The Other Wes Moore Persuasive
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“When we’re young, it sometimes seems as if the world doesn’t exist outside our city, our block, our house, our room. We make decisions based on what we see in that limited world and follow the only models available” (Moore, 178). Role models play a huge role in shaping an individual and the paths that they go down in their lifetime. In the case of Wes Moore and the other Wes Moore the different role models they had played a large role in shaping who they became and why they turned out so differently. The strongest influences in Wes Moore’s life were strong positive influences that helped guide him into the successful adult he is now, and unfortunately the other Wes Moore had several presences in his life that, although not intentionally, steered him down the wrong path. Both of their parents played a huge role in shaping who they became.
Their mothers who were their primary caregivers parented them differently. Even their father had an influence because even though they were not present in their upbringing, the lack of their presence and the few memories the boys had of them affected the Wes Moore’s in big ways. The final role models that in large part influenced the lives of these boys were Tony, for the other Wes Moore, and the sergeants at the military school that Wes Moore attended. Wes Moore’s strong mother, caring father and respectable sergeants at military school helped send him down a good path, while the other Wes Moore’s mother, father and brother did not support him in the correct ways at important junctures in his life and did not stop him from making mistakes that ultimately landed him in jail.
Wes Moore’s mother, Joy did everything in her power to steer her son in the right direction, often making huge sacrifices, which ultimately paid off, to do so. She believed that “overdoing it was better than doing nothing at all” (95), and she made the decision to do what not many other mothers were doing in her neighborhood and send her son to private school, and then military school when that didn’t work. She realized that environment plays a key role in the type of person one grows up to be and wanted her son to be in less impoverished surroundings where the majority of kids didn’t cut school and get involved in the drug game. Going to private school kept Wes from the streets during the daytime and after school still created a bit of a barrier between him and the other kids in the neighborhood because he was the “private school kid”. This kept him from being introduced deeply into the drug game.
However, at private school Wes could feel how different he was and struggled to overcome that discomfort. As a result his grades went downhill and when Joy saw that happening, and realized that her talks weren’t working to turn around his progress “she was devastated. She was losing her son and she did not know how to turn the tide” (89). She finally decided that it was time for a drastic change and that she would send her son to military school. Military school, however, was not cheap. She wrote “to family and friends asking them to help her however they could. ‘I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t really need it,’ she wrote” (95). When she still came short thousands of dollars, Wes’s grandparents took the money they had in [their] home in the Bronx, decades of savings and mortgage payments, and gave it to my mother so that she could pay for my first year of military school” (96). Wes was incredibly blessed to have a mother that realized the importance of drastically turning the tide when her son was struggling to make good decisions and have family that were willing to make sacrifices for his well being.
The other Wes Moore’s mother, Mary did not have as strong a sense of how to effectively turn around her son’s behavior as Joy. Perhaps it was because she had less resources to draw from than Joy, or because she had to give up on her own dream of going to school which made her feel powerless. In addition, she was quite young and still wanted to have fun herself, sometimes at the cost of caring for her sons. “She was still young enough to enjoy partying, dancing and being noticed by men—and noticing them back—much to the chagrin of her family and friends who ended up watching the boys so many nights” (19). Tony grew up to be deeply involved in the drug game and “she knew what her older son was into, but didn’t think there was anything she could do for him now. She hoped that Wes would be different” (71).
When Wes started in the drug game as well, and started making stacks of money, he told his mother that he made the money DJing and “she’d bought it whole. Maybe because she really believed him. Maybe because she really wanted to believe him” (70). Later, when she finally found Wes’s stash of drugs, all she did was flush them down the toilet and yell at him to never do it again. At these important junctures in Wes’s life, where she realized he was headed down the same path as Tony, Mary failed to properly steer him back in the right direction. She tried to some extent, but the methods she used were not drastic enough to make an impact.
Although Wes Moore’s father died when he was very young, and was not around to parent him, the few memories he had of him gave him an idea of what it meant to be a good man. Even from the very small amount of information given on him, it is clear that Wes Moore senior was a good man. He was there for his wife, helping her parent her children until the end of his life and he had a very solid, calming presence. Once, when Wes was just a toddler, he hit his older sister, and his mother, who had been beaten by her previous husband, reacted very angrily to this. She yelled at Wes, until Wes’s father reminded her that although “he [needed] to learn what [was] acceptable and what [was] not, that cursing at a young boy wasn’t the most effective way of making a point” (6).
He went upstairs to talk to Wes himself, and in his presence “all of [Wes’s] anxiety released. [He] could not have felt safer, more secure. [Wes’s father] began to explain what [Wes] did wrong and why [his] mother was so angry. ‘Main Man, you can’t just hit people, particularly women. You must defend them, not fight them. Do you understand?’” (11). Wes’s father taught Wes an incredibly important lesson that day, that helped him keep his cool in future situations and not react with violence. Wes knew what a real man looked like, and could model himself after his father, even if he remembered very little about him.
In contrast to Wes Moore’s father, the other Wes Moore’s father was not s grounded man who was there for his family at all. He walked out on Mary after Wes was born and was never there to help her parent him or even financially. Mary did not ever think that her son would meet his father, and it would have probably been better if he hadn’t. But as fate would have it, Wes did meet his father, twice, and both times his father didn’t even know who he was. The first time Wes met his father was when he was relatively young. It was at his grandmother’s house, and he saw “a man [sitting] on the couch, leaning precariously to the side, his right elbow supporting his body and his head nearly flat against his shoulder. The strong smell of whiskey wafted from his clothes and pores” (25). His father was clearly drunk or hung over, and was having trouble holding himself up.
The smell of whiskey also made Wes feel uncomfortable. Already, there is a stark contrast between this memory of the other Wes Moore’s father and Wes Moore’s father. Wes Moore felt very safe around his father, and his dad was being a good role model in his memory, while the other Wes’s father is crashing on his ex wife’s mother’s couch, drunk and dirty. “The man on the couch looked up at Mary and asked ‘who’s this?’” (25). One of the worst, most insulting feelings in the world must be for a parent not to recognize their own child. As a role model, Wes’s father showed Wes that it was okay to disrespect women, do drugs, not hold a proper job, and not be there for his children. Clearly, Wes’s father had a very negative influence on him.
Wes excelled at military school and had a plethora of strong male role models to model himself after. Wes actually hated military school at first, because the environment there was so starkly different than the environment at home. Here rules and respect were a few of the most important values held, and this was a foreign concept to Wes. However, the sergeants and captains there “made it clear that they cared if [Wes] succeeded, and so eventually [he] did” 115). When he first arrived, although he didn’t like it, he was impressed in spite of himself, by one of the sergeants. “[He] had never seen a man, a peer demand that much respect from his people. [He] had seen Shea demand respect in the neighborhood, but this was different. This was real respect, the kind you cant beat or scare out of people (96). This was when Wes realized that he was in a completely different environment where camaraderie and respect were things that were actually cherished. Over time Wes learned to love the school and himself learned the true meaning of honor, courage and camaraderie. Later in life, Wes realized that apart from his mother and father, the people he trusted most all wore the uniform of the United States.
Tony, the other Wes Moore’s brother became involved in the drug game long before Wes, but wanted Wes to have nothing to do with it. He constantly urged Wes to do well in school and not get involved in the game. Although Tony loved his brother and wanted the best for him, this was very hypocritical advice. Wes “had learned to ignore [Tony’s] occasional ‘do as I say, not as I do’ tirades. Tony, by contrast, was desperately trying to give his little brother information he thought he needed, the kind of information that Tony never got” (27). Tony never had a role model who had shown him a better path, and he wanted to be this role model for Wes, but didn’t realize that in order to do so, he would have to show Wes the right way rather than just telling him.
Also, in contrast to these pleas for Wes to do the right thing, Tony also felt that it was his job to toughen Wes up for fights he might have in the future. He taught Wes that “if someone disrespects [him], [he must] send a message so fierce that they won’t have the chance to do it again” (33). This “was Murphey Homes law and Wes took it to heart” (33) and later, when he got in a fight with another kid, he was arrested for holding knife and going after the kid who had hit him in an attempt to “send a message” (33). “Wes wanted to be just like Tony” (72), and that is exactly what happened.
Who knows that could have happened if the other Wes Moore had the same role models as Wes Moore, but it is very likely that he would have turned out very differently. Wes found himself “surrounded by people—starting with [his] mom, grandparents, uncles and aunts, and leading to a string of wonderful role models and mentors—who kept pushing [him] to see more than what was directly in front of [him], to see the boundless possibilities of the wider world and the unexplored possibilities within [himself]. People that taught [him] that no accident of birth—not being black or relatively poor, being from Baltimore or the Bronx, or fatherless—would ever define or limit [him]” (147). The other Wes Moore was not lucky enough to have people guiding him in the right direction every time he stepped foot in the wrong one. This story shows how crucial the people in your life can be to shaping you and how if you are a role model, you have much more power on someone else than you may think.