Pubdate: Thu, 24 Apr 2003
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Copyright: 2003 Associated Press
Author: Martha Irvine, AP National Writer


The 1980s-era movement started by young fans of punk and hardcore music was
unapologetically clear-headed: no alcohol, no smoking, no drugs. Now that
lifestyle - known as "straight edge" - is making a comeback.

Inspired by a song of the same name, the movement developed a reputation for
intolerance in the 1990s when a few straight-edgers turned militant,
starting fights with anyone who challenged their views. Two were convicted
in a 1998 killing in Salt Lake City.

These days, a small but growing core of young people who live the
straight-edge life, also known by the abbreviation "sXe," are trying to
reclaim a more positive image by promoting a range of causes, from pacifism
and environmentalism to racial diversity.

"There are so many facets of straight edge - so many different kinds of
people who can adopt this lifestyle and define it for themselves," says
Monika Seitz, a 24-year-old straight-edger who recently moved from San Diego
to Columbus, Ohio. But the common thread is a vow to avoid tobacco, alcohol
and drugs.

Seitz - who figures she's had "one beer total and a couple of cigarettes"
since high school - recently helped form a club for straight-edgers across
the country who are into vintage scooters.

Other young straight-edgers have posted Web sites and online message boards
to spread the word about the movement's positive attributes. And at least
one school, Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., has sanctioned a school-owned
residence with a "straight edge" theme.

Geoff Bickford, a senior who lives in the house, says he and six others
formed the so-called "X" house "to offer some sort of a sanctuary to
ourselves and others who want to escape the typical weekend activities of a
college town."

Schuyler Brown, a trendspotter who specializes in youth for the ad agency
Euro RSCG, has noted the movement's latest revival, which she says has been
inspired by more than a "just-say-no" mentality.

"They've bought the message, but on their own terms," Brown says, noting
that many straight-edgers are rebelling against alcohol and cigarette
companies that market to them.

Many straight-edgers are also vegetarian or vegan and some promote monogamy,
another aspect inspired by the lyrics to "Straight Edge," the song by the
now-defunct band Minor Threat that launched the movement.

Anna Tran, a 21-year-old student at the University of Utah, goes as far as
calling her straight-edge life "something like a religion."

"Being straight edge should open your eyes to different points of view, open
your eyes to view life on a deeper level," Tran says.

She says she was annoyed when she and her friends - singled out because of
their dark clothing, "rocked out" hair and tattoos - were questioned by
security guards at the 2002 Winter Olympics (news - web sites). Salt Lake
officials had added straight-edgers to a list of potential terror threats.

There were no violent incidents there. But some law enforcement officials
still worry about youth who take the movement to a confrontational extreme.

"On the surface, the ideals and beliefs sound pretty doggone good," says
Brad Harmon, a detective with the Salt Lake County sheriff's department who
helped convict two straight-edgers in the killing there. "But when you start
getting into a cause and there's friction against the cause, then
something's got to give."

One professor at the University of Utah who once followed the movement said
she dropped her study of it after receiving personal threats from more
militant straight-edgers.

Meanwhile, Michelle Etheridge, a 16-year-old Canadian straight-edger from
Vernon, British Columbia, says raucous behavior among "crews" of teenage
boys who call themselves straight edge has caused more than one classmate to
drop the label. Mostly, she says, the boys' antics - jumping off low
buildings and other stunts akin to those on the MTV show "Jackass" - are
aimed at one-upping one another.

Other serious straight-edgers bemoan the fact that it's now possible to buy
straight-edge T-shirts and other merchandise online and even at some mall

"It seems like a fad," says Scott Foster, a 31-year-old from Coplay, Pa.,
who's been straight edge for years. "Now it's a good way to rebel against
society without ... losing your car privileges."

Still, Bickford, the Wheaton College student, sees it as a cause worth

"If kids are taking care of themselves and living positively," he says, "I
can't see a downfall to that."
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MAP posted-by: Doc-Hawk