November 8, 2015


Ben Carson, the humblebragging instrument of God (Carlos Lozada November 5, 2015, Washington Post)

Once you have God on speed dial, well, it's hard not to press that button. At one point, Carson requests God's help to find his stolen passport; it is retrieved. On the eve of a safari in South Africa, Carson asks God to "bless us with the opportunity to observe a wide variety of wildlife." No surprise: His party witnesses such an astonishing range of animals that the guide can remember nothing like it. ("I never dreamed just how literally my prayers would be answered," he writes.) And in a particularly unnerving intercession, Carson asks God for help in dismissing his incompetent, alcoholic secretary without hurting her feelings. ("I'm softhearted," the doctor assures, "and it is especially hard for me to fire somebody.") Two weeks later, the secretary doesn't show up for work. "We never did find out what happened to her," Carson writes. "She simply disappeared." He regrets not being able to help her, but nevertheless, he is "thankful that this problem was resolved without any unpleasantness on my part." Prayers answered and unpleasantness avoided, at least for the softhearted surgeon.

Carson frequently cites a poem, "Yourself to Blame," that his mother taught him as a kid. "If things go bad for you/ And make you a bit ashamed/ Often you will find out that/ You have yourself to blame" are the opening lines. The sentiment fits his philosophy of self-help and self-reliance, which in turn informs his views on poverty and race. Yet he rarely casts blame in his own direction. He repeatedly plagiarizes in college, but when he is finally caught, he minimizes the transgression as ignorance rather than malice. "Frankly, I had never even heard of the term plagiarism," he writes. "Fortunately for me, the professor was very compassionate, realized that I was naive, and gave me a chance to rewrite the paper." And when things go wrong for him in the operating room, when a patient dies, Carson concludes that the surgery was impossible from the start and, prophet-like, chastises God for wasting his talents. "Why did you let me spend so much valuable time and energy in something that could not possibly work out?" Carson asks God. "Why would you provide an opportunity like this only to allow us to fail? Why?"

It's easier to lecture God when you're convinced of your own virtue. Carson seems particularly pleased with his humility, as the prideful tend to be.

Posted by at November 8, 2015 12:52 PM