POLS 134: Spec. Topics In American Democracy Journal Entry 4
February 11, 2022
As we moved further into the story of Unthinkable, Chapter 3 engages us in a more in-depth analysis of Tommy and the days leading up to his suicide. It was one of the relatively shorter chapters that we’ve read so far, being approximately 10 pages in length. In my experience, it being the shortest but so impactful and emotionally heavy doesn’t surprise me. I mean the shortest biblical verse is:
-John 11:35 KJV
Something so small, but very instrumental in context. How a great and holy figure in religion and history, that was capable of miracles beyond miracles, wasn’t too strong or robotic or nonchalant to not be overcome by intense emotions. I think it’s one of the most impactful because as we aim to be like God and the replicate the purities of Jesus Christ, this encounter helps us to do the most human thing ever-to feel. This simple phrase allows us to stop in the midst of our pain and feel the burdens of losing someone or something that meant a great deal to us.
Similarly, Chapter 3 walked the path of opening of consciousness to something bigger than the strongest man alive-emotions. It’s okay to feel guilty for the things we have no control over. Its okay to look back at an awful situation and ask yourself if you had just paid a little more attention, things wouldn’t have turned out the way it did. This does not go to say that it is true, it only proves our capability to regret and to be empathetic. Jamie could not and would not think of the mere fact that his son struggled so much that he’d think to take his life. It was merely beyond his control and as a parent or even an individual, we have to accept that we can only control what we can. Tommy struggled for a long time with his demons and as he said in his farewell note, his illness won that day. Chapter 3 was the shortest section, but it arose more emotions than even the thrilling recollections of January 6th-for me atleast. It walks us slowly through a series of events that may have confirmed that Tommy’s incident was more planned out than what met the naked eye. As the Raskin family friend Whitney Ellenby would’ve said “he didn’t anyone implicated in it”, which in my opinion is the best to describe the situation. Tommy might have known how heavily his family would have weighed in on the situation, especially to know that he asked for help and they couldn’t provide in some way. He might have known how broken and powerless Jamie would’ve felt to know that this was something he was looking towards doing. The thing is, Tommy was ill and as such, we have to learn to treat these things as an act of self-defense and not something of his own free will. His illness overcame him, overwhelmed him, consumed him and brought him to his knees.
Nevertheless, it always confused me though how so many impactful and great people always succumbed to the gravest of illnesses. The way Stephen Hawkins, a pioneering physicist and cosmologist that had an IQ of 160 just like Einstein, was plagued by the terrors of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). The way many historians have suggested that the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, struggled for decades with depression. In the same way, Charles Darwin -the man behind Darwinism, the scientific theory of the evolution by natural selection, suffered and was bedridden after 30 years old because of a very severe case of agoraphobia. Many of these great and powerful world-thinkers have minds that are so equipped with seeing beneath the surface of our worldly problems and spending so much time trying to solve these problems for the greater good, that their minds take such a toll on them.
Tommy’s memory and values live in Jamie Raskin, it’s a driving force in his life and it is what propels his choice to educate through his suffering. As mentioned in the Online Companion, Jamie’s delivery of his story in Chapter 3 was done in such a way that he doesn’t insist on any particular lessons. He allows you take from the story what you think he was trying to teach you and how it aligns with your own story. In my opinion, I remember as much as I was engulfed with the emotions of the description, I felt like it was a message to parents on accountability. It was his way of teaching parents look beneath the surface and don’t take the smaller things for granted. Treat every off statement or action into question, so that if it is bigger than it is we have caught it early enough to treat. This is a problem especially in the Black Community where children are seen of incapable of stressing or struggling because ‘they don’t a mortgage or utility bills to worry about’. It encourages a culture of invalidating the feelings of our Black princes and princesses, this culture that promotes a lack of awareness of mental health in our community. Raskin’s chapter asks them to not give up hope in the midst of despair, but to cherish the little moments with your loved ones. Take their struggles as serious as possible, no matter how small they are. But above anything else, learn to know your children as much as possible.
For our sketching leadership assignment, we reflected on a passage from the Iliad where Briseis mourns the death of Patroclus in the Trojan War. We were posed with the task of taking 30 minutes to sketch someone in a leadership role, past or present whose suffering and misfortunes invoke some sense of emotion or even helped me to connect with the my own misfortunes and unlock my grief. There were so many different figures in my life and in movies that I looked to for guidance on grief-I feel most of my life lessons come from movies or shows. Dr. S knowssssss that I am an avid Grey’s Anatomy fan, the joys and successes, as well as the trauma and tragedies of Meredith Ellis Grey have been my escape from my own traumas in life. She has lost so much and has been through so much and yet still she has thrived regardless. She’s always struggled to receive the love of her overbearing mother that’s been a pioneer in the medical world with many successes in medical technology. In season 3, Meredith learns her first lesson in grief after her mother succumbs to her Alzheimer’s Disease, after having heart surgery. Later on in the season 8 finale, Meredith sister Lexie Grey is killed on a plane crash that traumatizes almost 10 surgeons including Meredith and her husband. Meredith’s friend Mark Sloan was also killed on that plane crash. By season 11, Meredith rapples with the hardest death of them all, her soulmate Derek Shepherd. He is killed by a truck that crashes into his car on a highway after having just finished and sent off previous crash victims. Derek Shepherd, a world-renowned neurosurgeon dies from an unclipped brain aneurysm. Here is a scene from the tv-show showing Meredith telling her children that their father is dead.
2019 was such a difficult year for me, I had lost my bestfriend and my aunt in the span of 4 months and I was losing it. I was an emotional wreck, I spent days in bed crying my eyes out and I went silent for weeks at a time. But through Meredith’s ability to face the elements of grief and a broken heart, I found solace in learning how to properly grieve a loved one. The way she took the time out to get away from everything and reminisce on all the good things and memories she’s had with the people that have pass taught me to focus on the same aspects of my loved ones lives and cherish them for as long as I can.
February 17, 2022
Similarly, my mother has been an extreme influence in my life as it relates to teaching to to grieve or feel thoroughly-which is paradoxical because she’s not really an emotional individual. Yesterday was her birthday and my family hold birthdays at a very high standard. We take time out to think about all the values and attributes that make them such a good person and we find some creative way of letting them know how much they mean to us. I thought to myself as much as I lost my favorite aunt, my mother lost a sister. A relationship that was bounded in years of companionship and trials and tribulations and memories on top of memories. I founded myself being buried into the stories about her and that taught to a way to cherish her memory and keep her alive.