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Before I moved to Hilton Head, I practiced for 20 years in a small town in the mountains of east Tennessee. I loved it there. Everybody knew everybody, the schools and churches were wonderful, and it was a great place to raise my kids. It had a cute little downtown (pictured at right), with cute little shops on each side of the road, and a traffic circle with a war monument in the middle. Like every other small town in America. Lovely.
One day when I left the office on my way home, I pulled out right behind a big green military truck, which was going maybe 25 miles per hour. I grumbled as I followed for nearly a mile through town. When we got to downtown, the military truck pulled off to the side, revealing a roadblock and lots of cops right at the entrance to downtown. One of the cops walked up to my window and greeted me warmly:
Cop: “Hey, doc! Great to see you!”
Me: “Great to see you too! How have you been?”
Cop: “Doing pretty well, thanks. Hard to believe it’s been almost 6 months since Mom died. She thought the world of you, by the way. We all really appreciate everything you did for her.”
Me: “It was an honor.”
Cop: “I just can’t tell you how much I appreciate you taking care of my Mom. My whole family loves you for everything you did.”
This reminds me of one of the downsides of being the doctor in a small town. Everybody knows exactly who you are, but you can’t remember the names of several thousand people.
So we continued for a while, having a very odd conversation, in which he was reliving the step-by-step details of a medical case which I couldn’t remember, involving a patient he didn’t name, from a disease I couldn’t recall.
Eventually, I changed the subject and motioned toward the roadblock.
Me: “So, what’s going on?”
Cop: “Oh, yeah. The 167th is getting back from Afghanistan today. We’re having a parade for them. Didn’t you see it in the paper?”
Me: “Ah. I missed the story in the paper. I’m glad they’re coming home. Ok, no problem. I’ll just turn around, and go across the other bridge. No sweat.”
Cop: “Oh, no doc – they don’t get here for another half an hour! You can just pull right through!” He starts motioning to the cops up by the barricade.
Me: “No, really, it won’t take but two minutes to just swing down past the piano string factory. No trouble at all, really!”
By this time, the cop was purposefully striding away from my car, toward the cops at the barricade, and yelling at them in his thick Tennessee drawl.
Cop: “Hey, guys! Get that barricade open – on the double! This here’s Doc Bastiat! Very important man! Let him through!”
Me: “No, really…”
Cop: “Don’t you worry about a thing, Doc, I’ll get this straightened out for you right away. You just pull right on through. Have a good day, sir. And thanks again for helping my Mom.”
They moved the barricade aside, and there was really nothing for me to do but pull through. As I started to pull through, I saw the high school marching band in the furniture store parking lot, and lots and lots of people on both sides of the street, all the way down to the monument.
As soon as the barricade opened, the marching band started playing patriotic music, and all those people started to cheer. Everyone was waving American flags and crowding closer to the street, to see the returning heroes. As I drove through town at 10mph, I saw little kids on their mother’s shoulders holding signs, saying “Welcome Home Heroes!” and things like that. I thought, yes, I’m going home. Thank you for recognizing my heroic deeds.
Actually, no. I didn’t think that. All I could think was that I wanted to just disappear. I was getting a hero’s welcome, when all I was was just some guy driving home from work. I’ve never felt so inadequate. As I drove through town, I slipped lower and lower in my seat, trying to hide beneath my steering wheel. Those cheering kids were probably wondering what the big deal was about some middle-aged guy in a 20-year-old Mercury sedan.
I’ve never felt more inadequate in my life. In retrospect, it’s funny. But at the time, it was horrifying.
I worry about people who don’t share my revulsion toward inappropriate praise.
Here in Hilton Head, there is a pharmacy nearby that has a sign out front saying, “Heroes work here!” I guess they’re trying to ride the wave of popularity of those who help treat COVID, even if they’re just giving vaccines all day. I don’t understand. You work in a pharmacy. Then you go home. It’s called doing your job.
Soon after the parade, I shared my story with a couple of my patients who were in the military unit that was honored that day. A couple of the National Guard troops who returned on the day of my humiliation. Interestingly, they were also uncomfortable with all the fanfare. One guy said, “I went over there, I did my job, I came home. There were heroes over there, but I wasn’t one of them. I fixed trucks.”
Me: “Well, yeah, but the trucks needed to be fixed, right?”
Him: “Dang right. Especially after those yo-yos drive them. You just can’t imagine. But again, that’s my job.”
I told him that I understand. “Now, step aside while I heroically fix your blood pressure.” We had a good laugh, sort of understanding one another.
Don’t get me wrong. I greatly admire those who do their jobs. Whatever they are. But when you call a pharmacy tech (or a doctor, or a mechanic) a hero, and they respond, “Yes, yes, thank you very much…” that makes me uneasy.
I wonder if Joe Biden or Kamala Harris ever look out over those cheering, adoring crowds, and wonder, “Why are they cheering?”
In Joe Biden’s case, he made no sacrifices to get to this point. All he did was enrich his entire family with corrupt money for decades, waiting for his turn at the presidency. Granted, Kamala Harris made significant sacrifices to get where she is (*cough* Willie Brown *cough*), but still, it’s not quite the same as working in a war zone for several months.
This is a problem on the right as well, but much less so. We don’t idolize our leaders the way the left does. Even Reagan was heavily criticized by many on the right throughout his entire political career. Because conservatives wanted something done, and they didn’t care quite as much who did it. Heck, conservatives even tolerated Donald Trump for the most part. We didn’t like him as a person, but he did a good job. So fine. He’s not my hero. I’m just hiring him to do a job.
But the left has always been susceptible to the cult of personality of its leaders. Which predictably leads to flawed leaders.
The type of people who would have smiled and waved to the crowd, as they drove through the downtown parade route. Accepting the praise that they knew they didn’t deserve.
To me, that is evidence of a serious personality flaw.
And a lot of leftist leaders have that personality flaw. Because leftist voters select it, over and over again.
So we get Bill Clinton, and Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, and Joe Biden, and Kamala Harris. And Fidel Castro, and Adolf Hitler, and Hugo Chavez, and Kim Jong Un.
They’re not worthy of such hero worship. And they know it. And they don’t care.
Or worse yet, they think they are worthy of it. That’s when things go really wrong, really quickly.
Having been on the receiving end of such inappropriate praise, I don’t understand those who relish it.
I don’t understand them. But I do fear them.
What I really don’t understand is leftist voters, who don’t fear them.
They’re creating monsters. Over and over again.Published in