Henry Rollins: You Should Listen to the Pope (But You Probably Won't)

Henry Rollins: You Should Listen to the Pope (But You Probably Won't)
Photo by Heidi May

Ah, the luxury of “first world problems.” I’ve been searching for the Crucial Bunny vs. Scientist Dub Duel LP at a reasonable price for months. Recently, the Internet was looking the other way and I scored an affordable copy. It’s spinning right now in all its much-played crunchiness.

I don’t know why, but I just had a vision of John Boehner sitting next to me, necktie like a headband, thanking me for introducing him to dub music and asking for suggestions on how he could bring Scientist’s music to Ohio without freaking out the locals. As he pats himself down for his cigarettes, I tell him that a lot of his fellow Ohioans are leery of anything that resembles science. He laughs and says that he shouldn’t be telling me this, but he agrees.

Unlit cigarette in his mouth, lighter in one hand, he reaches down and picks up a 40-ounce bottle of Olde English. My coffee mug to his brown paper bag, we toast: “To Pope Francis!”

Mr. Boehner hits the 40 and tells me that even though “you all on the West Coast have some crazy ideas about things,” he likes California very much. He goes outside to smoke and never returns.

I would be remiss to leave out the part about how we listened to the Memphis Poseurs (The 1977 Demos) bootleg album by the greatest of great Ohio bands, The Cramps, and upon its conclusion he broke down in tears and promised to get a statue of Lux Interior built in front of the capitol building in Columbus. Yes. That’s how my mind works.

Last month, on the night of the harvest moon, I was driving up Mulholland, passing people setting up their camera gear, as I thought about Pope Francis. If his itinerary was to be believed, he was in the air, bound for Rome. After a week in America, I wonder what he was drinking. Whatever it was, he deserved it.

What a schedule! Absorbing the unrestrained love of thousands must be incredibly draining. Even worse, knowing that the messages people are hearing — people who seem to be hanging on your every word, their minds dizzy with the ideas that love is better than war, that kindness is the best weapon against hatred and that the entire human world needs to get to work to promote the blessing of life in all forms — will not be acted on.

At best, it was approximately 100 jet-lagged, selfless hours of your best material lavished upon those who would rather get a selfie with you than take what you said to heart. I wonder if this pope, or any pope, considers himself a spiritual warrior who only engages in pyrrhic battles.

There were many moving and beautiful moments of humanity that the pope brought to bear during his visit. While I am not on board with any pope addressing Congress, as it reeks of church and state in a lip-locked grope-a-thon, I wasn’t surprised by his appearance and was overjoyed that he made assholes like Ted Cruz sit through his petitions for climate-change awareness and fighting poverty.

Check the photos of Boehner sitting behind the pope as he spoke. His face ran the gamut of emotions as he realized that he was indeed quitting and that the biggest achievement of his political life was to bring a speaker into his house who just ripped him 10 different ways — and that it happened to be the pope.

Boehner saved this, his best act of auto-humiliation, for last. This was even better than the time in 2009 when, addressing a crowd of the faithful, he pulled out his government-issued booklet and said, “This is my copy of the Constitution. I’m going to stand here with our founding fathers, who wrote in the preamble, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident ...’” If you watched the audience, assuredly strict constitutionalists all, none of them seemed to notice that he was reading the beginning of the Declaration of Independence.

This embarrassment to Congress is a mere private-sector clown. Self-terminating his command was honorable. Barely.

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Pope Francis, the Vatican City MC with the full weight of DJ JC behind him, brilliantly schooled America in Humanity 101 for a week, and by the looks of the attendance, a lot of people were into it. How long will the peace, love and understanding last? It’s already over.

The best reaches of religion seem like intense yoga poses. Probably good for you and very hard to maintain. “All humans are worthy of respect ...” — and then you get cut off on the 10 by a guy moving over three lanes to get on the 405, nearly perpetrating a Lethal Weapon–style smashup, and you’re back to wanting them all to die, die, die!

Many of us humans are too highly functioning and, at the same time, under-equipped to take on a lot of the moral coolness that Pope Francis was slinging. America has had a lot of chances to let peace and equality flourish. I would argue that our brief history shows we’re just not all that into it. Still, one man made millions of Americans, believers or otherwise, stop for a moment and think about other members of the species and where it’s all going. You can’t possibly thank him enough. I just hope he wasn’t wasting his time.

The pope, a logical, love-espousing virtue machine and, seemingly, a genuinely good man, was under an incredible amount of security while here, which says more about Americans than about his global status as a pillar of peace and possibility.

Poor humans. We’re all, to a certain degree, fucked up. We get it right enough of the time and, splattered in blood and dripping with sin, make it to the end of yet another fiscal quarter. We are the miracle, yet all too often squander our fortunes.

Invest in vinyl! Amen.

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


More From the Mind of Henry Rollins:
The Major Labels Are Screwing Up Record Store Day

When You Claim Racism Is Over, You Get a Dylann Roof
Why I'm Not an Atheist


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