Punkers

I love this article on so many levels.  “These actions are taken by a group of students who said they preferred to be called “country hicks.”  I guess that’s what happens when one lives in one’s own vain little world…

My best guess is that this article is from early 1985, the year I graduated from high school, though it might be from the fall of ’84.  I’d spent the first three years of high school in constant fear of these so-called hicks – a violent group of reactionary kids from the country.  My home town was an odd mix – it’s a university town, so you had plenty of freaky faculty kids looking for ways to be different.  But then it’s in Southern Indiana, so you also had plenty of real country folks.  Punk was still pretty new – the American hardcore scene was just taking shape during my freshman and sophomore years – 1981 through 1983.  And it’s really all I cared about at the time.  I took my share of beatings, but there was no way I would let intimidation from some redneck thugs prevent me from wearing my Black Flag bars or combat boots.   

Two things in the article are especially absurd.  The first is the quote from the hick who says that punks are trying to be someone they’re not, but if it was really them they’d accept it.  I mean, of course that’s who we really were.  When I first “became” a punk during ninth grade, only two kids in my class dressed that way.  By the next year there were four or five of us, and by the next year maybe a dozen.  The other high school in town had a slightly larger number.  Dressing punk every day made everyone completely hate us – we became a completely self-contained sub-culture and completely disqualified us to participate in mainstream high school culture.  If that wasn’t really who we were, would we have chosen to be completely friendless outside our culture?  Not only was it genuinely who we were, it was everything we were for those few years.

The other absurd thing is the notion that the “pacivist” (sic) punks could beat up the hicks.  By ’84 there were maybe one or two guys in our punk scene who would actually fight, but most of us – certainly me – were utterly unprepared to defend ourselves.  Those country kids could obviously fight – they fought each other all the time.  I was just as terrified by one of those guys as ten.  Many of the acts of violence against me by the hicks – and there were many – occurred one-on-one.  They’d slam me into the lockers or shove me to the pavement and there was no way I was going to fight back.  Partly out of some naïve notion of pacifism, but mostly out of fear.  I didn’t want the beating to escalate, and I had no confidence I could actually put up a decent fight.

By the time this article came out, my close friends and I had pretty much moved on.  By 1985 the first wave of American hardcore was on the wane, and my musical tastes were evolving.  I don’t think I even knew about this article at the time, because by then the punk scene consisted mostly of younger kids.  I was just trying to graduate, get out of town.  I played in punk bands, but I couldn’t be bothered to dress up every day.  The hicks pretty much left me alone.  They had someone else to antagonize.  Some other heterosexual kid to call a faggot. 

What’s interesting to me now is that I was so willing to behave and dress in a way that made so many people despise me.  At this point in my life I think I’d find that emotionally harrowing and profoundly stressful.  But despite all the animosity directed towards my friends and me, those were amazing times.  I had a great high school experience.  It wasn’t just a category, it was a tribe.

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