[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Saturday KCRW broadcast.]
The fallout from SCOTUS upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act has been a great lesson in civic morality. The pundits' heads are aflame and spinning! The socialist tyranny is here! Here comes President Obama in his big government tank! Your freedoms are being crushed underneath its fascist treads!
No, really, I think the dramatics are cute and funny. The audacity of the president to get America off its ass to be more responsible!
No matter how complicated you want to make things, it's actually a very simple matter. Take this example: Bubba, a man with no health insurance, lives his kick-ass American life. In the process, he gets overweight and ruins his heart and respiratory system by taking bad care of himself.
This is a man exercising his liberty. Real Americans are big on that.
One day Bubba falls down and goes boom. His family rushes him to a local emergency room, where he is stabilized after what will later be diagnosed as heart trouble. He will spend a few days in the hospital.
The bill will be enormous. Can he pay it? Oh, hell no. Someone will pay. Not God, and not Paul Ryan.
Who pays for Bubba? I do. I have health insurance. My rates go up because Bubba is irresponsible.
If Bubba was truly the rugged individual he claims to be, cut from the coarse bolt of Ayn Randian fabric, he would no doubt refuse treatment and die. The thing is, he is not a rugged individual. You want to see rugged? Vietnam, India, Sudan — that's rugged. Bubba couldn't hack it for a day.
The president proposes something sensible and preventive to keep Bubba and others like him in better shape. Bubba freaks out. Bubba is, in fact, a leech and a freeloader.
In the summer of 1984, I got it. I got all I had to know and then some. I didn't need to read the paper, I didn't need to watch the news. By making endless laps around the country on tour, playing music almost every night in the tough part of tough towns, I got it. Got what? I got the picture. I saw where America was and, more importantly, where it was going. I was right about all of it.
Decades later, they call it Reaganism. At the time, I saw myself and others like me in the crosshairs of someone's scope. We were an endangered species, targeted for extinction.
I understood why dangerous drugs were easier to get than a cup of water and why the law was so fluid and subjective. Those employed to uphold and enforce it could reshape it as easily as they could exhale.
I realized that the accessibility to poison and the attitude of American law enforcement IN EVERY STATE I ENTERED had an agenda and a goal. We were to be neutralized, incarcerated or killed off until we were all gone.
We got it all in the teeth. Local politicians, religious groups and a whole lot of cops — uniform, detective, undercover — made us feel their hate. So, like I said, I got it.
I read On the Road and thought it was total bullshit. I read Howl and dug it but thought the people he was depicting didn't move fast enough and should have seen it coming much, much sooner.
Reagan's coward squad was pulling a pumped-up COINTELPRO on a certain strain of artist, musician and thinker in America. They had much success. A lot of young people were incarcerated and killed in this war. When AIDS was deployed and started its ruinous journey, I wasn't surprised. I was rather impressed, actually. They were pulling out all the stops and gaining ground.
This is when I made my plans. I reckoned that America wasn't a country you lived in as much as an environment you survived. The brand of “What are you looking at, faggot?” capitalism that was unleashed guaranteed a few big winners and lots of losers.
I knew that I needed not only plan A but B, C, D and E as well if I was going to survive. Social Security, what I understood about it, meant nothing to me. I didn't believe then, as I don't believe now, that it will exist for me. Someone will give me a check so I can live another couple of weeks? I am more ready to see a unicorn come in through the window. I understood that I was on my own and that freedom, while great, was a completely feral thing that could turn on you in the blink of an eye.
For me it was physical intensity and the best quality food I could afford. No drugs, alcohol, weed or tobacco — they were there to make you mediocre of aspiration, slow-moving, pliant and easy to arrest. I was going to be a very hard target.
I started my own publishing company to put out my dumb little books and took a ton of shit for it. I started doing shows on my own — just reading my writing — and drew flies and projectiles.
Music became a way to harness all the anger and reflect it right back at them. I had no interest in being a musician, I sought only to be a weaponized intellect with a body that could take the pounding.
People like Chuck Dukowski, Ian MacKaye and Joe Strummer — they were right about what was happening around us. The politicians and police were corrupt and could not be trusted. but the music didn't lie.
So, we're in interesting times. We have a president who has thrown a wrench into the guts of the death machine and the vampires are screaming. Hey, it might cost him an election, but in the meantime it might save a few lives.
New Japandroids and Melvins albums out now. I just got word that we can expect some new Deerhoof soon. I feel better already!