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I Don't Have Time to Supervise the President

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I don't think I'm alone in feeling both privileged and depleted by what feels like a combination of access to information and the sense of being overwhelmed by so much going on in so many places that cry out for attention. Whether it is the call to sign petitions or give money or be part of a campaign, the truth is there is much we don't see, and what is more we are at the end of the day, only human. Even if we are not obsessed by obtaining "happiness" at any cost, we are coping with relationships and emotions and the circumstances of our own lives. So that at a certain point, we need to delegate some of the responsibilities for the rest of life to those who have sworn to do their job to protect us and follow through on at least some of their promises.

One of the matters I had hoped would be resolved during the tenure of Barack Obama as president was the stain on our nation of stooping to levels of torture which has proven not only ineffective but clearly dehumanizing to all who participate on either side. So to read Matt Sledge's HuffPost piece documenting the implications behind the proposal of the president of John Brennan for the head of the CIA, is more than a little disconcerting if, unfortunately at this point, not surprising. Although Brennan has publicly come out against waterboarding, he seems to be considered central to the current escalation of drone strikes. According to Sledge:

Human rights advocates have concerns about whether drones are being used to kill too many civilians in places like Pakistan, whether there are enough rules around their use, and whether they are leading to the 'paramilitarization' of the CIA, which more traditionally has been in the business of intelligence-gathering, not killing.

Stephen Soldz, Ph.D., head of the organization Psychologists for Social Responsibility and leading clinician to relentlessly monitor and advocate to stop the injustices of psychologists being directly involved in torture interrogations, is quoted in this article. He states: "In 2008, we were still hoping that Obama represented a radical change. In some ways he has, but in other ways certainly not." He goes on to speak about Obama failing to demand accountability for torturers and depending increasingly on drone strikes. The discussions that will attend the current nomination of John Brennan are seen more as a chance to clarify controversy and fact, but there seems not to be a real chance of changing the president's mind. There is less leverage for human rights activists, and some of us have, I think, also given up paying close attention, because it gets too depressing. So therefore I thank Stephen Soldz and others like him for keeping up their efforts, as they perhaps might thank me for keeping up mine in the arenas where combining my expertise and passion can be potentially constructive and connected to the evolving of empathy and honesty elsewhere.

So getting back to the original point. As one person trying to negotiate the work of doing psychotherapy, dealing with life changes involving moving and losses and shifts, I for one am not equipped to act as a watchdog agency in my own right. I don't have the energy to do it justice, so why not just admit that? Why not admit that we all need people who are involved in separate causes to be on it, to be the experts in an area so we can concentrate on making the things better where we have the talent and the capacity to give.

This is not the ranting of a bleeding-heart liberal, although I'm not ashamed to admit that's what I am. I just also know that being a liberal when it comes to social justice can be proven to be practical when it comes to what honor and honesty do to the ones committing either torture or good works. I also know that motivations of revenge and punishment have worked to alienate too much of the world. As I know that in our parenting techniques, cold or mechanical detachment does not yield the empathy and mutuality and civic responsibility we say we want.

I can help, I feel, in our getting to know the underlying causes and effects involved in cruelty and codependency. And that I hope to continue to do, it being an arena where I can help on personal and family levels and even in terms of connecting the dots to larger political questions. But it's useless for me to keep my eyes on everything, since it won't work. I won't know that there is a growing change of regional warfare in the Congo perhaps, something I just heard from someone who is "on" that arena of concern. And I won't even know the latest developments in the CIA unless I can be sure of being contacted by Stephen Soldz as I have come to depend on him for covering like a hawk, that territory of our political and ethical lives.

I am among those who are saddened at the continued non-coverage of real-time damage to our own soldiers as well the civilians whose faces we are prone not to study as well as we do when tragedies such as Connecticut hit our hearts and captivate them for some time. Just perhaps, instead of complaining about our inattention to crucial issues, we can admit our imperfections: we don't have the time, energy or capacity to see it all clearly.

We need help, and if we elect someone who promises to do something, we need to be able to depend on him more. Collaboration -- sharing, if you will -- doesn't mean each of us being involved in all the causes of the world. It means that there would be more people who are working in the service of reliability and accountability, who are doing their job.