased. I have a soft spot in my heart for punk rock because of my history with it. And yes, there is some amount of nostalgia that fuels my love of punk. I’ll give you that, Charles. However, I’d like to give a different and, in my opinion, more genuine perspective on what I consider to be one of the most important movements of our generation.
I was born into Christianity. And by Christianity, I don’t mean in a light, “whatever way you choose to worship a higher being” kind of way. I mean I was at church three times a week listening to people “speak in tongues.” I watched them happily give 10% of their money “to the lord.” I was, as you so eloquently put it, “all in.” I truly believed that by dedicating my life to God, I would be blessed. Which, by the way, I’d like to point out, is not what The Bible teaches. But I digress.
I was in high school. Well, I guess technically I was standing outside of high school. I was crying (ugh, embarrassing) because I was in foster care at the time, and my life was just a mess. I lived with a 40-something year old man who had, on more than one occasion, sexually harassed and assaulted one of my foster sisters. I missed my siblings, who still lived with my actual parents. Clearly I was swimming in blessings.
I was confused and angry at God and the government that had left me with no options at the impressionable age of 15. Keyword there: angry. Not in pain, not sad. Angry. Confused. I couldn’t understand why someone who had done things “right” their entire life would be in my position. I had never taken a sip of alcohol, never smoked as much as one of those stupid clove cigarettes. Never done more than kiss a boy. I was an academic in my first year of high school, before all of this foster care bullshit threw my grades onto the back burner. I was spiraling and I was grasping for anything to stop me from falling into depression and fear. I thank my lucky stars all the time that the thing I finally got my hands on was punk rock.
A guy I had known for maybe a week (and would later, unfortunately, lose my virginity to) drove by with his older brother and a couple of other kids my age in the backseat. He said, “Are you crying? God… get in the car. We’re gonna go dye this guys hair.”
I have to say first that that this guy was not the one who introduced me to punk. He was like you Charles; he was “in pain.” Sad. Full of angst and looking for an identity. These kids were never meant to love punk. They didn’t see the injustice, they didn’t have the right backstory.
I had crashed on the couch of this whiny, box hair dye using, abandonment issue having rich boy for a few weeks. I’d decided that school was a waste of time, and spent most days wandering around the small town he lived in.
That’s when I met Matt. He was sitting at the BART station with a beaten up guitar case, a leather jacket, and a foot long Mohawk held up by dried Elmer’s glue. He was quiet and homeless and wearing a Minor Threat t-shirt. We spent the rest of the day at Starbucks, drinking dollar coffee (so security couldn’t kick us out) and talking about music. We spent the next few years living together at Rich Boy’s house (who had become my first serious boyfriend.) Apparently Matt was in love with me pretty much from the get go, and I probably was in love with him. We’ve been dating now for the last 4 years and plan to get married in June. But that’s besides the point, isn’t it?
I talked a lot of shit about his music. It was young people screaming about the government and the injustices of the world from the comfort of their homes in Hermosa Beach, California and New York, New York. It was messy boys with messy songs and shitty lyrics. But it grew on me, because I liked these messy boys and they knew their shit. They had their facts straight, and although I never got behind the idea of ‘anarchy’ I understood it. It was a cry for chaos because they had no faith left. It was their way of taking part in the power grab they saw going on in the world. It was “no justice, no peace.” It was taking back society. So for anyone to write that off as “a vehicle for suburban nostalgia” is more of a reflection of their own intentions for being a part of it than anything else.
To sum things up: Charles, you are that kid that argued “Ramones vs. Sex Pistols.” You’re a mall punk that may as well have been listening to Simple Plan.
The point is chaos. The point is giving others a voice, regardless of where they came from, regardless of what they grew up with. The point is righteous anger, true righteous anger, which is more than the shit they spewed to me in church.
And you, Charles, were nothing but a poser.