Last week, Thomas “Tommy” Raskin died at the age of 25. Tommy was the son of Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), whose office announced his death on Thursday, December 31st. Tommy was an anti-war activist, a vegan, a writer, and a student at Harvard Law School.
As his family said in a statement, “Tommy was pure magic. His brilliance and compassion knew no bounds. He passionately loved his family, friends, and animals, and was devoted to the cause of the global poor.”
I never met Tommy Raskin, but when I read his work, that brilliance and compassion shines through.
He was a dedicated opponent of war and militarism. Just last week, he published a piece at the Libertarian Institute arguing that anti-war activists should strive to use the First Amendment to protect various forms of resistance to American militarism. And this essay was just the tip of the iceberg. He wrote various essays against war, militarism, imperialism, and colonialism at Foreign Policy in Focus, the Libertarian Institute, CounterPunch, Antiwar.com, and the Antiwar.com blog.
Beyond writing, Tommy Raskin worked in a variety of capacities to advance the cause of peace. He was a former intern at Antiwar.com. He was also a former intern at the Cato Institute, whose foreign policy team strongly opposes war.
Raskin also worked on Middle East policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker activist group that lobbies for peace. While there, he facilitated lobbying visits to advocate against the U.S. government’s disastrous wars in the Middle East.
As Scott Horton notes, “Tommy was active in recent efforts to lobby congressional opposition to US support of the Saudi war on Yemen.” The US government’s support for that war entails backing a variety of atrocities, human rights abuses, and war crimes.
Tommy Raskin wrote and worked with a wide range of groups, all to stop the brutality and violence of America’s wars abroad. He never confined himself to one political faction. He never stopped or relented simply because the party in power or the occupant of the White House changed. We should all strive to be such dedicated peacemongers.
Raskin wrote on numerous other important issues, always centering the dignity and freedom of the most vulnerable. For example, in a recent piece here at C4SS, Raskin explored how Effective Altruism and anarchism can come together to help the global poor and challenge existing inequalities:
“In light of the state’s failure to allocate resources properly, the EA takes matters into her own hands, donating to GiveDirectly and other vetted charities in order to reduce the incidence of hunger, disease, and blindness throughout the world. In so doing, the EA functions in the spirit of radicals past who have rendered services that governments have shown themselves ill-equipped or unwilling to provide. When the EA gives people money for food, for example, she does right by the Black Panthers, the latter of whom, we will recall, started the Free Breakfast Program for children who might have gone hungry otherwise. Like that of the Black Panther, the EA’s activism stems from a well-founded sense that we should never allow government—so often captive to the forces of tribalism, bellicosity, and wealth—to be our sole source of relief in a world rife with suffering.”
This concern for the well-being of the poor and downtrodden can also be seen in his C4SS pieces “Should We Give to Morally Imperfect People?”, “The Fight for Homeless Homesteading,” and “The Left-Libertarian Balancing Act.”
In addition to addressing war and poverty, Raskin challenged unjust enforcement and punishment practices. He wrote outstanding pieces challenging school suspensions, corporal punishment in schools, the death penalty, and police brutality.
Our world is scarred by war, state violence, poverty, deprivation, and animal abuse. Too many people ignore these injustices. Others actively support them, often by shrouding them in euphemisms. Still others nominally oppose them, but treat them less like serious issues and more like bludgeons to prove the moral superiority of their own party or faction.
Tommy Raskin did none of this. He was willing to work with people across the political spectrum to advance liberty, justice, and the well-being of the least advantaged. He seriously examined, exposed, and resisted the most pressing injustices. I hope that we can advance his legacy and live up to his example.