If you were to show the corruption and decay of an American city, if you were to show the avaricious nature of one-party rule and the ruinous effects of indulging all appetites, of the corpses of teens and children and the bloated corpus of the body politic, if you were to show the inside of that body—an alimentary canal of moral filth and monetary waste—you would have the basis for an award-winning TV show.
You would have a show about criminals of different means but a common end: self-enrichment.
You would have the chance to show that no one has a lawful but just monopoly on violence, that a badge is no different than a stripe—the two represent warring factions—in a state of all against all, where brutality is the code of the street, where all other codes, including a police officer’s duty to enforce the law without breaking it, are irrelevant.
You would also have the chance to show how the city substitutes one institution for another, turning schools into jails and jails into schools; jails that school boys in the rites of manhood, that pervert what it means to be a man, that respect no other right—neither the rights of man nor man’s ability to reason—except the right to exercise might.
Were you to film and broadcast this show, you would call it “The Wire.”
Critics would applaud you, President Obama would commend you, and media would laud you.
If, however, you were to describe the real-life character of the show—the city of Baltimore—in 275 characters, as President Trump did, you would be called a racist, a bigot, a fascist, a nationalist, and a xenophobe.
But you would not be wrong.
Photo credit: Cheryl Diaz Meyer for the Washington Post via Getty Images