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G.D. the Drug Dealer

Natalia J. Garland

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By now, everyone has heard Reverend Jeremiah Wright's remarks about "God damn America." There has already been much commentary about this. Even so, the apparent condemnation of America, by an American, was so shocking that people are still talking about it. Those of us who continue to find the remarks worthy of discussion are accused of taking Wright's words out of context and giving that part of his message more emphasis than is warranted. But, if Wright wants to G.D. our nation, apparently for past sins related to slavery and racism, that means the Reverend himself has taken one segment of American history out of context and has invoked God's wrath upon all descendants of the white race.

Nobody would disagree that slavery and racism--the rapes, lynchings, and other injustices--are not to be tolerated or excused. God will exercise His divine judgment on all perpetrators of inhumanity. What is questionable, however, is Wright's remark that America "...acts like she is God..." Here is the remark as heard on various T.V. news programs.

No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.
[End of quote.]

Wright seems to refer only to white America as deserving damnation. When he speaks of "our citizens," this would likely refer to people who have been oppressed or persecuted by their fellow Americans. Specifically, since Wright is the black preacher of a black church, it would seem to refer to blacks who were victims of slavery and racism. Why would such behavior make America godlike? Perhaps Wright connects the ownership of people (i.e., slavery) with God's authority to create and to judge, and the abuse of people (i.e., racism) with God's Old Testament incidents of destruction (e.g., the flood, etc.). In other words, only God has the right to give or take life, and to bless or curse. That would mean America, or perhaps all white people of European descent, have usurped God's powers.

Wright's argument, however, is too convoluted to withstand reason or historical and biblical verification. Unfortunately, the God called upon to G.D. America would have to be described as hateful. A hateful America is guilty of deciding the disposition or fate of her black citizens without their consent; and a comparably hateful deity is called upon to damn the hateful nation. It does not make sense, but it does arouse emotion from both blacks and whites. That's why we keep talking about it.

It has been a long time since a G.D. statement received so much attention. We would have to travel back to 1968 to find another one. There was a rock-n-roll group, Steppenwolf, which sung a song entitled, "The Pusher." The term pusher was a street name for drug dealers. In those days, even among addicts themselves, pushers were regarded as despicable people. Like the drug dealers of today, they made their living by selling harmful and addictive drugs to impressionable youth who were open to experimenting with anything, as well as to desperate addicts.

Steppenwolf called upon God to damn drug dealers for a type of destruction and death which could not have been possible without the availability of drugs.

The Pusher
1968, lyrics and music by Hoyt Axton

You know I've smoked a lot of grass
O' Lord, I've popped a lot of pills
But I never touched nothin'
That my spirit could kill
You know, I've seen a lot of people walkin' 'round
With tombstones in their eyes
But the pusher don't care
Ah, if you live or if you die

God damn, The Pusher
God damn, I say The Pusher
I said God damn, God damn The Pusher man

You know the dealer, the dealer is a man
With the love grass in his hand
Oh but the pusher is a monster
Good God, he's not a natural man
The dealer for a nickel
Lord, will sell you lots of sweet dreams
Ah, but the pusher will ruin your body
Lord, he'll leave your, he'll leave your mind to scream

God damn, The Pusher
God damn, God damn the Pusher
I said God damn, God, God damn The Pusher man

Well, now if I were the president of this land
You know, I'd declare total war on The Pusher man
I'd cut him if he stands, and I'd shoot him if he'd run
Yes I'd kill him with my Bible and my razor and my gun

God damn The Pusher
God damn The Pusher
I said God damn, God damn The Pusher man

© Irving Music Inc. (BMI)
[End of quote.]

What are some of the similarities and differences between Wright's and Steppenwolf's G.D. remarks? One similarity is that both call upon God to punish or remove people who bring harm or death to vulnerable or innocent others. But, there are three major differences: (1) historical perspective, (2) the specific targets of damnation, and (3) the motivation for damning.

Wright seems to G.D. all of America for past slavery and racism, and for current racism even though racist incidents have greatly decreased since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's. If Wright also extends damnation to include the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima, the Vietnam War, and the Iraq War, this would seem to reinforce a faulty notion that white America wants to oppress all people of color. To refute this would require an in-depth discussion of the rationale for those wars, and this is beyond the scope of today's essay.

Steppenwolf directs damnation specifically toward one group of people: drug dealers. The harm which this category of people inflicts is unmistakable. There is no such thing as a good drug dealer. Steppenwolf does not G.D. all of America for the activity of drug dealers within the country. Wright, however, seems to G.D. all of America for past and present racism. Wright does not seem to allow that there can be non-racist whites and racist blacks, or that the course of American history has positively changed for blacks since the 1960's (and since the Civil War). In contrast, since 1968 when "The Pusher" was written, drug dealers have increased the growing and trafficking of illegal drugs, and they are more organized and violent. Drug dealers are growing and mixing more potent drugs, and dealers are a dominant and dangerous force in some parts of the world.

What is the motivation behind Wright's and Steppenwolf's G.D. remarks? If Wright wants to damn all of white America, he might seem like an angry dictator to many people. It certainly is not an accurate evaluation of the development of American democracy. Wright has lived through a turbulent yet exciting period of American history. His perspective seems imbalanced in the context of recent American history as well as world history. Will the Reverend also damn the ancient Egyptians who used slave labor to build one of the Wonders of the World, the Pyramids? Or the black Africans who captured and sold slaves for the white slave-traders to ship to America?

Steppenwolf's motivation seems to include anger and revenge, but also a feeling of helplessness against the power of an active drug addiction. It is the song of an addict who is currently using drugs, and who is possibly engaged in some wishful-thinking that his addiction would be dissolved if his suppliers were dead. The addict is looking for an easy way out of his problem, while also expressing his disgust of people who make money by harming him and his friends.

Drug addiction remains a severe problem in America, while racism has declined. Drug dealers enable Americans of all races to ruin their lives with illegal substances. Many drugs are trafficked into America via the U.S.-Mexico border. But nobody is saying G.D. Mexicans or G.D. Colombians. Nobody believes that all Colombians approve of or are involved in drug trafficking. Nobody would dare to damn the drug dealers' children as sharing in the guilt. Nobody wants to mobilize all Americans against all Colombians in the name of stopping the flow of drugs. Likewise, nobody should G.D. America. We need to pray for guidance and mercy, and let God judge the heart. (Written 03/28/08: bibliography available.)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2008 Natalia J. Garland