David Simon's Portrait of Inner-City Baltimore Is Mirrored, Tragically, Across the USA

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I'm recommending that all my friends read the interview with David Simon, co-creator of the HBO drama The Wire, in the current edition (April, 2011) of Guernica, "a magazine of art & politics." Find it online at http://www.guernicamag.com/interviews/2530/simon_4_1_11/

Recipient of a MacArthur Foundation $500,000 "genius grant," Simon is a former reporter at the Baltimore Sun whose writings formed the bases of two successful television series, Homicide and The Corner, before he turned his ferocious attention to the drug trade in Baltimore and the horrible effects it has had on the poor people who live there. The result of those efforts, which he undertook with Ed Burns, a former Baltimore police officer and public schoolteacher, was The Wire, which ran for five seasons on HBO.

Many consider The Wire the best TV program ever made, a judgment I happen to share.

Baltimore provided the canvas for Simon's devastating portrait, but the picture of inner-city life we encounter in The Wire is mirrored, tragically, in poor and neglected neighborhoods across the nation, including some in Massachusetts. These are places where the economy seems permanently depressed and where kids begin life 20 yards back from the starting line where most of us are launched from.

If you're not familiar with Mr. Simon -- the man and his works -- I encourage you, please, Correct that situation! And if my humble exhortation doesn't persuade you, perhaps these excerpts from his comments in the lengthy Guernica interview will:

"America now jails more of its people than any country, including all totalitarian states. We pretend to a war against narcotics, but in truth, we are simply brutalizing and dehumanizing an urban underclass that we no longer need as a labor supply."

"...The Wire was not a story about America, it's about the America that got left behind."

"These really are the excess people in America. Our economy doesn't need them -- we don't need 10 or 15 percent of our population...the ones who are undereducated, who have been ill-served by the inner city school system, who have been unprepared for the technocracy of the modern economy, we pretend to need them."

"...they're not foolish. They get it. They understand that the only viable economic base in their neighborhoods is this multibillion-dollar drug trade."

"I am very cynical about institutions and their willingness to address themselves to reform. I am not cynical when it comes to individuals and people. And I think the reason The Wire is watchable, even tolerable, to viewers is that it has great affection for individuals. It's not misanthropic in any way."

"...I would decriminalize drugs in a heartbeat. I would put all the interdiction money, all the incarceration money, all the enforcement money, all of the pretrial, all the prep, all of that cash, I would hurl it as fast as I could into drug treatment and job training and jobs programs. I would rather turn these neighborhoods inward with jobs programs. Even if it was the urban equivalent of FDR's CCC -- the Civilian Conservation Corps -- if it was New Deal-type logic, it would be doing less damage than creating a war syndrome."

No comments:

Post a Comment