POLS 134: Spec. Topics in American Democracy Journal Entry 3
February 4, 2022
For this week of class, we wrapped up our readings and discussions for chapters 1 and 2 of part 1 for Unthinkable. Chapter 2 ventured into the accounts of Tommy’s mental illness developments and more of who he was as a person. As the readings go by, I grow to love the splendors of Tommy’s personality-his understanding, his fervent spirit for fighting for those that don’t have a voice of their own, his ability to look beyond the surface of things and the way he’d over-analyze every situation to make sure that no form of injustice took place. I saw so much of myself in him and some parts that I’d love to develop over the years. I saw how deeply he felt for people and with people, I saw how he’d consider every possible emotion that his encounters would ensue. I saw a young man so broken by the world’s chaos and fixated on being a force of change, someone hellbent on solving the mysteries of the world. A young man transfixed with a hate for injustice and tyrants, someone that wanted nothing but simply, peace. I saw a young man that struggles mentally with demons, but is trying tirelessly to fight the good fight. Just like Jamie, I could see myself looking up to someone like Thomas Bloom Raskin. Sometimes, I also wish I knew him-I think we’d be great friends. I wish I got the chance to help him through his struggles, to be a shoulder to help bare the stresses of the world with. Now, I can only hope I could be even half as good a person that Tommy was or meet someone that parallels him; because I know it would be a life changing experience.
“When you let your light shine, you unconsciously give others permission to do the same.”
— Nelson Mandela
Earlier this week, we discussed the views of empathy and when we think it could be too much. I explained how involved I get with the emotions of those around me. It gets so intense that my parents tend to hide situations from me until they think it’s been quelled- I tend to find out on my own though. They’d often say in “a fi yi yuh own good”, which is Jamaican Creole that translates to “its for your own good”. Personally, I try to safeguard myself from being consumed by the emotions of others by trying to dissociate myself as much as possible from intense situations or people that feel too much in a sense. I even do it by gatekeeping my inner circle, I don’t open up to many people or allow myself to get too close to many people because I don’t think I could keep myself from sabotaging my mental health. The truth is that if Dunbar’s Number stipulates that one can only maintain stable social relationships with at most 150 people at a time, then there’s a likelihood that I will be feeling with and, sometimes more intensely, for at most 150 people at a time. So imagine how bad it was throughout COVID ? I was in a health-conscious frenzy just like Tommy ! I’d spend hours wiping surfaces off with Lysol and alcohol wipes, never taking my masks off. I would spend days giving my parents and siblings lectures on how dangerous COVID is and why they definitely should be wearing their masks with even the ones you trust the most-they all had severe asthma and even the thought would send me down a dark rabbit hole. The scariest moment was when my sister, that’s a nurse in Connecticut, had caught the virus; she has also very asthmatic and hypertensive. She was bedridden for weeks, overran with pulmonary issues and incoherence from all the medications. It was in the peak of the pandemic where we had little to no knowledge of how to even treat COVID symptoms as effectively as we do now. It was a really low moment, but luckily we survived.
February 7, 2022
Last Thursday’s class took on a different format, online-which now as I look at it is quite coincidental as Chapter 2 touches on how Tommy had to transition online as a result of the pandemic. Dr. S decided to take precautions because the recurring health concerns that kept coming up with some of my classmates. We had our weekly quiz and moved on to our usual eye-opening discussions, this time we were placed into two separate breakout rooms to talk amongst ourselves. The class ended with us sharing laughs over the zoom filters that everyone by now had placed over their heads- I chose the thug life glasses, because why not ? I was channeling my inner Madea.
The first conversation was about our views on responsibilities, I figured this prompt was as a result of Jamie’s thoughts on Tommy not wanting to get biological or adopted children. Tommy’s romantic relationships struggled immensely because of his lack in desire of wanting children, the thought was just too much for him. To Tommy, why would he want to bring someone into this world to endure “substantial measures of of pain, sadness, and suffering (and, what was unspoken here perhaps but very much in the air, depression”. Tommy didn’t even want to entertain the thought of adopting children, even when Jamie tried to explain to him how much less suffering he would save someone from in doing so.
“Tommy would not negotiate on his determination that no one has the right to impose the inevitable experience of pain on other people.”
-Jamie Raskin, Unthinkable, Chapter 2: A Sea of Troubles.
I could relate to Tommy on his views of being an ‘anti-natalist’, because I too have no desire to sire children into this horrible world. It is a personal choice, I believe it shouldn’t be something forced upon the younger generation because of the older generation’s need to hug grandchildren. It’s so hard to keep myself from falling into the bottomless pit of despair that this world has rendered, how am I supposed to be responsible for the mental, emotional and physical development of another ? My parents and loved ones think I’d be an amazing father, but until I grow to see that in myself my decision stands-just like Tommy.
Our group conversation brought up very interesting perspectives, some of them really resonated with me such as the one on being the golden black child or poster child and on being the middle child. I went off on my own research on the stereotypes of the middle child after hearing Dr. S’ description of what they are always thought of to be. I realized that the middle child is often the child that is caught in the middle of everything-literally. The child that was often neglected because the parents’ need to give attention to either the eldest or youngest. They are often times believed to be excluded or ignored, they tend to be rebellious, sociable, great peacekeepers, trailblazers and negotiators. Some of the world’s famous middle children include: Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King and Charles Darwin.
I am the third of four children for my mother and the second of 3 for my father, either way I take it I am in the middle. Throughout my research I couldn’t help but find a few patterns that I correlate with. The one that stood out the most to me was that constant urge to prove to my parents. For various middle children it took many forms, but for me school was my avenue. I saw that i could get even the ounce of attention by performing good in school, though it never lasted long it was enough to keep my frustration at bay. My mother was too caught up in raising my younger sister and helping my elder siblings find their way in the world to remember that I was caught in the middle of it all. Looking back I realized that using school to gain attention only backfired in the long run, as my mother realized that I didn’t need much guidance on what life was all about. I would never blame her for not loving me as much because she worked really hard to make sure we were okay, I’m just acknowledging the fact that I didn’t feel as loved as my other siblings at times. I remember talking to her about it a few times throughout 2021 as I orchestrated a family intervention, the thing was up to that point she was very much oblivious that I even felt that way. She made me know that she would try do better and be better. She gave me some advice that I look to sometimes for inspiration-she said I should remember that how I was raised invoked a spirit that she looks to for guidance sometimes.
Maybe Tommy being a middle child was just another reason for me to connect with him. Or even the way he saw the world in all its chaos but saw it with so much capacity for development that he was definitely a bringer of hope. Today, he stands as a martyr for his father and everyone that would look to him as a role model. He stands today as a teacher in death, as he was in life. A bringer of hope is someone that sees beyond the veils of despair and pulls away the blinds to embrace the light. A person that believes so strongly in the power of good and the good left in the world- sounds very Disney character, but it’s how I see it. This pushes us to pose the question how do we see beyond the bad things in life and help the world to be a better place by being a bringer of hope ? By first educating ourselves, information is key. For us to adequately guide others, whether in life or generally, we must first be able to process information and where we stand within ourselves and views. We cannot guide others if we struggle with guidance ourselves.