Henry Rollins: How Divided Is Our Nation? Ask the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus

Henry Rollins: How Divided Is Our Nation? Ask the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus
Photo by Heidi May

Perhaps you read about what happened last month in San Diego before a Padres game, when the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus was on the field to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Strangely, they were set to lip-sync to their own prerecorded track, but instead heard a solo female vocal come through the sound system.

Afterward, the Padres issued a statement:

“This evening during the pre-game ceremony a mistake was made in the Petco Park control room that prevented the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus from performing the national anthem as scheduled. We apologize to anyone in the ball park who this may have offended, and have reached out to the chorus to express our deep regret for the error.”


The choir members found this to be a bit brief. The Padres issued a second statement, saying that although they found no evidence of malicious intent, the relationship with the third-party contractor responsible had been terminated.

The choir reported that, in the days before the game, the Padres organization wanted each member to buy a ticket in order to perform. This would have cost the choir thousands of dollars. If it were me, I would have gotten the hint and pulled out immediately. I understand fully the idea of pushing through barriers and advancing a cause or inspiring social evolution, but there are also instances when not showing up where you’re not wanted is a far better use of your time.

I read articles on this and, as always, checked the comments below. The posts raged back and forth as to whether the wrong version of the anthem being played was a mistake, or if it was done on purpose to embarrass the men in front of thousands of spectators. And if it was an error, why didn’t the soundboard operator simply stop the track, find the correct one and hit play?

I think there are a few things to consider. These kind of mistakes are easier to make than you might think. Things happen in even the most rehearsed and planned situations. Also, if I were the board op, I would wonder if I was breaking some unwritten tenet of Americana by stopping the national anthem once it had started. In real time, that would be a very difficult call.

I find it hard to think that the San Diego Padres’ PR department would be interested in inciting any backlash for the mere expression of some generic homophobia. The last thing they want is an interruption of cash flow and business as usual. Thinking in the corporate mindset, I am willing to bet that this could have very well been an unintended fail. Maybe the SDGMC will return to Petco to sing again.

I felt for the men of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus. No matter what was the cause of this mishap, it must have been quite awful to endure such perfect situational humiliation. It reminds me of the scene in Carrie when she gets bucketed in pig’s blood. I always dug it that she destroyed the place.

If you know someone who is angry at the San Diego Padres about this and you think they’re overreacting, you might want to consider that some people are just sick of the bullshit.

I had a boss who was gay. He was the night manager at a movie theater where I worked as an usher in the 1970s. He told me stories about being gay, or queer as he termed it, in the 1950s. He said that beatings were handed out liberally and you had to be careful. He later died from what killed a lot of gay men in 1980s America. Whenever I read about things such as House Bill 2 in North Carolina and this deal in San Diego, I think of him.

I was thrilled to the point of moon-eyed naivete when President Obama was elected. I thought the USA was on its way somewhere. My exuberance didn’t last long. It’s been almost eight years of watching the president keep his cool and try to make things happen with a Congress that doesn’t want to hear about it. I reckon if he couldn’t get it going, it don’t want to go. Like the choir members being told to buy tickets for the Padres game, I got it.

I am not thrilled by either presumptive presidential nominee. I’m back in my pre-Obama groove of voting because I need to hold onto the idea that it makes a difference and that it insures a more transparent republic, but I’m not convinced my vote means all that much. As to winning or losing, I have one vote and I leave it in the ballot box.

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I’m not interested in swaying anyone’s point of view. I think that, for the most part, it is wasted energy.

Never before have I seen a more un-united state of the union. I think a lot of people are pissed off there isn’t a declared civil war to slouch toward so they can combat tyranny by temporarily holding a government building hostage or misfiring their under-threat weapons into their own legs more often. Life is too short to pull a sled packed with these assholes. They don’t want to go anywhere.

You, on the other hand, once disabused of the ridiculous notion that all boats are raised by the tide, can be an absolute smash-hit individual, who never caves into the pathetic bleating of hateful semi-literates who pine for an age that never existed.

You share this landmass with some real fuckin’ morons. They’re as dangerous as they are plentiful. It doesn’t have to be you.

Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the playlist for his Sunday KCRW broadcast.


More from the mind of Henry Rollins:
Let's Invade Canada

Bend Over, America — Here Comes President Trump
I Am Basically a Vinyl Cat Lady

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