Make no mistake: Gene Simmons can be an irritating, egotistical asshole. But he’s a smart one. One who has made money not just for himself, but for thousands of people along his five-decade career. And he is one who speaks his mind, however wrongly.
He is a classic jerk – and jerks have no recourse but to say things that upset “nice people who like nice things.” Jerks are great, even when they’re very very wrong.
His first outrage, early this month, was when he said, if you come to America, you should speak English. If you think this is bigotry, then you’re missing the point. For it’s pretty good advice – from a jerk – that you can give anyone coming to a new country: learn the language (because it’s good for you! I care!).
Mind you – I am really talking about non-eloquent factions born here and skulking at Apple stores – learning the language without the “likes” and “you knows” goes a long way to securing employment. There is nothing better than a well-written letter from someone born after 1989. If you find one, please send.
When a white liberal twitches at the thought of telling an immigrant to assimilate – that white liberal is simply patronizing the immigrant, enabling failure. And the surest path to loserdom is to be patronized by a liberal. We have dead cities based on such behavior. Instructing someone to do something that makes their life easier should be considered a good thing, no matter what the gelatinous worms at various blogging sites think. Sure, it sounds mean – but the world is mean. And full of people who learn the language, and take the job you wanted.
Anyway – days later, Simmons becomes a real jerk. Following the suicide of Robin Williams, he got into hot water for his comments about depression and suicide. Apparently even radio stations banned KISS music after an interview he did with Songfacts.com, where he said this:
“For a putz 20-year-old kid to say, ‘I’m depressed. I live in Seattle.’ F*** you, then kill yourself. I never understand, because I always call them on their bluff. I’m the guy who says ‘Jump’ when there’s a guy on top of a building who says, ‘That’s it, I can’t take it anymore. I’m going to jump.’ Are you kidding? Why are you announcing it? Shut the f*** up, have some dignity and jump! You’ve got the crowd,” Simmons said. “By the way, you walk up to the same guy on a ledge who threatens to jump and put a gun to his head, ‘I’m going to blow your f***in’ head off.’ He’ll go, ‘Please don’t.’ It’s true. He’s not that insane.”
After the expected outrage, Simmons apologized on Facebook, saying this:
“I was wrong and in the spur of the moment made remarks that in hindsight were made without regard for those who truly suffer the struggles of depression,” he wrote. “I sincerely apologize to those who were offended by my comments. I recognize that depression is very serious and very sad when it happens to anyone, especially loved ones. I deeply support and am empathetic to anyone suffering from any disease, especially depression.”
Why is this worth any defense? I mean, it sounds positively shitty.
Maybe it is – but it’s also forgivable.
First, Simmons is coming from a perspective of old school, physical, obvious horror: his mother survived a concentration camp. Therefore he cannot understand the suffering of those who do not face such unambiguous misery registered in ghastly weight loss, horrific beatings, and scars. What’s your problem? he thinks, wrongly.
You have all your limbs, your brain, your freedom. Be thankful, he thinks.
He doesn’t understand that, in the greatest country ever, misery is often locked in a brain. Even the depressed know this: the loathing one feels for your own misery is compounded by the fact that you are, on the outside, fine. It boggles the mind when you see a legless veteran enjoying life, and you, fully limbed, are contemplating a lonely leap off a local bridge. It’s part of the disease that you wish to marginalize the disease, like everyone else.
But, to some extent, the KISS front man has a point – there is no depression that can match the visceral hell his intellect might have absorbed as a child, listening to his mother. His version of evil – the Holocaust – trumps internal struggles because the external, murderous evil makes such struggles seem like nothing. Being beaten in public by a sadist seems worse than beating yourself with self-destructive thinking.
Would fighting for crumbs of rancid food in a field of rape make you fight to live, rather than contemplate taking your life? That’s what he was getting at, badly.
I suppose he chose the “Callahan” method. Remember in Dirty Harry, when our violent anti-hero rescued a jumper by engaging him aggressively, rather than with sympathy? He saved the guy (punching him in the face), but a question remains as to whether this works beyond celluloid.
No one, Simmons thinks, grapples with depression in a horror zone. It only meets you face to face in calm environments, when all other challenges are missing. His mother was in a camp. Robin Williams was in Marin. He is comparing apples and oranges, but I get why.
Is it insensitive?
Yes… and no.
He did not go up to the mother of a dead son, and say, “Ha, your son is weak for killing himself.” He did not beat the crap out of someone, because they’re different, or mentally ill. He expressed an opinion, coming from a world keenly knowledgeable of horrid historical events. His conclusions are clumsy – but is it really insensitive, when it’s offered to the world – and not to the individual?
As a way to curb glorified ideations of suicide – Simmons’ opinions might be tough love: you think you have it bad? Be in a concentration camp, like my mom – and you will fight to live, rather than long to die.
I’m no doctor, but this kind of approach probably doesn’t work. Depressed people operate with a depressed brain – they can agree with you completely that your ancestors had it worse, and still wish to die. Depression is a disease, and disease can’t be talked into remission.
General opinions offered in interviews often come across as insensitive. But because they are opinions, and we are humans, who can absorb them – and either accept, or dismiss them. As objectionable as you find Simmons’ perspective about things, we can agree this is not something he crafted to hurt a distraught relative. He was saying, “my god, you are not being tortured and murdered by heathens in a camp.”
He was talking generally, about the world at large. And that, as someone who knows raw suffering originating from the very worst history can offer, perhaps he cannot understand the kind of pain that isn’t patently obvious. That’s his flaw, but it’s a human one.
It’s clumsy and wrong, but so was “Calling Dr. Love.”