Henry Rollins: America’s Real Safety Net Is Drugs, Alcohol, Cheap Food and Free Porn


Henry Rollins: America's Real Safety Net Is Drugs, Alcohol, Cheap Food and Free Porn

Since the inception of America, as much concept as actual thing, the poor have been despised by the rich. It is an adversarial relationship that has not relented from then to this moment.

This antagonism and the agony it engenders is not only our collective story but informs much of our behavior now. No matter who you are or how you’re living in this country, it has saturated your life.

A lot of good things have happened in America, but many of them were attempts to neutralize or correct some incredibly awful things that eventually became so egregious that enough people stood up. Rarely has there been a spontaneous act of kindness. There were presidents like Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson who went hammer and tongs at change and tried to improve things. While they weathered a ton of harsh criticism that persists to this day, their accomplishments are monumental but rare.

Since I’ve been alive, the country has operated like a stick-shift car, driven by someone who has no idea how the parts work. There’s been a lot of damage without a lot of movement to show for it. For many wealthy people, the poor are, for lack of a better term, a pain in the ass.

“Illegals” often are preferred in the workplace because they know they have no recourse and just take it. This harkens back to a time when, for a stark minority, America was truly great. Slavery and indentured servitude were perfect deals. These other Homo sapiens were considered subhuman. They took what they were given and did what they were told.

Imagine how angry early America’s rich were when they lost the right to own a person. Look at what they did to preserve their way of life; see how tenaciously their ancestors cling to these values and seek to roll back progress.

Just think how pleased Paul Ryan would be if millions of Americans would finally do the jobs that Americans don’t want to do, for the wage that the boss tells them they’re going to get. Try to calculate the level of Mitch McConnell’s joy when millions of Americans would, rather than have the audacity to demand affordable health care, just die off when the quality of life determined by their pay grade ushered them to the end of their existence.

There is no existential threat to America that rivals what America inflicts upon itself.

The plea for equality is a hoarse cry in a country that was birthed in and operates on inequality. There’s enough money and resources to allow all American citizens access to health care, but it has simply never been a sustained priority. It’s been fascinating listening to politicians and think tankers assure interviewers that the health care plan that was recently given a toxic bill of health by the CBO is the smart and sustainable replacement to Obamacare. They’re trying to open a lemonade stand that sells piss. Not a single one of the members in either house of Congress will ever have to taste it.

There is no existential threat to America that rivals what America inflicts upon itself. Centuries of this is one of the reasons Americans are such rugged individuals. I say this with no irony. I have been all over the world and have witnessed some rough scenes, but none of these places were self-promoted as the greatest country in the history of humanity. That being said, America is still one of the harshest places I have ever been to. For a large fraction of the American population, this country is a coast-to-coast school of hard knocks and sucker punches. It has always been this way, and that’s one of the reasons why “Obamacare” was met with such opposition. The Affordable Care Act, like the president, threatened too many long-standing ways of the road.

The new bill, a version of which could very likely become law, will be back to business as usual. The “safety net” is more pretty talk than anything else. The real safety net is drugs, tobacco, alcohol, cheap food, free porn and other ways to cheaply distract oneself from the pain of contemporary general population lockdown. There’s no safety in any of it, just something to get you through for a little while.

It would be so refreshing if the GOP would just own up to it. Sure, there would be a lot of angry people but there’s a lot of angry people already. At least we could have it all on the table. If they could just say that the country’s always been the land of opportunity but with some basic and inflexible rules attached. There will be many, regrettably, who will have an endlessly challenging life, rife with misery and frustration. They’ll have justice like they’ll have equality and access to health care based on their race and economic class. No one’s trying to be “mean” or in any way untoward. It’s not us, it’s history’s great momentum! The frustration you feel is part and parcel of America trying to become great again.

I’m not saying lie down and die. I’m saying that it will be a miracle if America ever becomes scientifically inclined and peaceful, with levels of violence and discrimination that are less than horrifying. We’re the scariest species on the planet, but one of the hardest parts to wrap your head around is that the one country that constantly reminds all the others of its greatness, supremacy and awesome military power, which also professes to be the fairest and free-est, has some of the most unenviable statistics.

If America’s the best country, you would think that all other countries would want to do the same thing, right? If all countries were like America, how many more years do you think the planet would be able to sustain life of any kind?

USA is not only No. 1; it’s the only one.

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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Henry Rollins: America’s Real Safety Net Is Drugs, Alcohol, Cheap Food and Free Porn

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