The Wire, Tamir Rice, and how art’s instructive and useless


I wrote this soon after the Tamir Rice shooting. You know, when a 12-year old black kid with a toy gun got shot at distance from a police car when a cop thought he was in so much danger that he had no choice but to gun the boy down. You know—just to be safe. I re-read it today, when Cleveland prosecutor Tim McGinty, in declining to pursue a case against the police officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, said in his statement, “We don’t second guess police officers.”

Well, somebody fucking should.

I’m white. I won’t know what I’m talking about. Not really. A lot of cops fit that description, too.

From the thing:

Great art captures the complexities of the human condition — just as all art is almost ludicrously rendered irrelevant by the awfulness of the real life it tries to give meaning. It’s a disheartening collision of hope and reality brought into too-stark relief by a recent TV marathon, of all things.

When HBO ran its marathon of all 60 hours of The Wire last month, it came at a time when the public’s relationship to law enforcement was (and is) as fractious and divided as any time in recent memory. The controversial deaths of unarmed black men like Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice (who was 12), and a disheartening number of others have brought the issue of police violence (especially against minorities) into the open. Predictably, the fringes of the debate teem with the worst of us. Racists, opportunists, and careerists all use complex human tragedy to further their own ends and transform public discourse to the polar opposite of The Wire’s layered, nuanced, and deeply humanistic examination of cause and effect.

It did such a good job that it’s almost enough to think that there are real world answers to be found there. It’s like a blueprint for a better society, even though the characters within the show, almost without fail, end up just as lost and disillusioned as they were at the start. It’s a fool’s errand to look to fiction for real life solutions, but if you’re going to do it, The Wire’s complex examination of America’s most seemingly intractable problems is as good a place to start as any.

The idea of looking to The Wire for a critical analysis of the police seems foolish, because at first glance there’s no quality series more sentimental about being a cop. Indeed, the highest compliment paid to any dead or retiring law enforcement official is to be eulogized as “natural born po-lice,” and it’s an admiration the series clearly shares — up to a point.


The rest is here. I honestly have no idea what else to do.


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