Campus Progress put on an event yesterday where they screened Season 4, Episode 3 of The Wire and then had a Q&A with David Simon and Ed Burns. Since it was a political crowd, the questions were all about "the issues" and it confirmed my sense that the creators of this extraordinarily subtle show have a rather crude take on what it all means. Nothing they said about politics really bothered me, however, except for what Burns said when somebody mentioned that one problem inner-city kids face is that many of them start life off hobbled by lead poisoning.
Burns was completely dismissive of this notion, holding that the real toxins out there are you, me, capitalism, and America's indifferent consumer culture. Kids who grow up in the ghetto and become violent criminals are just engaged in a rational response to the environment they've been plopped into. Lead is just an excuse to avoid coping with the real issues. Well, it'd be a shame to use the existence of lead poisoning as an excuse to avoid coping with other, deeper problems. On the other hand, to the best of my knowledge lead poisoning is a very real problem. What's more, it's a problem with a clear-cut solution. We know how to implement lead-abatement procedures and, in fact, lots of them have been carried out. It just costs money, so poor people suffer. But it doesn't cost an especially large amount of money -- funds could be appropriated, the problem ameliorated, and America would be a better place for it. In a sense, nothing would be thereby "solved" but conditions would improve.