Last week, Henry Rollins brought a shitstorm of controversy down on himself when, in an L.A. Weekly column, he castigated Robin Williams and others who have committed suicide, writing that when someone commits suicide, “I can no longer take this person seriously. I may be able to appreciate what he or she did artistically but it’s impossible to feel bad for them.” A few days ago, he categorically apologized for the column, and now he’s expanded on that apology and pledged to do better.
In his latest L.A. Weekly column, Rollins writes about all the feedback he’s gotten since writing that first column, thanking the readers who called him out and promising to understand and empathize with suicidal people more: “I cannot defend the views I expressed. I think that would be taking an easy out. I put them out there plainly and must suffer the slings and arrows — fair enough. I won’t attempt to dodge them. However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t be taught a thing or two… I promise that I will dig in and educate myself on this and do my best to evolve.”
In the piece, he also writes a bit about his own history with depression, while allowing that his own depression is not severe. And to Rollins’ credit, he never defends his previous position or qualifies his apology, signing off thus: “To those I offended, I believe you and I apologize. If what I wrote causes you to toss me out of your boat, it is to my great regret, but I understand and thank you for your thoughts.”
Still, should a smart and prominent adult human, in 2014, need to be told to empathize with people who are obviously going through unimaginable inner hells? Shouldn’t he realize, without the benefit of angry letters, that it’s a fundamentally bad idea to use a public platform to criticize a beloved dead man before his body is cold? I don’t know, man.