Conservatives are wailing and gnashing their teeth over rapper Lil Nas X’s new satanic song and sneakers. The shoes feature pentagrams and a single drop of human blood. The music video depicts the performer giving Satan a lap dance. The publicity stunt, timed to coincide with the start of Holy Week, has succeeded at getting people to talk about Lil Nas and his products, and all it cost the rapper was his soul.
The Right is right to take the rapper’s antics seriously. Satan is a real person, Hell is a real place, and—to borrow a phrase from Baudelaire—”the greatest trick of the Devil is to persuade people he doesn’t exist.” As the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia once reminded a smirking interviewer from the New Yorker, “Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.” It’s all fun and games until the Devil devours your soul.
Unfortunately, conservatives have not taken Lil Nas seriously enough. The rapper’s music video, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” offers more than the shallow carnality of Cardi B’s “WAP”; it presents a coherent narrative of our present political perversion.
The song takes its title from the rapper’s Christian name. He begins, “In life, we hide the parts of ourselves we don’t want the world to see. We lock them away. We tell them no. We banish them. But here, we don’t. Welcome to Montero.” Nas seems to be referring to his homosexual desires, which he had kept hidden from the public until only recently.
Lil Nas has built Montero to be a Garden of Eden already in the throes of serpentine temptation. As the rapper laments a love interest “livin’ the life” but who “ain’t livin’ right,” the snake coils around the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Lil Nas attempts to flee, but the serpent cuts him off and seduces him. Ancient Greek letters glow on the tree, revealing Aristophanes’ theory of love from Plato’s Symposium. Zeus, the ruler of the gods, had cut primordial man in two to humble his pride, according to Aristophanes. Romantic desire therefore attempts to restore our original nature by rejoining us to our other half, who need not be of the opposite sex.
The rapper next finds himself enchained in a stadium, jeered by the crowd. Nevertheless, he begins to ascend toward heaven, where an angel awaits — until Lil Nas discovers an infernal stripper pole, which he rides all the way down to Hell. The rapper swings and sings exultantly as he descends to the sorrowful city. Nas enters Satan’s palace, where around the Devil’s throne he reads the Latin phrase, “Damnant quod non intelligunt” (“They condemn what they don’t understand”). The rapper then mounts the Father of Lies and gives him a lap dance before cracking the Devil’s neck and stealing his horns, which he places atop his own head. Nas’s eyes glow red, and he sprouts the wings of a fallen angel.
The whole scene recalls John Milton’s sympathetic portrayal of Satan in Paradise Lost. Upon banishment into damnation, Milton’s Satan insists, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” All that matters for him is that he “be still the same” and that he “shall be free.” He prefers to reign in misery than to serve in joy. Milton’s Satan exalts individual autonomy above all else, including justice and virtue. One might call him a “classical liberal.”
Despite the judgment that Nas’s protagonist endures in the stadium, Heaven lies before him. But he chooses to ride the slippery pole to Hell. Or does he? That same protagonist also chose to resist the Serpent in the Garden, but the Serpent overpowered his will and seduced him. To what extent can a man so compromised even claim to possess free will?
Back in reality, liberals of the Left and Right have adopted the Devil’s wishful thinking. They mistake licentiousness for liberty, the chains of Hell for the freedom of Heaven. In Nas’s Montero, the desire for self-definition turns man into the Devil himself. But who wants to heed the rapper’s cautionary tale?
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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