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The Wire IV.1-3


The end of the world

The death of Stringer is a melancholy fact. Testimony to the weakness of all the plans whereby we contend with our nature… The irony of the death of liberalism is that it destroys its last exemplars. Stringer tried to become a businessman & politician, convinced that crime could disappear, if people only wanted money. Liberalism taught him that. Even harsh criminals are slaves to liberalism in our time.

The rise of Marlo shows a return to ruthlessness. Avon’s belief in family & war, Stringer’s belief in liberalism & tolerance – they make them look weak, because they generate principles & moral rules. Marlo knows murder is his way & that he should hide from the cops. His solution to this age-old problem of civilization shows not just cleverness, but the barbarian’s simplicity. Sophistication cannot survive in the face of brutality. But Marlo did not defeat Avon & Stringer. His enemies destroyed each other. We learn this much: Marlo stands to Avon like Stringer stands to the police.

The politician, Carcetti, comprises the liberal contradictions. Ambitious white boy, convinced lefty, reformer for the people & disgusted with the corruption & politics, he does the right thing & cheats on his wife, & his people are not just lifelong Democrats, but they remember the hallowed Kennedys. – This man is the liberal’s image of Bill Clinton, sometime Democrat champion: Liberal, popular, & able to excite slavish passions in women. He called himself the first American black president.

McNulty refuses to play hero anymore. It seems the stuff we are shown to abuse our belief in justice & law has got to him, too. He takes to playing husband again, though with some other woman & her children. His friends fear & mock this mockery of middle-class America, seeing him. He hardly drinks anymore & he does some routine job by the rules. If only all cops were like this, the police would promptly disappear. Does this defense go far enough? Must law always be harsh? Is man fated to endure harsh necessity? However that may be, the strongest evidence we see suggests that the hope of enjoying a decent private life blinds people to the truth about crime.

The end of Major Colvin’s career is strange. Moving crime away from decent neighborhoods is obviously good. His superiors are obviously corrupt & petty. They humiliate him, terrified of public opinion. It seems liberals hope his drug city thrives. They see an unconventional lifestyle, happily ignoring the suffering it creates. It might be the future… Meanwhile, liberal populism cannot abandon the conventions, so politicians are forced to enforce anti-drug laws. The dealers name their drugs after the latest horrors they see on TV.