I realize that the Henry Rollins I see on my television is not the same person I pictured the first time I heard Damaged as a kid. And he shouldn't be. That Henry—immortalized for punching a mirror—was a lot younger, angrier, and less politically aware. He also represented the epitome of the punk/hardcore lifestyle of that era: living cheap, eating cheap, and spending as much time on tour as possible.
Flash-forward 31 years after the release of Damaged, and Henry is an actual celebrity. He even has his very own column in the LA Weekly, which often times can be good and informative if you don't read it in the "Rollins" voice.
Sometimes I actually feel bad making fun of him because he's one of the few artists from the 80s who not only still likes music, he actually still buys and publicizes new music. Several independent label owners have shared stories about him being the first to buy a newly released limited CD-R or LP from their web stores. That's a lot cooler than anything Morrissey has done since the Smiths broke up. Unfortunately, Henry also likes to weigh in on politics, and he does it in the same way he talks about natural disasters, drugs, and sex—in character.
I came across his column supporting Obamacare, in which, like most of his columns, he attempts to lace humor throughout his overly simplistic rants and opinions:
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.
I don't know why Rollins is so upset with Bubba and making so many ill-informed assumptions about him. Maybe Bubba just doesn't give a fuck, like many people Henry toured with during his years in Black Flag and other projects. It’s like, dude, you are well aware that punk rockers aren't the healthiest people on the planet, right? Isn't it Bubba's constitutional right to eat Doritos, snort pain meds (if he got them legally for his bad back, wink wink), and get as extreme as he wants? The reader is left with the conclusion that it was OK to act like this in the 80s, which was, of course, well before Henry realized he was old and decided to purchase health care.
Henry's logic, and the logic of many who support mandatory health care, is this: If someone who doesn't give a shit about their health and wellbeing—let's call him Dupree—is forced to purchase insurance, it will keep premiums down for the health conscious. Dupree might still eat like crap and smoke two packs a day, but if he suddenly gets cancer and he’s covered by mandated health care, the irresponsible actions of this weakling won’t increase the cost of Henry’s—or anyone else’s—health insurance.
That's weird because Massachusetts, a state with mandatory health care, also ranks quite high in individual health care costs. Maybe those with families get a break? Nah, it's still expensive. Using data from 2009, HuffPo ranked Massachusetts as the most expensive state for health care, and more recently they are ranking tenth from everything I can find.
Apparently it’s not as simple as Henry thinks. The Congressional Budget Office actually projects premiums to be higher in 2016, partly because lower-tier plans will be forced to provide more coverage than they do now.
Massachusetts is viewed by many as the leader in health care reform, but there are still quite a few hang-ups and convolution. Just ask Katie Slowe. Because of a flaw in health care laws in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, she's faced with dropping out of college and making less money, or dropping out and being covered by MassHealth, which would provide the $1,000-a-month insulin pump she needs to treat her diabetes.
Since becoming a full-time student, Katie’s has been forced to drop her state plan with MassHealth. And she can't afford her college's insurance because it isn’t covered by her financial-aid program.
Under the Affordable Health Care Act, Katie would most likely be able to stay under her parents’ plan but the Act doesn’t apply to poor people like Katie who qualify for state programs. Whoops! Maybe Massachusetts isn’t such a great model for reform, after all.
The liberals supporting Obamacare often overlook the fact that Mitt Romney pushed for the plan in Massachusetts, which many cite as a success; however, he doesn't support mandatory health care on a federal level. Wait! Could this mean the health care not as simple as the sentiment of "Rise Above"?
As much as Mitt has flopped on his stance on health care, Henry flops too. He recalls what he saw on tour in the Great United States of America during the early 80s:
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.
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.
Huh? So wait, is he saying Reagan wanted to make sure more of us died in order to drive up the health care costs? I guess we can hatch some conspiracy theory that the Reagan administration had a vested interest in the health care industry and cooked up this plot to kill people and profit from inflating health care premiums, but that would be a very, very dumb hypothesis—one that’s about as feasible as Rollins Band making another good album, or Henry playing a convincing role as someone compassionate and selfless in a romantic comedy.
So what's a punk to do without health care, especially with drugs and alcohol in his face every night on the road, compounded with the threat of contracting AIDS? It's simple, man: You do what Bubba is too much of a PUSSY to do: Become Part Animal, Part Machine!
Or, as Rollins puts it, "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."
There, that was easy. If you don't want to die, and rudely make future Henry pay more money for health care, stop drinking and doing drugs, get in shape, write a book about how much pussy you got on the road, and release an album called Slip It In. We'll just assume he always wore condoms while living off dog food balled up in Wonder bread.