So, in the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide, Henry Rollins wrote a piece in LA Weekly called “Fuck Suicide,” in which he basically engages in a bit of “tough love” victim-blaming. This caused the world to drop on Henry Rollins’ head (here’s a fairly representative sample). Henry Rollins, to his credit, has offered up a reasonably decent apology, and plans to follow up in the same forum where the original piece ran. So that’s good, so far. Apologies are hard and hard to do well, and I think he hits the basics (and for those who don’t know, here are what I think are the basics).
A number of years ago a girl who I knew in high school committed suicide in college, in a way that at the time I thought was astoundingly dramatic. For years, when I thought of her at all, I was kind of pissed off at her. I thought of all the people she hurt with her actions, and I thought that fundamentally, what she had done was selfish and stupid and designed to get her attention that she thought she was owed and now would not be able to appreciate because she was dead — not that I thought she had thought about what would happen after she committed suicide. So that was my thinking about her, like I said, for years.
And then somewhere along the way, and I don’t remember when precisely it was, I realized that someone in this scenario was indeed an asshole, it’s just that I was putting the finger on the wrong person. The asshole was me. Because in fact I knew nothing about what was going on her head, or how much pain she may have been in, knew very little about depression or how it works on people — basically I knew nothing, period, about anything relevant. All I knew were my own opinions, based on my own life experience, in which neither suicidal thoughts, nor depression outside of a few occasional bad days, had ever featured. I wasn’t qualified to judge. Life is one long process of discovery about just how little you know about pretty much everything, and that includes people and the insides of their heads.
When I think of this young woman now, I mostly, simply, feel sad. I wish there would have been a way she could have seen her way through to sticking around. And I’m sorry that I spent years generally being pissed off at her. It was wrong of me, and it didn’t do either of us any good.
This is my way of saying that I get why Henry Rollins wrote what he did, and why he was the asshole in that scenario, and why I’m pleased, in that vague way that one is when thinking about people more famous than you, whose work you’ve enjoyed, that he’s accepted that he blew it and is trying to walk it back. As I’ve said many times, we all show our ass from time to time. I certainly have. What you do after you show your ass matters.