Why so many Americans have literal sympathy for the devil

With police playing both ends of the game as protests and demonstrations broke out across the nation after the choking death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a section of lyrics from the Rolling Stones song Sympathy for the Devil came to mind.

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
‘Cause I’m in need of some restraint

Here’s both the beauty and the problem with a song such as Sympathy for the Devil. It is a masterpiece of rock satire, rich with insight into the motivations and corruptions of the human race. The Devil is both the cause and the foil of all these historic activities from the death of Jesus Christ to the murder of the Kennedys.

Yet given that the song has a title, “Sympathy for the Devil,” that can be literally construed as an apologetic for Satan, there are factions of people in this world that never comprehend the true meaning of the lyrics. They begin like this:

Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul to waste

It is critical to understand from the outset that the Satan character in question is an inherent part of human nature. Not a separate entity. Not an outside influence. Satan lives within us when we allow the “world” to take over our souls. That’s why they are “stolen” and laid to waste.

The song goes on to warn that the actions of the human race are complex, and that one individual can symbolize the plot, and the plight, of many who fall into the trap of worshipping power.

And I was ’round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Thus we find the refrain, brilliant composed to repeat itself throughout the song, in which the Devil reintroduces himself while tossing a cryptic statement out for our consideration:

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my gameI

Both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had already seen much of how the world works by the time they composed Sympathy for the Devil. Rock stars gain a unique insight into the nature of idol worship in general. Combined with the worlds of unlimited drugs, sex and world travel, those two plucked symbols from history to illustrate how and why the world goes sour, and what the consequences are. It only takes a few cogent lines to encapsulate what happens when political upheaval tears into the fabric of society, and fascism runs over justice:

Stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vainI

Rode a tank
Held a general’s rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank

Ah yes, the devil gets around alright. And he/she is always glad to meet someone willing to play the dangerous game of choosing sides with authoritarians and despots promising heaven while they create hell all around them.

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
Ah, what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeahI

The sad, sick part in all this is religion’s role in making it all worse. Mick and Keith dared to suggest that many gods were manufactured in the name of God. That’s where the worship of money and indulgences, the power of tradition, and the nasty habits of oppression and repression come together. We’ve seen it here in America in the last three years, and for the previous sixty years before that. Right now the penchant of authoritarian worship is blowing up in our faces. Donald Trump is responsible for it all, right down to the cop kneeling on the neck of a black man on the streets of Minneapolis. Trump is an expression of all the works of the devil. The Seven Deadly Sins: pride, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, sloth, and wrath.

Watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made

I shouted out
Who killed the Kennedys?
When after all
It was you and me

At this point in the song, the Devil comes around to the original nature of his supposed virtues. The lyrics show that no innocent will escape his attention.

Let me please introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached Bombay

If you’re familiar with the song Sympathy for the Devil, you know how the searing guitars and Mick Jagger’s twisting voice turn the melody into a mocking tribute to the kind of all Con Men. He taunts and repeats the refrain, each time making it more obvious that the target of the song is often the perpetrator and a partner with the devil in committing evil deeds.

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what’s confusing you
Is just the nature of my game, mm yeah

Then the song takes a wicked turn to illustrate the threat of what’s really going on when the devil inside people takes control. Let’s recall that the murder of George Floyd took place right after the news cycle chewed on the death of a black jogger, Ahmaud Arbery, who was murdered by shotgun in Georgia earlier this year. The United States has embraced a brand of vigilante justice infecting both the public and the law enforcement world. This has turned the notion of law inside out and upside down. And we should not forget the long line of mass shootings during all this racist brutality as well.

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
‘Cause I’m in need of some restraint

And then comes the bitter end, when Sympathy for the Devil wraps its arms around the issue of complicity and favoring those who claim righteousness while doing heinous work. One can almost imagine Donald Trump Tweeting these first few words…

So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste…

But the devil finally gives us a warning. Better wise up, people, or you’ll be sucked in.


Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I’ll lay your soul to waste, mm yeah

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, mm yeah

From there, the song falls onto a steaming river of lament and teasing when the devil taunts the innocents and calls them honey and sweetie. One can almost imagine the honeys and sweeties at one of Donald Trump’s rallies; those big-haired, blue-eyed blondes in MAGA tee shirts and oversized breasts fawning over the Cheater In Chief. He meets the combined fantasies and treasured taboos of sexual provocateur possessed of great wealth and supposed moral virtue. Yet he also appeals to the Boys Club of politically cuckolded husbands and dispossessed gun-toters hoping for a target to assuage their pent-up rage. But most of all, Trump appeals to the the Victimhood Mentality of rabid apologists who hand on his every sympathetic word. That’s why evangelical Christians seeking a hero flocked to Trump as a communicator of their claims to persecution despite the fact that Christianity is the most privileged of religions in all of American history. It is a perversion of truth for Christians to claim that their liberties are being threatened by granting equal and civil rights to other members of society. And let’s recall that a literal and legalistic brand of Christianity was a principle player in the institution of slavery in the United States.

Do you get it now? Or shall we explain it again?

But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, mm mean it, get down
Oh yeah, get on down
Oh yeah Oh yeah

One can imagine Trump standing over one of his fired cabinet members, Apprentice proteges or abused political appointments demanding them to repeat his name.

Tell me baby, what’s my name
Tell me honey, can ya guess my name
Tell me baby, what’s my name
I tell you one time, you’re to blame

Did you catch that last line? That’s the gaslighting part of all this Trumpism. No matter what evil he does, or how many lies and excuses he uses to justify his own incompetency, Trump always tells the world someone else is to blame. Often it is those closest to him that suffer the most. And once he casts them aside, he taunts them publicly.

Oh, right What’s my name
Tell me, baby, what’s my name
Tell me, sweetie, what’s my name

But here’s the sad, sick truth in all this literal sympathy for the devil. Conservatives have long misunderstood and missed the messaging in social protest songs such as this. When Ronald Reagan played Born In the USA at his political rallies, he had no idea that the lyrics indicted all the things he stood for. And that’s what’s going on in America right now. The devil has all the literalists and slogan suckers in his grip, and all they choose to do is blame everyone else for their problems while spewing hate, gaslighting those who question them and filling the Internet with the repeated lies of the devil himself.

So perhaps it’s time to stop showing patience to the deplorable and depraved in this country, these people whose racist instincts and selfish lust for power have supported a man whose delay and denial of the pandemic have cost millions of people their jobs. If this were a different period in history, there would be a rush on the Capitol and Trump would be dragged to the guillotine and his head placed on a spike. Politically at least, that’s what should happen. But we’ll be lucky if we can even conduct a safe and legal election to remove him from office and begin to confront the sympathy for the devil that Trump supporters call Make America Great Again.

Can you guess my name?

Source: LyricFind Songwriters: Keith Richards / Mick JaggerSympathy For The Devil lyrics © Abkco Music, Inc. This blog originally published on GenesisFix.Wordpress.com by Christopher Cudworth.

1 thought on “Why so many Americans have literal sympathy for the devil

  1. Pingback: Are each of us irrelevant on a global stage? Not at all. | We Run and Ride

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