Writer, thinker, and philosopher Henry Rollins wrote one of those columns that you should put aside for a weekend and think about for a while for the L.A. Weekly, essentially condemning Robin Williams for taking his own life. Reading it, I knew that he would regret it pretty quickly. It was obviously fueled by emotion and anger, and I’m familiar with that feeling. It was how I felt when John Belushi died, and it was how I felt when Philip Seymour Hoffman died—so much so that I had written one of those be-sure-to-think-about-it-over-the-weekend-posts when that great actor died, and fortunately trashed it. But I’ve had exactly the same thoughts that Rollins expressed so powerfully—he expresses everything powerfully—and I know I’ll have them again. He wrote:
“Almost 40,000 people a year kill themselves in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In my opinion, that is 40,000 people who blew it. Fuck suicide. Life isn’t anything but what you make it. For all the people who walked from the grocery store back to their house, only to be met by a robber who shot them in the head for nothing — you gotta hang in there. I have life by the neck and drag it along. Rarely does it move fast enough. Raw Power forever.”
I get it. But I’ve also lost a college roommate, a second college friend, and three cousins to suicide, and in all of those cases, I know that Rollin’s sentiment would be as useful as telling them “Cheer up!” —which is to say, not useful at all. His opinion is valuable only to those who don’t really need it. As such, and certainly as applied to Robin Williams, it is cruel and unfair.
Now Rollins has written an unequivocal apology for these comments. He was certainly savaged by Williams fans, mental health advocates and others for what he wrote originally, but I do not think Henry Rollins would apologize just to avoid the barrage. It is as good an example of a Category #1 apology based on the ethics Alarms Apology Scale as we are likely to see. He says in part…
“The article I wrote in the LA Weekly about suicide caused a lot of hurt. This is perhaps one of the bigger understatements of all time. I read all the letters…That I hurt anyone by what I said, and I did hurt many, disgusts me. It was not at all my intent but it most certainly was the result. I have had a life of depression. Some days are excruciating. Knowing what I know and having been through what I have, I should have known better but I obviously did not. I get so mad when I hear that someone has died this way. Not mad at them, mad at whatever got them there and that no one magically appeared to somehow save them.
I am not asking for a break from the caning, take me to the woodshed as much as you see fit. If what I said has caused you to be done with me, I get it….
I am deeply sorry. Down to my marrow. I can’t think that means anything to you, but I am. Completely sorry. It is not of my interest to hurt anyone but I know I did.”
“…is motivated by the realization that one’s past conduct was unjust, unfair, and wrong, constituting an unequivocal admission of wrongdoing as well as regret, remorse and contrition, as part of a sincere effort to make amends and seek forgiveness.”
That was it, all right. Rollins is an ethical and thoughtful man; that he would not indulge in the usual “I m sorry if I upset anyone” deceit is not surprising at all.
It sure is refreshing, though.
UPDATE : Interestingly, Ann Althouse calls this a “non-apology.” Apparently Althouse thinks that unless Rollins disclaims his own words and declares his stated sentiments as wrong, then it’s not really an apology. That’s nonsense. Rollins apologized for the article, and that’s sufficient. He is saying, in effect, that he should have kept his feelings to himself in this case, that his thoughts about suicide were too hurtful to share. He does this clearly and without reserve.
Pointer: Mark Draughn (Windy Pundit)