The headline from Spin read:
Henry Rollins Bashes the Suicidal, Shames Robin Williams; “Fuck suicide,” the singer wrote in an editorial today.
I will readily admit, even as one of Rollins’ staunchest supporters, my first reaction to the headline was, “Wow, that’s pretty brutal.” As a life-long Rollins fan, I know there are times when he can come off a tad bit “holier-than-thou,” but I have always admired his strong convictions and respected his opinions. As someone who tends to have a similar writing style, I too can sound like an angry person at times, when actually that could not be any farther from the truth. The vast majority of my angst comes from a place of extreme sensitivity, a place I don’t often like to admit having. There are times when I view it as one of my biggest weaknesses, and times I see it as my biggest strength; but either way, it’s been known to get me into trouble. I think it’s one of the main reasons Rollins’ work has always spoken to me, and why I consider him to be one of the most influential people in my life.
Over the years, I have attended countless numbers of Rollins’ spoken-word engagements, read almost all of his books and have had the opportunity to speak with him one-on-one. While his persona may seem like a tough-as-nails guy who rarely cracks a smile, I found him to be warm and self-deprecating with a disarming sense of humor. He is probably one of the most genuinely caring and enlightened people in all of L..A., but you don’t need to meet Henry Rollins to figure any of this out–all you need to do is sit down with one of his books or buy a ticket to hear him speak. And if that’s still not enough, you can ask Damien Echols what kind of a guy Henry Rollins is.
The Daily News read:
Henry Rollins slams Robin Williams for committing suicide: “How in the hell could you possibly do that to your children?”
As the daughter of an addict who attempted suicide when I was a little girl, I get the anger in Henry’s article. There were so many times growing up that I was left wondering why I was not enough for my mom to want to live, or why I was never enough for her to want to get sober. I spent a lot of energy during my teens and early twenties being disgusted by my mom and believing that she was weak. I didn’t have the tools or the maturity to process it.
So as I read through Henry’s essay, particularly his thoughts on the people with children who choose to commit suicide, it obviously struck a chord. And, while I know that he did not intentionally write a piece that was meant to hurt or cause suffering to anyone, I can see how some would find it insensitive, perhaps even arrogant.
The Guardian read:
Henry Rollins attacks Robin Williams’s decision to take his own life
Now that I am an adult and better equipped to work through some of my childhood shit, I have come to the understanding that my mom’s depression, her “illness,” never had anything to do with me. The random scars on her arms started appearing long before I even existed.
It’s very hard for children to really understand that their parents had a life before them, or that they could be capable of having feelings–good or bad–completely independent of them. We all want to believe that we are the “be all and end all to our parents,” that we alone should be enough for them. But sometimes we aren’t, and sometimes nothing is.
Everyone on this earth has their own demons to battle, and while we’d like to think the people who raised us are immune, they’re not. Just like everyone else, they wear flesh; and sometimes, like everyone else, that flesh is too excruciating to wear.
All that being said, I think what Spin did–along with some of the other sites that picked up pieces of the essay–was pretty fucking reprehensible. They cherry-picked the most sensational lines out of it and ran with them, just like they always do. When read in its entirety, the essay is not nearly as sensational as the “news outlets” would have you believe. In fact, there are many poignant points made in the essay, but by the time most readers got to them, they were likely so enraged that the poignancy fell on deaf ears.
This is a practice to which we as a culture have become far too accustomed. We live in the age of sound bites and blurbs. We form our opinions and righteous indignation on half-truths and parts of the story. It used to be something you primarily saw in rags like The National Enquirer or The Globe, but now it has permeated every facet of our media, even those sources that were once deemed “respectable.”
Sensationalism sells, and we are a country that thrives on it. We are living in a world where the “telephone game” has run amuck, and we don’t seem to care one bit. We no longer have the time or patience to read an entire article, so we let them pick out the most shocking parts, and we go with that. The media manipulates us on a daily basis, and we keep buying their bag of shit–until one day, you get so enraged that you become a guy like @tczrnk, a guy who hides behind anonymity to tweet vile things like, “It’s too bad you feel that way about suicide because you should blow your own fucking brains out for saying such ignorant shit.”
Brilliant, @tczrnk! You would have made Mr. Williams very proud with your compelling argument and compassionate words, and I am fairly certain you have also enlightened Mr. Rollins. Good job!
This morning when I woke up, I hopped on FaceBook and read a very heartfelt and sincere apology from Henry Rollins. I was not at all surprised that he chose to apologize–he always has been and will always remain a class act in my book. But I can’t help wondering how many people’s opinions would have been different had Spin chosen to make the following their headline, instead:
Depression is so personal and so unique to each of us that when you’re in its teeth, you think you invented it. – Henry Rollins
Should you lose all respect for Henry Rollins? No. His body of work and humility speak for themselves. This was not an essay that was written with the intent to hurt people. This was an essay written by a man who has a very strong opinion about suicide–he doesn’t like it. In fact, he hates it, and I share the sentiment. “Fuck suicide.”
Author: Cynthia Cone is a heavily tattooed Ex-Con with no college education and very bad punctuation. She currently lives on Long Island, NY where she pays extremely high taxes, likes to drink, rage against the machine and shop at the GAP.
Contact Cynthia at firstname.lastname@example.org