Henry Rollins: How Much Freedom Can You Stand, America?

Sorry, America — this is what freedom looks like.EXPAND
Sorry, America — this is what freedom looks like.
Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s unexpected passing has made the political landscape in America a far more interesting and serious matter. Suddenly, Donald Trump’s juvenile bullshit is nothing but worn-out distraction.

Of all the Republican presidential hopefuls, it is perhaps Ted Cruz who will be able to use the threat of a possible appointment by President Obama as a tool to get voters to the ballot box. He will have to be careful, though, as that’s a blade that cuts cleanly two ways.

I was onstage three nights ago and mentioned that Scalia was no longer with us. I wasn’t prepared for the reaction. Several people cheered as if I had told them their favorite team had won. Not everyone was a fan.

Scalia’s death has changed the entire conversation in this current election cycle. It will garner much column space and speculation, and give anyone running for office an opportunity to define themselves. It also will take up a lot of the president’s 300-and-some days he has left in office.

I think America has been on the move to get somewhere since the Civil War ended, and I believe we have arrived. We are done with Washington and living in a post-political nation. People on both sides of the aisle are mad. They want their country back from the other side, which they are sure has hijacked it.

These are not new arguments, but they are louder, ruder, less sophisticated and more charged with aggression than ever. The meanness and unrestrained dipshittedness of the last several months of politics in the USA has been an incredible turnoff.

So what’s the solution? I don’t believe there is one.

I’ve been to all seven continents and about 90 countries and have never experienced anywhere nearly as free as the United States. We are where a lot of countries want to be, and we have a lot of what they want. They might not dig all of our guns and the sad statistics that come with them, but they are jealous of our patch of property.

Americans are proof that when you really get down to it, humans will resist authority and always strive for autonomy. We may have one-size-fits-all religion, but that’s it.

I think this puts Americans under undue pressure. It’s the paperwork that’s such a hassle. It’s real pretty to think that it could work — all people being created equal, etc. — but ever since the ink dried on the Bill of Rights, Americans have been unwilling or otherwise unable to see it through. It’s not a problem of Americans lacking some key attribute that keeps them from turning their country into a paradise of constitutional adherence. It’s that the bar is set too damn high.

The miracle of the United States is that there hasn’t been at least two more major conflicts between the states on the level of the Civil War. When you think about it, the fact that what are basically 50 different countries get along to the degree that they do is a profound human achievement. It often doesn’t work, but it is truly amazing that we have been able to keep the bloodshed as contained as we have.

Homo sapiens are, for the most part, ungovernable. Places like the United States and Somalia are the proof. That’s why our prisons are full, our defense industries humming, future wars in preproduction and our health care delivery systems a matter of great dispute.

Humans don’t get along all that often. That’s why there is murder, divorce and Congress.

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People still insist that America’s playing field is level. These are usually the ones who greatly benefit from its stark unevenness. They know much, much better. To a great degree, this is the fact that informs both Republicans and Democrats in their campaign rhetoric.

It has always been this way, with both sides pointing the finger at the other. The author of the Declaration of Independence was a slave owner. The fix was in from the start. Civil rights has never, ever been of majority national interest in the history of the United States. Look at what happened to those who really tried to make it stick. If you could get a dollar for every American who wanted President Lyndon B. Johnson booted out of office for ramming through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, you could buy any house in L.A.

You live in a free country. There are politicians who want to give you even more freedom! Freedom from pesky food inspectors and other free-market inhibitors. Anything less is a Bernie Sanders, socialist, ambition-killing vegan tree hug, right?

2016 is the year America hopped over the equals sign in the equation formed by the country’s social, industrial and technological evolution. You have one vote. Sheldon Adelson has one vote, too, but his vote is more votey than yours will ever be. All politicians want every possible vote, but they want his more than yours.

Romney was right. As bizarre as it sounds, corporations are people. Citizens United put it in the books. Judge Scalia was a big part of that. You’re a gorgeous, wonderful thang, but your government has closer ties, stronger obedience and higher fidelity to Boeing and Raytheon than it ever will to you.

American Democracy Inc. has shown you what it is. Save yourself the time and add years to your life by believing it. Otherwise, the teeth of the machine will tear your arm off.

It’s amazing we even have what you could loosely call a country at all. It’s amazing that only a little less than 10 percent of our presidents have been murdered. America’s a rough room. Always has been.

You wanted freedom, right? This is what it looks like.

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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