Ray Cappo- Blog entry 5

28Mar13

In Ray Cappo’s post on the blog Some Dudes Tell Stories, he addresses “the fucking idiocy, psychosis, and the neurotic behavior that has comes about in our hardcore scene over something like SXE, which was initially intended (at least in my book) to better one self and have one keep their body and mind in control.”

Cappo was the vocalist for several hardcore bands including Youth of Today, Reflex from Pain, Shelter, and Better Than A Thousand. He was a proponent for the straight edge movement beginning in the mid 1980s, singing songs that promoted a clean lifestyle.

Life’s filled with many paths
Which one should I take?
When the choice comes, I won’t run
I’ll be thinking straight!
Life’s filled with conflicts… we’ll face
We’ll overcom them… thinking straight!
Experiment with your mind
You see things I can’t see
Well no thanks, friend
Because now it ends when you push that shit on me!
My mind is free to think and see.
Strong enough to resist temptation
We’ve been strong for all these years
Yes, life gets rough, so we’ll stand tough and confront
All our fears!

Thinking Straight- Youth of Today

Cappo merged his straight edge philosophy with Krishna Consciousness, an ideology that embraced vegetarianism.  Cappo thus became the face of Krishna-core.  The drug-free, sober, abstinent, vegetarian image Cappo presented was violated when he was reportedly seen drinking wine in Italy.  Cappo’s blog functions as an open letter to those straight-edge devotees that pointed him out and accused him of being a hypocrite.

“It’s nothing I’m ashamed of. It’s nothing I even thought twice about. It’s nothing I feel to be ethically twisted or a philosophical U turn. Has it scarred my character? I think, and I’m sure any practicing psychiatrist would think that if you have a problem with it then you’ve got the problem, not me. Is this type of neurotic finger pointing the sign of people psychologically healthy and secure with their own convictions? Even if I got wasted out of my mind…why is that anyone’s business or problem but my own?”

Within the story of the straight edge movement and to most straight edge followers, Cappo would seem like a villain, or a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Here is the movement towards purity and morality and here is the Judas, violating the commandments of straight edge.  But Cappo himself has his own story as the protagonist.

Like any youth encountering straight edge for the first time, Cappo must have found a calling and new passion in the movement when he first discovered it.  He became a crusader for the movement, preaching its ideals through his lyrics.  Followers rallied around him and pinned him as the epitome of straight edge.  He was the Christ figure of the movement.  When it came to his trial of temptation, he failed, yet still managed to transcend his fault through this blog.

In this story Cappo is the protagonist, accusing straight edge fundamentalists are the antagonists, and the setting is Cappo’s post-straight edge activist era. Cappo has been cornered and must defend himself before he is stoned. It is the climax of the plot.  Hypocrisy is the theme, but the bigger question is who is the real hypocrite?

Cappo admits that at one time he had “fanatic blood” in him.  He too was once a straight edge fundamentalist who “condemned, criticized, and belittled” those who weren’t like him.  “Any shit I get now from kids is some karma I’m going to have to eat so I don’t even mind so much,” he says.  He is not ashamed to admit he is not perfect.  This is an effective method of persuasion.  Who can accuse someone who already admits fault?

Taking this stance of humility allows Cappo to build his ethos up: “But I’ve grown, the hard way into becoming very accepting of people that do drink, smoke, or whatever… I’ve forced myself to become accepting of others because, fuck, maybe other people have some good ideas too.”

He attacks the credibility of his accusers, saying “the real sad gist of it all is that not all people get into SXE for the right reasons.” His antagonists, who posed as the pure pharisees have some faults of their own.  They are unaware fanatics of the straight edge ideology.  Cappo says, “The Fanatic hates dialogue.  There’s one way. His way.  The only way.  We’ve all witnessed it with bible thumping Christians, Bhagavad Gita thumping Krishna’s or banner waving SXEer’s.  Fanatics don’t necessarily even know Why they are into what they’re into and generally arrogant.  So, the question is, ‘if you’re getting into straight edge for bettering yourself, why develop arrogance alongside of it?'”

Cappo wields the ultimate weapon- the sword of truth- against the dragon of a lie that is straight edge fanaticism.  As he exposes the truth, he still includes himself with the straight edge followers.  He uses the collective “we” as part of his argument.  Oftentimes criticism is more welcomed from an insider than an opposing outsider.  He says, “In the name of this noble movement we have some people doing some real fucked up things yet feeling safe, self righteous, above the rest behind their SXE banner.  THis is fucking disgusting- right up there with the inquisitions, Salem witch-hunts, Ku Klux Klan, and McCarthyism.  Hiding behind a veil of perfection but fueled by arrogance.”

Appealing to the pathos of his audience’s moral core, Cappo preaches an ethical argument: “What kind of community have we developed that a person gets, condemned ostracized and expelled rather than encouraged loved and supported by friends? Wouldn’t true friends say, ‘shit Ray you’ve been getting drunk every night, are you going through a rought time or something? Could I help in any way? Do you need a friend to talk to?’ Wouldn’t you want that as a friend instead of a Judas who betrays you in a moment?”

Cappo stands by the self-betterment philosophy of straight edge, yet has transcended the religious dogma of the movement.  For him straight edge has gone from fashion to philosophy.  His transformation aligns with the monomyth aspects of travelling from the known into the unknown and returning to the known world.  He was called into the straight edge world and emerged from it master of both straight edge and non-straight edge.  As the wise old sage of straight edge, Cappo has a redefined commitment to the ideology.

“To me life and spirituality has become so personal.  I don’t talk about it unless people want to know.  I’m saddened by the questions ‘are you straight edge or are you Krishna?’ because I don’t want to be sized up by people right off the bat.  I want people to respect or disrespect me for what I am, and get to know me but not because I wear a particular logo or subscribe to a particular philosophy…  Encourage and support each other. Life is a long path filled with ups and downs. If you’re down someday won’t it be nice if someone picks you up.”

Ray Cappo explains Straight Edge

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