How The Wire Character’s “Library Card” Comment Teaches a Dire Life Lesson in 2020
Brother Mouzone is one of the best characters from one of the best television shows of all-time; HBO’s The Wire. An enforcer, who in appearance, is anything but. In a world of drug dealers, corruption, and killers, Brother Mouzone stands out for his seeming detachment to the world around him while simultaneously owning that world. Yes, his surface power comes from the gun, but his true power and ability to remain completely unphased by the world of The Wire comes from his knowledge. A voracious reader who understands that knowledge is power, and the inverse is also true; ignorance is a sign of weakness. Brother Mouzone lives this adage and might be the most powerful person in the world of The Wire because of it (Omar excluded). For Brother Mouzone, there is no excuse for ignorance and he states as such in his famous library card scene.
While some (for obvious reasons) would never use the language of Brother Mouzone, his observation is right on the money. And it is not some fictitious observation with no basis in reality. It is a sentiment echoed by such people as Thomas Sowell who used the power of a library card to fight against ignorance and propel himself out of Harlem and into Harvard. That is the power of the library card.
This topic has come up recently because people are bemoaning the fact that so many people are ignorant about the history of June 19th/Juneteenth. For such a momentous occasion, the date has been either largely ignored, or worse, never taught. And that is the crux of the issue that has so many people so angry and frustrated. They claim the ignorance surrounding Juneteenth reveals the bias of American history, and–more specifically–how American history is taught.
A Confession and the Power of the Library Card
But I have a confession; I was never taught about Juneteenth. And yet, I have known about Juneteenth for almost half my life at this point. How? If I was never taught it, how can I possibly know about it? Why would some Ashkenazi Jew who grew up on a farm in Connecticut know about Juneteenth? Quite simply, I live in constant fear of being ignorant. Yes, clearly there are some things I will never know because it is impossible to know everything. However, that in no way gives me a free pass to be ignorant about certain subjects. Obviously, everyone’s personal biases will push them into certain fields and topics, but if someone is fearful of being ignorant, they will try to teach themselves about as many things as possible.
That is the power Brother Mouzone and Thomas Sowell are preaching about. The library card is so powerful because its powers are limitless. It is up to you to push its boundaries and discover its power and its magical abilities. Schools can only teach you so much. And yes, what they teach you is completely biased, or at least, the syllabi are created by people who make the decision for you as to what is important. The library card spits in the face of those teachers, professors, and syllabi; the library card says, “you are the teacher now, and you control the power of knowledge.”
When Resources are Scarce, the Library Card is the Great Equalizer
Resources are not the same throughout the United States. It is an unfortunate fact of life some people will be born into situations with more advantages in terms of schooling (and this includes stuff like, “how to learn,” which is an overlooked aspect of the disenfranchised). Because of this, some people will start the race of life at a massive disadvantage. However, in 2020, the library card is as powerful as ever, and it is up to you to pull yourself even in the race of life.
While local libraries are indeed diminishing, the amount of knowledge and power available to everybody grows with each passing day. No longer do people and children have to drive or ride their bikes to the local library. All of the information that humans beings have ever recorded is available right at our fingertips. There is no excuse for ignorance in 2020. All of this knowledge… all of this power… is just waiting for us. The only obstacle to acquiring it is your own willingness to do so.
Knowledge is indeed power, and many are correct when they claim the United States education system is failing the most impoverished. Yes, failing in terms of education in United States history and world history, but also knowledge about proper eating habits and healthier habits in general. The U.S. does not do an adequate job with any of it, but specifically for the more impoverished among us. So we need to help change the education system, but part of that requires us to educate ourselves. Educating ourselves about everything, and this is most easily done with the library card and through personal edification.
Yes, teaching Juneteenth in schools is a good start, but you have to also want more than what schools are teaching you. The answer is the library card we now call the internet. The library card of the internet can access every library in the history of mankind. If you are upset that you were not taught something, then be your own teacher. And teach others. Keep on teaching, keep on learning, and maybe someday we won’t, you won’t, and I won’t be as ignorant. So let us share the power, but first, you have to want to learn and use that fear of ignorance to make yourself a better, and more powerful person. The way to do that is quite simple; use the library card and Read. A. Book!