The deal that Amazon Prime made with HBO to show its old shows allowed me to watch the first episode of “The Wire.”  The Wire is a profane, cynical, profound, humanistic show that has even become the subject of entire college courses. It entertains, informs and unsettles all the stereotypes about black folks, white folks, the drug trade, the school system, local politics and even the media.  It is the best that television can be, that is, it makes you think, laugh and cry sometimes all at the same time. I picked up on it some time in its first season so I actually had never seen the first episode. The full quote from which the title of the episode and this post derives is: “Don’t give a fuck when it’s not your turn to give a fuck.” It is about an anti-hero hero who is a policeman who sits in on a trial of a case that isn’t even his. The cousin of a drug dealer has murdered someone and is eventually acquitted when a witness recants her testimony having been bribed or intimidated by the drug dealer. The judge who knows the policeman from the good old days calls him into his chambers and asks him what he knows about the case.  The policeman tells him it is about a drug dealer who is running the drug trade in black neighborhoods.  This drug dealer has rigged three murder cases that led to acquittals through witness intimidation.  After he leaves the judge calls the deputy chief of the police force and asks him what he knows about this drug dealer.  The deputy chief knows nothing but  the police scramble to find out about him although they had been ignoring him before presumably because he confines himself to black neighborhoods. The rest of the series is thereby set in motion to catch this drug dealer. It is all the result of somebody giving a fuck when it wasn’t his turn or responsibility to give a fuck.

The Wire is really about the collapse of all the institutions we have set in place and none of which operate as they should because of the human frailties of people who inhabit them. Shocked that the administrators of VA hospitals care more about covering their asses than providing services to veterans; then you haven’t seen the Wire. Amazed that the Republicans can govern this badly and still be favored to win the Senate in the fall; then you haven’t seen the Wire. Stunned that someone could post videos on YouTube, write a 140 page manifesto, see therapists, be investigated by police and still get guns to shoot people near University of Santa Barbara; well then you haven’t seen the Wire. Let me cite just one story from this episode. A black youth has been killed and the policeman is just sitting at the scene talking to another youngster who knew him. The youngster is surprised that someone would shoot that boy.  He tells the policeman that every Friday his friends and he get together for a game of craps. Every Friday the dead boy had played with him but eventually grabbed the money in the pot and ran away with it. The policeman asks if they knew he was going to steal the pot each week, why did they let him play?  The boy turns to him and says, “This is America.” Why did all the institutions fail to stop that killer from his rampage, “This is America.” The freedom to do what you want is protected so much even if someone eventually  (and continually) uses his freedom to kill innocent people, the right still is protected even when it makes no common sense.

Why does all this madness continue?  I would say it is because no one gives a fuck when it isn’t their turn to give a fuck. Christians might rephrase that but they mean the same thing.  When God asks Cain where his brother is he answers somewhat sarcastically “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  The answer is yes.

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