Depths Of Depression

The world lost a good man this week.  He ultimately succumbed, as so many have before him, to the ravages of depression, and those who knew him, personally or professionally, are devastated.

Depression is such a terrible, pernicious condition.  It isn’t readily apparent when people are suffering from depression.  It isn’t visible, like a broken leg or a wasting disease.  Often people who are depressed try, successfully, to hide it from casual acquaintances — but the blackness and anguish and despair are always there, brooding and lingering under the surface, ready to pull them down again and again and again, until they just can’t tolerate it any longer.

Those of us who are fortunate, and who don’t suffer from chronic depression, can’t possibly understand what it truly means to be depressed.  It’s like a person who has known only perfect health trying to understand what it is like to live with constant, crippling pain.  You can’t comprehend the life-changing impact of permanent pain until you personally experience sustained physical torment whenever you draw a breath.  For the depressed person, the agony is just as real and just as unbearable.

Because depression doesn’t have physical manifestations, and because many people who suffer from depression are embarrassed by their condition, it’s difficult to measure just how widespread the problem of chronic depression really is.  Some estimate that as many as 1 in 6 Americans suffer from that affliction, with an economic cost of tens of billions of dollars.

But those are just numbers.  The real cost is in the losses suffered by families and friends who lose a loved one.  The real cost is the death of each person who was a good father and husband and friend, an active participant in his community and his workplace and his children’s lives, someone who made a real difference in other people’s lives.  When such special people lose their battle to this dreadful condition, the cost is incalculable.

Secretary Clinton Stands Down

Hillary Clinton has stepped down from President Obama’s Cabinet.  After battling health problems, she has been replaced as Secretary of State by John Kerry.

With so much of international diplomacy conducted behind closed doors, it’s very difficult to gauge the performance of any Secretary of State until the years pass and secrets become public.  In Clinton’s case, we know that the United States has managed to avoid become embroiled in any new wars during her tenure and that our roles in Iraq and Afghanistan are finally winding down.  We also know that efforts to “reset” relations with the Russians haven’t made much progress, North Korea, Iran, and Syria remain rogue states, and Pakistan seems to be teetering on the brink of chaos.  And the Holy Grail of American diplomacy — brokering a conclusive Middle East peace deal — eluded Secretary Clinton just as it eluded every one of her predecessors.  Her legacy as Secretary of State may be dependent, in significant part, upon what historians conclude about how, if at all, her stewardship affected the takeover of the American compound in Benghazi and the killing of the Ambassador and three other Americans.

What we can also say about Secretary Clinton, however, is that she was a good soldier for the President.  She didn’t make any trouble, didn’t try to upstage him, and by all accounts worked hard at her job and developed good relations with the career diplomats at the State Department.  She didn’t seem to let her ego get in the way — and in these days of celebrity politicians, that’s saying a lot.  When John Kerry’s tenure at the State Department has ended, I wonder whether we will be able to say the same thing about him?