don't hate me because i'm straight edge... don't hate me because i'm straightedge, hate yourself because you're not. straightedge means i'm better than you." actual quote, i swear it. i came across it quite by accident this past summer. hard to believe that someone would be so unapologetically arrogant, no? it was precisely this kind of attitude that made me start to see why many of my friends had such negative opinions of the straightedge movement. the more they talked about it, though, the more i started to realize that there really was no general consensus about precisely what the movement itself entailed. trying to get some sort of definitive answer, i ventured out onto the internet (and let me assure you, there is no shortage of straightedge web sites -www.straight-edge.com might be a good place to start out, if you're interested), only to discover that even the members of the straightedge community can't agree on what their lifestyle is about. no two definitions were exactly alike, and some people who called themselves "straightedge" would have been considered outsiders by others in the movement. the facts, as closely as i could pin them down, are as follows. straightedge, often abbreviated "sxe", is a philosophy and lifestyle whose basic tenet is unconditional abstinence from tobacco, alcohol, and all other drugs. (the "x" in "sxe" seems to come from the practice of marking one's hand with a black x, which serves both as a parody of the x marked by bouncers on the hands of underage bar patrons and as a unifying symbol for straightedgers.) some members interpret the term "drug" to include such substances as aspirin or caffeine, and some stay away from anything potentially addictive. often sexual promiscuity is included on the list of things a "straightedger" won't do; sometimes this is extended to include all sex outside of love, or all sex, period. many straightedgers are also vegetarians or vegans (people who abstain not only from meat, but also from all dairy and other animal products -- in a way, radical vegetarians), though those philosophies are not strictly a part of sxe. some seem to think that becoming politically or socially active, giving something back to one's community or to the world at large, is also an ideal of straightedge. most straightedgers also like and listen to hardcore and punk rock music; some even consider that a requisite for inclusion. the reason for this seemingly arbitrary correlation lies in the movement's origins. though it's not universally agreed upon, most people credit ian mackaye (then lead singer of minor threat, now lead singer of fugazi) with giving sxe its start in the early '80s by writing "straight edge", a hardcore minor threat song that features such lyrics as "i've got better things to do / than sit around and smoke dope / 'cause i know i can cope" and "always gonna keep in touch / never want to use a crutch". since then, the sxe ideology has been developed and supported in large part by a series of punk and hardcore bands, among them names like ssd, uniform choice, youth of today, snapcase, earth crisis, and strife. in a society ruled by the bell curve, taking a stand against the status quo requires a lot of courage, which is probably why sxe succeeds more as a "movement", especially one guided by popular music, than it might as a loose collection of inspired believers. unfortunately, the idea of "safety in numbers" has a nasty way of slipping into a mob mentality, and it's apparently due to that effect that we see the creation of people like the one quoted at the beginning of this article. some straightedgers are just so sure that their way is the right way that they feel called to beat the crap out of anyone who disagrees. though this type of fanatic, labeled a "hardliner", is often disowned by the more conscientious among those true to the real sxe ideals, i have a feeling this is really what my friends are angry at when they complain about straightedgers. hardliners and other extremists aside, i find it encouraging to see a faction of america's youth standing behind a system of values for a change. i don't think there are any figures on just how many straightedgers are out there, but i find it both fascinating and heartening to discover that our country is still capable of producing people willing to resist transient sense gratification and have a care for what they put into their bodies. in no way do i intend to condemn controlled substances or the people who use them, but anyone unable to see the damage and pain they can cause needs to pull his or her head out of the sand. i have a lot of respect for those prepared to accept their individual responsibility not to propagate this societal illness, and i find myself wishing more of our own community here at loyola might do the same. ultimately, however, it seems virtually impossible to make any accurate generalizations about straightedgers and the sxe philosophy. as a social category, it's nowhere near as well-defined as "japanimation fans" or "actors" or "republicans". more than a belief or a worldview, straightedge is a choice you make for yourself, a decision about what kind of life you want to lead. i don't smoke, drink, or use illegal drugs, i'm not promiscuous, and i like punk and hardcore. am i straightedge? the answer, i think, is that i am if i care enough to be.