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Truthdigger of the Week: Tomas Young

Posted on Mar 23, 2013
Copyright Eugene Richards, from War Is Personal

Young at his home in Kansas City, Mo., in 2006.

By Alexander Reed Kelly

(Page 2)

“He was more distant than he’d been before,” Richards said. “I’m sure he was troubled by his inability to speak. But he was very friendly.” Richards took a handful of photographs for the couple. He said that by then Young had made the decision to stop living. “He told me very tactfully that he was considering a change in his status, so to speak,” Richards said.

The photographer recognizes that the pain of being unable to socialize was a determining factor in Young’s decision to die. “I think one of the worries he had [after his brain injury] was that people wouldn’t talk with him as much as they used to,” he said. Young’s independence was already gone, but the inability to participate in the sort of nuanced communication that constitutes so much of interpersonal relating stands as yet another grievous, isolating loss.

A number of people commenting beneath the many published articles about Young this week have written that suicide, even in Young’s condition, is inexcusable. “I’ve met other people who have terribly debilitating diseases, but the consciousness is still there,” Richards said. “Tomas is becoming trapped. His world is shrinking.” Richards is tempted to try to persuade his friend to abandon his decision. “I would love to get on the phone and argue with him,” he said. “I would because I care for him so much. But on the other hand, what he calls life is progressively coming to a close for him. It’s kind of pretentious on my part to think that my idea of life applies to his. He’s been thinking about it for a long time, and I think life is closing in on him very quickly.”

For a moment Richards thought about the consequence of Young’s coming absence to liberals across the country. “One of the biggest problems for me, a practical problem,” he confided, “was that we’ll lose a major voice that is questioning these fucking wars. We won’t have that voice much longer. That sounds so selfish, but it’s real.”


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The prospects for individuals in the kind of trouble Young has endured for almost a decade are never good. A few years ago Richards published a book of photographs of people who were heavily involved in drugs. Today, he said, every person who appeared in that book is dead. Coincidentally, the subjects of “War Is Personal,” the book in which Young appeared, are moving in the same direction. At age 33, sometime in May, a month after quitting his nourishment regimen, it is forecast that Young will die too.

For struggling for as long as he has, for publicly shaming a class of people who make a holiday of the deaths and suffering of the powerless, and for forcing us again to consider the terrible consequences of America’s unnecessary, ongoing and disgraceful wars, we honor Tomas Young as our Truthdigger of the Week.

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