Story time: I almost got expelled from high school for putting up International Noise Conspiracy lyrics in my locker.
I don’t mean to keep harping on this topic, but it’s evident to me that I won’t ever be able to escape that period of my life. I attended two impossibly small Christian high schools – I think because my parents were terrified of putting me through the “evil” (my words, not theirs) public school system. I don’t at all blame either of them, because there was no way for them to have known then how backwards or destructive the experience ended up being. They wanted what was best for me, and I turned out alright in spite of both schools.
My freshman and sophomore years, I attended New Testament Christian School in Floral City, Florida. I read just now on Facebook that it closed last year, so I think I’m free to say pretty much whatever I want at this point – not that I’d censor myself otherwise, but I do respect and still keep in contact with some of the people who went through the same nonsense that I did.
It blows my mind to hear my peers say they graduated with 300-500+ people, because my entire high school was, if I recall correctly, 32 kids. I had 9 or 10 of them in my class. It was the type of school that disciplined male students for having hair that touched their ears (me, on more than one occasion), chewing gum in class (me, all the time), or females whose skirts and jumpers weren’t long enough. Male-female interactions were closely monitored. A girl who liked me, two years my senior, had to be sat down and told not to flirt or even converse with me because it was inappropriate. I can’t make up any of this stuff. This school’s “dances” didn’t allow dancing. The same 3 teachers taught multiple subjects, and weren’t ‘classically’ trained instructors (which is to say, none of them had degrees in education).
I have nothing against “religious” people. I don’t. But there is a monumental difference between the type of Baptists who are closed-minded, staunchly Republican, gay haters, and “Jesus followers” who have beards, drink beer or smoke cigars, play in punk rock bands, attend hipster churches with youth groups called “Status” or “Evolve” and support equal rights – you get the picture.
NTCS (go Tigers!) stifled the creativity of its students, including myself. I have no problem saying they brainwashed people. It’s true. The administration in charge only wanted to cultivate their women to be baby factories, submissive to their husbands, and the men to be missionaries or preachers or shipped off to war. Students were bred to be sheep, controlled by Old Testament guilt.
Ever been to a Southern Baptist church? Ever heard of Clearwater Christian College or Bob Jones University? Did you know there’s a Pledge of Allegiance to the Christian flag? Take one step back – did you know there’s a Christian flag?
These are the type of people that stand out in Ybor City on Friday and Saturday nights with megaphones and signs informing the masses of their impending, eternal damnation for their sins.
These are the type of “Christians” who firmly believed in the George W. Bush philosophy of war: to rape and pillage, to seek and destroy, all wrapped under the guise of the American flag so no one could say no – it was their mission, and “God’s plan” (amen).
These are the type of real, live human beings just one step short of being synonymous with the Westboro Baptist Church.
To make matters worse, because that was somehow still a possibility, this school was in the middle of nowhere off a gravel road, and surrounded by double-wide trailers. Floral City is a one-stoplight town.
How I made it out unscathed is, in many ways, a miracle. I’ve never been a sheep, and even as a teenager managed to claw out of their oppression (aka, my parents moved me to another school that was closer, run by similar administration, BUT, the people weren’t half as bad, and some are still close friends).
The fact that these type of establishments still exist in America – and that I attended not one, but two of them – is either an indication of living in the deep-south where xenophobia, racism and sexism still run rampant and religion has a greater grip than any other institution, or… well, I guess there isn’t really another possibility.
Anyway, getting to the point: I was big into (International) Noise Conspiracy by the end of my freshman year. I printed up some lyrics that made perfect sense to me at the time because of what I was experiencing. They came from “Dead Language of Love” and here’s a selection of them –
Is there a question about it? Do you feel sentimental yet?
What are you communicating, yeah please can you tell me that?
I got seduced by a preacher, I was blind but now I see
And I’m going to show those bastards the same respect that they are showing me
Yeah if we are so righteous, where is the action to our concern?
Do you think that the moral light that guides you will be the same to make the powers turn?
I got seduced by an impulse, I got a bigger need to feel
Cause your definition of love baby doesn’t satisfy me
Your dead language of love
Hey I don’t mind breaking Starbucks windows cause it is more fun
Hey I can envision more radical times
Not just standing silently around
As I recall, I put in bold the portions about being seduced by a preacher and about breaking the Starbucks window. To save myself from any real punishment, I doctored “bastards” to “blasters” (I know, I know).
Later, I was called into the office to discuss those lyrics with the administration. To my surprise (and further, my disbelief), no disciplinary actions were taken. I was told to not do it again.
Why’d they let me off the hook? Did they think I was a lost cause: a hopeless, wannabe punk kid? The baby goth who occasionally painted his pinky nails black or wore eyeliner because that was the thing then? Did they recognize that I wasn’t buying what they were selling? That I realized, even as a young teenager and now more than ever, there was no place in this world for such archaic, belittling ideals?
Regardless of their reasons why, I’m just thankful to not be a drone in spite of the four years I spent suffering daily brainwashing. Parents, don’t put your kids in Christian school. Ample chance of backfire.
A few years later, I saw T(I)NC at Warped Tour. On stage, Dennis said they were “from Sweden, so this heat is like, fucking kryptonite to us.” Well put.
That said, A New Morning, Changing Weather is golden, and you should listen to it.
Here’s “Up For Sale” from The (International) Noise Conspiracy, fiercely political as always –
Standout tracks: “Capitalism Stole My Virginity” and “Dead Language of Love” and “Born into a Mess”
Weakest track: “A Body Treatise” – has not aged well lyrically. Just seems very adolescent, even childish.
RIYL: Refused, Lost Patrol, Division of Laura Lee. Some type of dance-rock with overt punk influences and notable for their lead vocalist’s time spent in the one of the best punk rock bands of our generation, Refused.