Henry Rollins: I Am Not Holding My Breath for America to Be Great

Great again? It was never all that great to begin with.EXPAND
Great again? It was never all that great to begin with.

It’s a night off in Durham, North Carolina. I just watched Anderson Cooper interview Melania Trump on CNN. I guess things are not going well, so they had to bring her in for the charm offensive. Unsurprising to hear her accuse Billy Bush of “egging on” Trump, causing him to talk about pussy grabbing and all the rest.

Ms. M then accused the “left-wing media” of bashing her husband. “They want to influence the American people how to vote, and they are influencing in the wrong way.”

I think the media is just playing the recordings, airing the speeches and letting the electorate decide. And I’m convinced that not one of Trump’s supporters gives a damn what he said to Billy Bush or whether any of the allegations of inappropriate behavior are true.

If you want to find out what either candidate thinks of issues outside of the aforementioned, one will wear you out with information and plans. The other one, not so much.

I think Ms. Trump’s interview was part of the Trump campaign’s post-election defeat strategy for their lives going forward. Between her blaming everything on that damned left-wing media to her husband claiming an election that hasn’t happened yet is rigged, it’s obvious they have given more thought to rebranding the grift than to what the new wallpaper in the White House will look like.

This is where Trump, the failed businessman, shows his huge acumen. If he loses, his earnings in the private sector will skyrocket. He’ll be able to sell everything from reverse mortgages to gold to patriot/prepper meals with a 25-year shelf life. His foaming followers will never admit they were had.

That being said, if there is one country that you would be foolish to predict that next move of, it’s America. No matter who wins, the room is only going to get rougher.

American politics has certainly been this dismal before. You don’t have to go too far back before the ghosts of McCarthy, Wallace and others crowd the windshield on your moonlight drive. It seems to be the same bad joke, all the worse from repetition.

If Hillary Clinton becomes president, some will see it as an achievement, in much the same way as many saw President Obama’s two terms. I think Americans pat themselves on the back too often. The country’s history is a series of catastrophic choices and actions, resulting in not only a staggering body count but also a generational disenfranchisement and misery that should be the lesson, not the legacy. The “great” parts are, for the most part, “what took you so longs.”

Examples are plentiful. There’s slavery, indefensible by any argument, made unconstitutional in 1865 by the 13th Amendment. Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court decision in 1896 upholding segregation in public places, the idea of “separate but equal,” making American-style apartheid enforceable until it was finally overturned by Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

Then there’s the story of Mildred Jeter, a woman of African and Rappahannock Native American lineage, and Richard Loving, a white man, who ran afoul of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act, established in 1924, making it illegal for people of different races to marry. The Lovings were married in Washington, D.C., but lived in Virginia. Their home was raided and their legally obtained marriage certificate got them both sentenced to a year in prison. Thankfully, they were allowed to leave the state without having to serve the time. In 1967, they took their case to the Supreme Court, who invalidated all such ridiculous antimiscegenation laws.

I am not holding my breath for America to be great. At this point, I’ll settle for semi-literate and not as afraid of science as it used to be.

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While the country’s backstory is splattered with blood-soaked injustice and not at all great, many of the inhabitants are. It is my third night in North Carolina. The days have been perfect early fall, a little warmer than they used to be, but I’ll just deploy my inner Rubio and work around that. Not even House Bill 2 can keep the state from being great. Some of the friendliest, most even-keeled people I meet on tour are here.

Every night, I look into the audience and see my optimism reflected. Looking back are hundreds of sane, sensible people who have different expectations of everything from their government to the people they share America with. For the most part, they are younger than I am and I’m willing to bet that we are different in many ways. I’m part of the older demographic that’s slowly but surely being moved to the sidelines. I tell them that I demand an upgrade from every one of them and myself. Brighter ideas, better outcomes, more intelligence, less fear, more science and innovation, less tradition and regression.

America is days away from finishing out eight years with a man whom a solid majority elected to change the country’s course. Turns out, the majority wasn’t all that into it and, ironically, it was the minority that bided its time and stood on its message with far more zeal. The minority wanted the past again more than the rest wanted the future, so here we are.

Now it’s time to go back to the old playbook. Another four years of being frustrated with elected officials you sent to Washington to do what they promised. Apparently, that’s all we want and all we can handle.

I stopped getting mad at politicians years ago and started getting mad at myself instead. The blame for the grinding dullness and depressing predictability of the current election cycle is on the electorate as much as it is on the candidates. That America gets everything it deserves and settles for is a hard truth to swallow. Maybe one day, we’ll get tired of choking on it.

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:
White America Couldn't Handle What Black America Deals With Every Day
Bowie's Blackstar Is on the Level of Low and Heroes
No Matter Who Wins, America Is Only Going to Get Angrier


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