Monday, September 8, 2008

The Escalating Breakdown of Urban Society Across the US

David Simon The Guardian

'There are two Americas - separate, unequal, and no longer even acknowledging each other except on the barest cultural terms. In the one nation, new millionaires are minted every day. In the other, human beings no longer necessary to our economy, to our society, are being devalued and destroyed'

We did not contemplate immigration. We largely ignored sex-based discrimination, feminism and gender issues. We spoke not a word about the pyramid scheme that is the mortgage crisis, or the diminishing consumer class, or the time bomb that all of our China-bought debt might prove to be.

Well, there are about 350 television shows about the affluent America, the comfortable America, the viable and cohesive nation where everyone gets what they want if they either work hard or know someone or have a pretty face or cheat like hell. That America is available every night, on every channel in the Comcast package.

Because in my city, we have fought the drug war to the very end of the line, with sergeants becoming lieutenants and majors becoming colonels and city mayors becoming state governors. We have done so for decades, one day into the next, one administration after another, each claiming progress and measuring such in arrest rates, drug seizures, crime stats. And no one asks: why?

In places like West Baltimore, the drug war destroyed every last thing that the drugs themselves left standing - including the credibility of the police deterrent.

Yet there is also something appalling in the suggestion that a television drama - a presumed entertainment - might be a focal point for a discussion of what has gone wrong in urban America, for why we have become a society that no longer even recognises the depth of our problems, much less works to solve any of them.

But where else is the why even being argued any more? Not in the stunted political discourse of an American election cycle, not in an eviscerated, self-absorbed press, not in any construct to which the empowered America, the comfortable and comforted America, gives its limited attention. To know why city juries won't participate in the drug war any more, to know why they have opted out of our collective dysfunction, you'd have to travel to the other America - to West Fayette Street or Park Heights Avenue or East Madison Street or any other of the forgotten places. And, well, as has already been said, we are separate nations at this point. Few of us ever cross the frontier to hear voices different from our own.

Abridged for E.A. Read it all here=>>

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