Table of contents

The Wire II

On the American character

One cop previously told another: the criminals eventually win: they get beat for failure, we get pensions. Total war is against the American character. Policemen can hardly face murder. The politicians on top know this. This is why it is necessary to punish great cops. Nobody wants to live with too much justice; the likes of McNulty apparently never get enough. Men like him make everybody else feel inferior…

One day, the exiled McNulty decides to make a problem out of a corpse every cop with a position is trying to avoid. Nameless corpses become medical cadavers; that’s just inhuman. At first glance, the exiled McNulty is spiteful. That backfires on his friends. He wants to show off his wit. The case is tough enough to test him. But the upside of causing problems like this is that some of them have to be solved. Daniels is ordered to assemble a team. Sooner rather than later, they stumble over crime. They see the upside of crime: They return from exile now, because now they can work.

This is the boring case. – Wisely so, for it shows the end of America. When working class people become corrupt, the nation is dying, either from poverty or immorality. The young lack the virtues & exaggerate the vices of the old. Shame before family or neighbors is fast disappearing. Religion is some kind of racket. A kind of petty cunning & a cowardly violence have replaced manliness. It’s easy to say the weak die first. This entire case revolves around women being enslaved. That is fundamentally the barbarian’s insight. Some woman talks about white slavery as a unique horror. The immigrants we see are either slaves or slavers. So much for ‘give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’

The criminals we are watching are not the cause of this slow death. They are a symptom, & not the worst. This is the meaning of their transformation into capitalists. They are merely following a trend they do not understand. But capitalism is not the real problem. It is not a reflection on the good life or the necessity of laws & police.

The gangster-capitalist is a sign of decadence. He appears only when distinctions of good & bad become divorced from legal & illegal. This barbarianism is derivative of civilization. The poet shows us people somewhat acquainted with the sophisticated ideas of our liberal regimes, caricatures of liberalism & libertarianism; what these people get right is the fundamental ignorance regarding law. Men who cannot distinguish right & wrong, the first because they were brought up in harsh injustice, the last because they were born to prosperity & safety.