Al Pacino’s portrayal of Tony Montana, the brutal drug lord in the 1983 film “Scarface,” showed us the undeniable dark side and ugly underbelly of any involvement with drugs. The character Montana is a Cuban exile, and gets hooked up with a big time drug dealer in Miami. Eventually, through murder and other strong arm tactics, Montana takes over the entire empire. Montana is ambitious, but most of all he is exceedingly greedy. No matter how much money he rakes in, it’s not enough. He sees his mother and his sister as the only good things in his life, but his mother rejects him for his lifestyle, and after his sister marries his best friend and close business associate, he murders his friend, thinking that he is protecting her. It’s twisted, profoundly sad, and illustrative of the fact that the drug business is particularly nasty.
How many Tony Montana types are out there in the world? They are people who want to get ahead, to have the good life and are willing to steal and kill to get it. They shun education or any kind of steady employment, because that’s for “suckers.” They may try to hold on to something pure in life, but mostly that is just for something to hide behind. Most are either dead or in prison by the time they are 30. They join gangs and talk about “family” but it’s all a part of their search for something they have already rejected.
Cable news channels, the internet and newspapers are filled with stories about drug dealers, big and small. Lawyers cut deals with little dealers trying to get something on the big dealers. The little dealers may get a walk, or a reduced prison term. The big dealers may even get caught and convicted, but there’s thousands like Tony Montana to take their place. It’s a seasonal business. The season may be for a few months, a few years, but it never lasts. It always ends in prison or in death.
Membership in this dealers club is open to users of the drugs. Tony Montana dealt in cocaine, but it can be any drug. Users eventually need financial help to support their habit, so selling to their friends or kids on the street corner is a natural next step. They may even recruit some help, but they are small time players and it’s only a matter of time before they make a mistake or someone “rats” on them. As time progresses, they lose their humanity, their sense of decency, their sense of right and wrong. Without treatment they eventually get gunned down in a drive-by shooting, or arrested. There is no 401K, no plans to travel, no connection to the community, other than looking at their neighborhood as a marketplace. It’s a cold, lonely existence with no future.
Hollywood showed an extremely ugly story when it released “Scarface.” But the message it left us all was “this is a road to nowhere, to death.” Sure, it’s a movie and it’s extreme. But the life on the streets selling cocaine, heroin and “oxies” is a reality. It’s the wasting of a human soul, the fall to the bottom of the pit. It’s violent, cold hearted and nasty. It awaits anyone who wants to use.
Ned Wicker is Addictions Chaplain at Waukesha Memorial Hospital Lawrence Center