A Fair Trade on Drugs
The creator of The Wire recently told U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that he'd give him another season of the HBO show for an end to the war on drugs. Sound like a deal?
A recent report issued by the Global Commission on Drug Policy -- a 19-member panel including former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and leaders from Mexico, Colombia and Brazil -- was ever critical of America's drug policy, the so-called war declared years ago by President Ronald Reagan.
According to the report: "Political leaders and public figures should have the courage to articulate publicly what many of them acknowledge privately: that the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that repressive strategies will not solve the drug problem, and that the war on drugs has not, and cannot, be won." The panel also suggested that America "abandon anti-crime approaches to drug policy and adopt strategies rooted in healthcare and human rights."
This is exactly the message The Wire was trying to convey to the public, albeit in a more dramatic and entertaining fashion. Sure, the subplots and relationships were intriguing, and who didn't love to see Omar run up on the local dealers and take them for everything they were worth?
But the greater achievement of Simon and Burns was the dramatizing of the very real effects of the war on drugs on the community, police department, politicians, justice system, schools, addicts, dealers, newspapers, wives, children and everyone else in between. No one was pure. Even the characters with the best intentions got caught up in the cycle of corruption, hope and disappointment.
The Wire was a huge mirror, reflecting a society eating itself alive and destroying anyone who dared question, "Why?" The answers were never easy, and nothing was ever "solved" in the way that a standard crime procedural, like Law & Order or CSI, might like to tie a neat bow on a perfectly wrapped package. Instead, The Wire spent its time, as Stringer Bell said to Maj. Bunny Colvin in one of the show's more poignant and tense moments, "trying to make sense of this game," and leaving its audience with more questions and a strong sense that justice was not being served.
Holder, as a fan of the show, is aware of this, but as the nation's highest prosecutor, he is charged with upholding and continuing the war on drugs so long as the politicians and public-at-large demand it. Simon is calling him out. If the attorney general wants another 10 to 12 episodes, all he has to provide in exchange is an end to this failure of a drug policy.
There's nothing fuzzy about that math.
Read more about the war on drugs at The Root.
Mychal Denzel Smith is a writer, social commentator and mental-health advocate. Follow him on Twitter.