Why Don’t Folks Listen To Doctors These Days?

Episode 9 of American Butterfly: Question the Experts, Doubt the Science

“The sun rises. The sun sets. We tend to complicate the process.”
— A Southerner, anonymous

Born so premature, JT was rescued only by modern medicine. For that, Mom and Dad were thankful. My brother had a few medical challenges, including a lazy eye that drifted away from the first. After surgery to align the drifting eye — much later after birth than is now the norm — Mom insisted that JT’s physician told her to patch the bad eye to make the good eye stronger. She followed this advice for some time and watched the good eye improve while the bad eye got weaker.

Photo by Bacila Vlad on Unsplash

The plan seemed fatalistic, guaranteeing blindness in one eye. Mom eventually took the story of “patching the bad eye” to another ophthalmologist in Memphis. He assured her we were experiencing medical malpractice. He reversed the protocol, and we patched the good eye. Theoretically, the weak eye would be forced to coordinate with the brain. The good eye, bad eye, and the brain would all be brought into line.

For almost two years we did everything we could to convince JT to wear the patch and glasses. We blackened the patch and called him a pirate. We painted the patch to match his shirt. We put stickers on the patch; Papa Smurf was a favorite. All to some avail.

He lost his glasses almost immediately, conveniently misplaced in a tree not to be discovered by our sister until the day we moved to our grandparents’ home. Generally he kept the patch on, though I did hear tales of his surreptitiously pulling the patch away so he could read the blackboard. Fortunately, his bad eye remained functional for years before approaching technical blindness as an adult.

Listening to Mom and Dad, the experts in America were once revered. Military experts brought us victory in World War II. Experts in physics developed the atomic bomb that protected America’s status after the war. Medical experts in the fifties cured polio, the most dreaded disease of the century, and rocket scientists had taken us to the moon. In my grade school we still watched the occasional black and white movie introduced by the disembodied, stentorian voice that began with the statement, “Experts tell us…”

By the 1970’s my parents had lost respect for the experts. The leadership of America in the sixties had torn apart our world or, at least, let it be torn apart. The technocrat experts had lost the Vietnam War. The over-paid, over-educated, under-working leaders of American business had lost to the Japanese and sacrificed their workers along the way.

The health experts were some of the worst. One decade grains are at the top of the food pyramid; the next at the bottom. One decade we are told to stop eating so many eggs because they are clogging our arteries. The next decade we are told, “Eggs do not impact cholesterol so much. They are a nice source of protein.”

My parents were certain that paying too much attention to the experts was blinding us all, taking away our rights and making us poor and unhealthy. Sort of like putting a patch on the bad eye to make the good eye better.

Better connections are one of the secret recipes for a better tomorrow. Please follow J. Andrew Shelley.

The above is a modified excerpt from the novel, American Butterfly. The story is told through the eyes of a man raised in the South, living in the North, and struggling to understand love in the modern world.

It directly engages recent decades. It embraces the events that have shaped today’s world. And it draws upon the past to help us understand the many sides fighting America’s Culture War.

All through a family story, different and similar to yours and to mine.




A better world is a lifetime project. One person, one team, one organization, one company, one state at a time. Book: American Butterfly on Amazon.

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J. Andrew Shelley

J. Andrew Shelley

A better world is a lifetime project. One person, one team, one organization, one company, one state at a time. Book: American Butterfly on Amazon.

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