David Simon is television’s foremost chronicler of diverse communities and how different groups interact and coexist — not just in terms of race but in terms of class, economic status and lifestyle choices. It’s evidenced in the shifting focus of “The Wire” from Baltimore’s low-rise projects to its schools and newspaper and the halls of its government, in the way that “Treme” encompasses lawyers, fishermen, famous chefs and musicians with barely enough money to pay for cab rides in its fond, prickly vision of a New Orleans in recovery.
Simon was a journalist before he became a TV writer and producer, working for years at the Baltimore Sun’s City Desk. The essay he recently posted at his blog about the re-election of President Obama has nothing directly to do with his small screen work, but it does reflect the vision of the world that work presents, an eloquent laying out of some of the philosophies that guide the portrayals of the American cities he creates so well.
America is different now, more so with every election cycle. Ronald Reagan won his mandate in an America in which 89 percent of the voters were white. That number is down to 72 percent and falling. Fifty thousand new Latino citizens achieve the voting age every month. America will soon belong to the men and women — white and black and Latino and Asian, Christian and Jew and Muslim and atheist, gay and straight — who can walk into a room and accept with real comfort the sensation that they are in a world of certain difference, that there are no real majorities, only pluralities and coalitions. The America in which it was otherwise is dying, thank god, and those who relied on entitlement and division to command power will either be obliged to accept the changes, or retreat to the gated communities from which they wish to wax nostalgic and brood on political irrelevance.
You want to lead in America? Find a way to be entirely utilitarian — to address the most problems on behalf of the most possible citizens. That works. That matters. Last night, it mattered just enough to overcome the calcified political calculations of men who think that 47 percent will vote against them because they are victims, or that 53 percent are with them because the rest of us vote only from self-interest and without regard for the republic as a whole. It was a closer contest than common sense and the spirit of a truly great nation should dictate. But unless these white guys who have peddled “normal” for so long — normal as in racial majority, normal as in religious majority, normal as in sexual orientation — unless they have a hard moment of self-reflection and self-awareness, well, it will not be this close again.
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