How can you have lived through the last ten years in American culture and not be? How can you not look at what happened on Wall Street, at this gamesmanship that was the mortgage bubble, that was just selling crap and calling it gold? Or watch a city school system suffer for twenty, twenty-five years? Isn’t anger the appropriate response? What is the appropriate response? Ennui? Alienation? Buying into the great-man theory of history—that if we only elect the right guy? This stuff is systemic. This is how an empire is eaten from within.
Listen, I don’t like talking this way. I would be happy to find out that The Wire was hyperbolic and ridiculous, and that the “American Century” is still to come. I don’t believe it, but I’d love to believe it, because I live in Baltimore and I’m an American. I want to sit in my house and see the game on Saturday along with everybody else. But I just don’t see a lot of evidence of it.
The only counterargument that holds any weight is that our country has been down this road before, faced similar problems, and reckoned with them. There are no such thing as the "good ole days," just different days with different problems on a different scale. Thing is, corruption will always exist in systems, and will always need to be fought with vigilance and justice. Sometimes vigilance and justice get the upper hand, but corruption always finds a way back in.
And I don't mean that as a fatalistic or pessimistic statement. What I do mean is that there is work to be done, because there will always be work to be done.