I still respect Henry Rollins. His original column on suicide for LA Weekly was a tad clumsy and characteristically blunt, but as honest as ever. His further thoughts are more pointed, and clearly heartfelt, and charged with a genuine intention of trying to understand and to educate himself further. I think he is a bit hard on himself (calling himself “thick-headed”), but not nearly as harsh as to say that someone who could not face life any more “blew it”. I can only imagine the anger and pain from some of the people who wrote to him after the original article. I do believe Rollins is being totally sincere when he says he never intended to hurt anyone.
Rollins is a good and honest man, who really tries hard to investigate and discuss hard and difficult: topics that many of us ignore or hide away from. The difference is, that Henry Rollins does all this while delivering his thoughts with all the tact of a bull in a China shop. Screw political correctness, that doesn’t get you anywhere. I’ve witnessed it first hand while sitting through his spoken word shows where he picks up a microphone and talks at you on his feet for 150 minutes without pause, with a Jackonory of stories and tales – no-one else can hold an audience like that: engaged, and entertained for sure, but also scared shitless to dare move from your seat. Few would dare take a washroom break at a Henry Rollins spoken word show.
Once the singer of Black Flag, he has made a second career by going off the map to places like the Killing Fields of Cambodia to see things for himself, to ask questions, and to then share stories about these experiences with his audience. He goes places with genuine interest in educating himself and others. Henry just says he is curious.
Even braver than his dispatches from desperate and disparate places or his thoughts on the lives of other people, are Henry Rollins’ own personal revelations about his battles with depression. Depression is not something many people can talk about openly – at least not their own depression – and in society it is still something of a very real but agonizing taboo, one giant mind hurdle, to be truly open with your darkest feelings. Being brave and open about depression is something that can help create a bridge of communication, comfort and understanding. It is a really tough thing to do, perhaps the hardest and most difficult, but attempts like this at communication, and human connection, should be admired.
Reading, talking and learning is the way forward. Being open and honest. Educating ourselves. Sharing our most real thoughts and pain with those we trust can be a path towards healing. Seeking help and support. It is, of course, easier said than done. For this reason, my respect for Rollins is intact. Mr Rollins, please keep connecting with people, raging your opinions, and challenging the taboos of what is considered an acceptable topic to talk about. Thank you for asking questions and creating a conversation about suicide and depression, and for stimulating people to ask their own questions. I bet you helped many more people than you made angry. ‘Raw Power’ forever, Henry Rollins.
© Brian Banks, Editor, Music Vice
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