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HENRY ROLLINS interviewed by Big Wheel Magazine, January 2013

Last Friday (January 4th), Big Wheel Magazine conducted an interview with punk icon and former BLACK FLAG and ROLLINS BAND singer Henry Rollins.

The dust of the election campaigns has settled, but the divide in America has not; with individuals filing petitions for the cession of heavily “red” states, and others filing counter petitions to deport those who wish to cede. You have frequently called upon people to get to work on the important issues, how do you think the nation can move forward from this ridiculously polarized position?

I think America has never recovered from the Civil War. In many ways, things have not changed all that much since 1865. It can be argued that the Reconstruction era America had more failure than success. We got the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. The Fourteenth is an extremely important one for all Americans. However, America still largely votes on the same lines drawn up during the Civil War. There are at least two Americas. The Tenth Amendment keeps the level of friction at flashpoint. I think we do, eventually get on with things. Americans don’t like change, so things take awhile. There was a time, less than one hundred years ago, when women couldn’t vote. Years from now, marriage equality will be one of those things that’s not a thing. It will just be marriage. I think a lot of America’s woes are generational. I also think things are getting better.

If the Tenth Amendment contributes so much to partisan friction, is there a good argument for retaining individual state identity? In modern times when information can be shared almost instantaneously, and physical distances spanned in a small number of hours, is there a benefit greater than the cost of maintaining both states and inter-state rivalries?

You will never dissolve state lines. State versus Fed will always be a functional friction and a money maker. In the American identity, there needs to be adversarial relationships. It sells football tickets. I think the tension, for the most part is good. It’s a large land mass. The problem is that some of the states are now becoming more like countries.

This holiday season has seen a large number of tragedies related to gun violence here in America. You have traveled broadly. Is there a fundamental difference in how Americans perceive violence and violence control measures from the way other cultures or nations do? Is this responsible for the high rates of gun violence in this country?

I think that in other parts of the world, they have a history of loss that is in their culture. In a place like Vietnam, it is a country still emerging from a conflict decades ago. American forces left a lot of chemicals and ordinance in that country. They know all about loss. A lot of European countries didn’t let the lessons of WWII go unlearned. America by comparison, has no real history of loss. Our sense or idea of freedom is often accompanied with a lack of responsibility. Americans act out. We do a lot of things in large, high contrast fashion. We have a gun culture and there are a lot of tough guys out there. They seem to me more loudmouthed weekend warrior types. I think those who have really been out into to territory and seen some real death are not nearly so loud. Americans are not always tested that much but are often quick to buy all the accessories.

So can some of American machismo in public policy be attributed to what amounts to a lack of context?

I think all machismo, the self aware version at least is mere insecurity. “I am rich because I am strong. You are poor because you are weak and lazy.” that kind of fake toughness, it costs America quite a bit. It’s why the country isn’t leading the world in everything.

The rest of the interview can be read here.

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