Friday, March 11, 2011

David Simon on America's most unnecessary war

You often hear the phrase "life imitates art" or vice versa, but rarely do we get a case of art actually being life, as we did for four great and one not-so-great seasons of "The Wire."

Which makes the arrest of Felicia "Snoop" Pearson all the more depressing. For anyone who doesn't know, she played a female hitman of sorts for drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield, and like many of the stars of that show, was never far too removed from the world that "The Wire" portrayed. At age 14, she was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of another young girl, and ending up serving 6.5 years in prison.

Since then, things had certainly seemed to turn around with her appearance on "The Wire." She's also written a memoir, "Grace After Midnight," and having read it, I can tell you she tells her troubling story very well.

But yesterday, it all came undone, or at least regressed quite a bit with this Baltimore Sun headline forwarded to me in the morning: "More than 60 people, including 'Snoop' of 'The Wire,' arrested in drug raids."

If you haven't, you can read all about it here, but there's a much larger picture here, of a city and its people in crisis. That Snoop hasn't been able to escape this bottomless spiral is only the biggest headline-grabber about a truly sad situation in a city I love and will be visiting with mi hermano in August (for a couple or Orioles games, of course).

Here's what David Simon, much more eloquently than me, had to say about it all when contacted by Slate, and then stick around for something much more fun with a trio of Friday morning videos.

First of all, Felicia's entitled to the presumption of innocence. And I would note that a previous, but recent drug arrest that targeted her was later found to be unwarranted and the charges were dropped. Nonetheless, I'm certainly sad at the news today. This young lady has, from her earliest moments, had one of the hardest lives imaginable. And whatever good fortune came from her role in The Wire seems, in retrospect, limited to that project. She worked hard as an actor and was entirely professional, but the entertainment industry as a whole does not offer a great many roles for those who can portray people from the other America. There are, in fact, relatively few stories told about the other America.

Beyond that, I am waiting to see whether the charges against Felicia relate to heroin or marijuana. Obviously, the former would be, to my mind, a far more serious matter. And further, I am waiting to see if the charges or statement of facts offered by the government reflect any involvement with acts of violence, which would of course be of much greater concern.

In an essay published two years ago in Time magazine, the writers of The Wire made the argument that we believe the war on drugs has devolved into a war on the underclass, that in places like West and East Baltimore, where the drug economy is now the only factory still hiring and where the educational system is so crippled that the vast majority of children are trained only for the corners, a legal campaign to imprison our most vulnerable and damaged citizens is little more than amoral. And we said then that if asked to serve on any jury considering a non-violent drug offense, we would move to nullify that jury's verdict and vote to acquit. Regardless of the defendant, I still believe such a course of action would be just in any case in which drug offenses—absent proof of violent acts—are alleged.

Both our Constitution and our common law guarantee that we will be judged by our peers. But in truth, there are now two Americas, politically and economically distinct. I, for one, do not qualify as a peer to Felicia Pearson. The opportunities and experiences of her life do not correspond in any way with my own, and her America is different from my own. I am therefore ill-equipped to be her judge in this matter.

Very true all that, but way too heavy for a Friday morning, right? So, on to some fun clips. Until now, I haven't been able to get terribly excited about JJ Abrams upcoming alien flick "Super 8," but this first full trailer really does effectively change everything. In revealing that the incident was recorded by kids making monster movies on their super 8 camera, and seeing Coach Taylor of "Friday Night Lights" back in action, it has convinced me that this could be something really pretty great when it comes out June 8. Enjoy the trailer.

Next up, although very few people are apparently watching, FX is doing some truly entertaining things on television. I'm a devoted fan of "Sons of Anarchy," and though it lasted only one short season, "Terriers" was a fun little show, too. On the air now, I'm really getting into season two of "Justified," and the boxing drama "Lights Out" just keeps getting better and better with each episode. And now, to complement it's darkly funny "Louie" with Louie CK, the network is adding another truly odd-looking comedy this June, "Wilfred," starring Elijah Wood. As you'll see from the trailer, it's based on an Australian show about a lonely, introverted dude who becomes friends with his neighbor's dog, who just happens to be able to talk to him. Looks like very fun stuff, so enjoy this preview, and keep an eye out for the show.

And finally, truly saving the best for last, College Humor has definitely hit the mark with this mashup of Wes Anderson's "Fantastic Mr. Fox," easily one of my favorite animated movies of the last 10 years or so, and the video game "Star Fox." It's just wicked fun that needs no further explanation from me, so enjoy, and have a great weekend. (I'll be spending mine with mi hermano going to see two concerts by the Baseball Project .. huzzah!) Peace out.

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