Saturday, October 5, 2013

Occupational Veneration

I was very recently engaged in a political discussion with a friend that I will not reference here, other than to say that in the course of our exchange he wisely referenced the Lake Wobegon Effect among political figures.  The name, of course, is derived from the many tales of the fictional Minnesota town as spun by Garrison Keillor on the radio program "A Prairie Home Companion."  **WARNING: Do not visit the PHC website if you consider public radio to be a liberal machination for the purpose of widespread indoctrination against Jesus and His many teachings on free market principles.**

Of course, in all truthfulness this is quite unavoidable.  On an individual level, one could argue that self-image is often warped.  Sometimes these warped images manifest in unrealistic self-criticism, as it does in the case of anorexia.  Surely decades of edited photographs and unrealistic ideals in media have taken a toll, especially on women, but outside of these external idols an intrinsic illusion of superiority is far more common.  Nearly every time I peruse the comments on any current-event website that could possibly have a political angle (and sometimes even where there is no tie to politics), someone will proclaim their views immediately after or before the two-word imperative "wake up", typically in all capital letters and excessive punctuation.  This, of course, politely informs the reader that the views of the poster are the obvious truth, and that anyone who disagrees with his or her position is obviously asleep, or drugged by "Kool-Aid".

While I acknowledge the phenomenon on an individual level, and even to some degree concerning a group that the individual may be associated with, I am a little more perplexed about the veneration of certain occupational groups that seem to steep into all of society.  While lawyers, for example, tend to enjoy a negative occupational reputation, veterinarians are usually assumed to have a kind devotion similar to that of the nuns that didn't teach at parochial school.  While stable, this unwritten list is obviously subject to change, as teachers used to be on the "noble" list when I was growing up but in more recent national discussions tend to be portrayed as opportunistic and overpaid.  I still hold to the former ranking, but that's probably another post.

Sometimes the relative position is so great that it comes with an almost oxymoronic title of nobility, such as the Honorable Randy Neugebauer or His Holiness Pope Francis.  Among the Christians that do not believe a human (outside of Christ himself) can embody holiness is Pope Francis himself, who when asked recently to describe himself began with "I am a sinner."  I greatly admire Pope Francis for such humility, which contrasts so starkly with Congress who more often than not believe themselves to be honorable.  I suppose we have the feudal system to thank for these many titles.

Two other occupations, that I believe to both be honorable in themselves, have also approached dishonesty in their unofficial marketing: medical doctors and military servicemen.  Now, before everyone grabs the pitchforks, I appreciate our men and women of the military and their service to our nation, as well as the sacrifices their families must make while they are away.  Obviously, many never return from armed conflict.  I also greatly admire and give due respect to medical doctors, knowing the years of study and work that they must complete in order to obtain their title and position.  I refer more to the public rhetoric of these groups in general, which I will further explain. 

I have heard many people credit a doctor with "saving lives".  While I understand the sentiment, I think the wording goes a bit too far.  Beyond theological objections, I still think it might be more appropriate to say "extend" a life, because no one treated (or "healed", or "saved") by a doctor 150 year ago is alive today.  Again, this is more a public sentiment than a proclamation from doctors as a group.  Surely their work is valuable, and I might go so far as to say a patient may be saved from symptoms, or pain, or maybe even that years of a life were saved, but the simplified version of "saving a life" is somewhat misleading.  Indeed, hearing an MD object to the phrase himself/herself would be as refreshing as hearing the Pope call himself a sinner.

Likewise, I have heard many (non-military) people rightly express gratitude to the individuals of our armed forces but incorrectly include the phrase "they are fighting for our freedom" or something similar.  I have heard some go so far as to say that we can worship in church or assemble peacefully thanks to those serving in today's military, which is obviously incorrect.  One could make a case that there were, in a certain age, men who sacrificed for the cause of American independence, from which flowed the Bill of Rights some years later.  Our rights in these regards have been unchanged (for white persons) in the past two centuries.   It might even be appropriate to say that since the Patriot Act, we enjoy fewer freedoms today than we did 20 years ago.  Our military does an admirable job defending our nation's interests as defined by various administrations, and as they by design do as commanded, I certainly object to the way many in the military are demonized by persons opposed to specific military actions (most notably the Vietnam conflict, yet sadly still an issue today).  Yet, on the other side of the coin, I've had people insist that opposition to a specific conflict is "not supporting our troops", which I find rather odd; what better way to support those families than to bring the absent back safely? 

Again, I do not fault either group for these errant phrases.  I have never heard an actual serviceman (or woman) make a statement like "you owe your freedom to me".  They are typically too humble to take credit even where it is due.  It just seems that in each of these cases, the public latches on to an ideal that pushes the boundary of truth...but why?  And if a veteran comes home and becomes a civilian police officer, does he or she go from selfless hero to arrogant pig? 


  1. Pope Francis is the greatest pope. I feel guilty for not going to church now.

    1. I may have to research that claim as there have been so many popes, but I too am a huge fan. Seems like every week I am hearing of something else Francis has done or said that seems counter to religion as we have sadly come to know it. He's a great example for Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Atheists....anyone at all.