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Person of the Year: Jamie Raskin


Ninety-four years ago, the editors of Time The magazine said transatlantic and anti-Semitic aviator Charles Lindbergh was its very first man of the year. This editorial gamble turned out to be a winner in the newsstands, and a parade of presidents, prime ministers and other personalities followed. There were a few weird choices along the way. In 1941, the editors chose Dumbo, the Disney elephant, as the mammal of the year. Sadly, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, crudely relegating the animated pachyderm to the inside pages of the magazine. FDR seized Time blanket and the annual laurel in place of Dumbo.

This year, the richest individual in the world, Elon Musk, was Time choice for the person of the year. I am not speaking for anyone other than myself, but is this the time to value a supposed man of science who early cast doubt on the COVID vaccines and tell the world that “children are basically immune”? You might as well give Eric Clapton a hug. Others on Time list of ‘most influential people’ for 2021 are much more inspiring – Stacey Abrams, for example, who leads the fight against voter suppression in the United States, or Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who languishes in a prison camp ordered by Vladimir Putin.

And yet one Person of the Year, a person who embodies both the tragedy and the resilience of our time, was missing: Jamie Raskin. A Democratic member of the House, Raskin is 59 years old and represents Maryland’s Eighth District. He was on Capitol Hill with his colleagues on January 6, 2021, to attend what should have been the routine certification of Joe Biden’s election to the presidency. Instead, he witnessed an insurrection. This bloody assault, which threatened constitutional democracy and the nation’s democratically elected leaders, came just a day after the funeral of Thomas Bloom Raskin, the beloved son of the twenty-five-year-old MP. At the Capitol, Raskin told me, he could still hear the noises of the day before: the prayers of mourning, the clods of earth being shoveled on the coffin. Meanwhile, maniacs shouting deranged slogans and threats swarmed the halls of Congress in search of enemies.

Tommy Raskin, by all accounts, was a bright and politically engaged student who had attended Harvard Law School. He was an anti-war activist, a supporter of justice for humans and animals, a hungry reader, a passionate writer, a generous and honest young man who, as a statement from his family described, possessed “a perfect heart, a soul, an outrageously outrageous and relentless sense of humor, and a dazzling beaming mind. Tommy Raskin also suffered from depression. And his condition worsened during the long months of COVID. On New Years Eve morning, Raskin found his son dead in his bed. Tommy had committed suicide and left a handwritten note for his parents and two sisters: “Please forgive me. My illness won today. Please take care of each other, animals and the poor in the world for me. All my love, Tommy.

When I first spoke to Jamie Raskin earlier this year, it was almost impossible for him to talk about his son without crying. It has eased somewhat. Now, minutes go by when his mind does not dwell on the loss and what he could have done to save his “dear boy”. Raskin was also consumed with the sense of mission. Shortly after the insurgency failed, Nancy Pelosi made him responsible for Trump’s second impeachment trial, a task he accomplished with eloquence and organization. Today, as a member of the special committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol, he is once again at the center of the fight for Trump’s legacy and the future of constitutional democracy.

Over the past year, when Raskin was in the depths of his grief and consumed with his work on Capitol Hill, he sort of took advantage of the late hours to write a book. Writing, he told me, was a way to avoid sinking back down to the depths, a way to at least make sense of what he and those around him were suffering. “Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and Trials of American DemocracyWill be released right after the New Year.

“I wrote this book in five months,” Raskin told me. “I was sleepless and couldn’t think of anything else. It was therapeutic. I just did the audio version, and it was heartbreaking to do. But I sleep better these days. . . . I don’t drown in grief and agony like I was. And a big part of that is that we try to honor the spirit and the wishes that Tommy expressed in his farewell note: “Take care of each other.” It’s a pretty specific set of instructions, and it gave me a roadmap for the rest of my life. “

“Unthinkable” is not a work of emotional austerity; it is rather a relief, a howl, a devotion. The grief is nightmarish, but the love that permeates the text is even more powerful – the love for family and a lost child, as well as the love for a fragile democracy. He draws his greatest inspiration from the idealism of Raskin’s son.

“Tommy was someone who felt the pain of others in a way you don’t come across very often,” said Raskin. “He could stay awake all night worrying about children caught up in the civil war in Yemen. Or children separated from their parents at the border. Or victims of gun violence. He was an extremely cheerful, happy and funny young man, but he lived the other end of the emotional spectrum very intensely.

Raskin continued, “Tommy was clinically diagnosed, but that said, everyone’s mental health issues take place in a social context. the COVIDThe period -19 was terrible for the young people. It has been so isolating and demoralizing. While COVID, Tommy’s minds sank further south, like so many others in his generation. Studies show that a majority of young people have experienced increased anxiety and depression over the course of COVID, and it is also exacerbated by climate change and vicious political extremism. I’m not saying Tommy’s death was caused by right-wing politics or the catastrophic Donald Trump COVID-19 policies. But his situation existed in a social context.

In recent weeks, Raskin has been immersed in the Jan.6 investigation and the committee’s attempt to wrest evidence from Trump’s circle, most recently Mark Meadows, Trump’s last chief of staff, who d ‘first cooperated and then reversed course. “Mark Meadows has one foot in and one foot out,” Raskin said. “He handed over thousands of documents, which are a very rich reservoir of information. But then Donald Trump had a tantrum and called his book “fake news,” then Mark Meadows called his own book of “fake news” and canceled its cooperation with our committee. The House voted to recommend holding Meadows in contempt of Congress for his refusal to cooperate.

The committee’s objective and Raskin’s prosecution are clear: “If we can get a full and accurate picture of the events of January 6 and all the causes that led to them, it could blow up the roof of the house,” said he declared. noted. “It will show that there is some kind of constellation of forces threatening the future of American democracy. January 6 was not the final act, but perhaps the prologue to a titanic struggle between democracy and violent authoritarianism in America.