As soon as the news broke about the Canadian rescue of the six American diplomats in Tehran, everyone who had a friend in Canada wanted to pick up the phone and thank them personally.
I called my pal George in Toronto.
"On behalf of all the people of the United States, I want to thank you for what you did to save our diplomats. You may have lost an embassy for a while, but you've gained a friend for life."
"Don't thank us," he said. "We thank you."
"How can you thank us when you were the people who stuck your necks out while the rest of our friends kept insisting the hostage situation was an 'American problem'?"
"If you'll forgive me, you Americans don't really understand what makes another nation feel good. For years you people have been going around the world aiding other countries for self-serving or altruistic reasons. All you've gotten in return is resentment and envy. No self-respecting country enjoys being on the receiving end of someone else's largesse. By doing something for you, we have restored our national pride.
"I assure you," he continued, that after our recent adventure, the Canadians are twice as pro-American as the Americans are pro-Canadian."
"But you can't be. Your act of bravery, in one of our darkest hours, has every loyal American -- man, woman and child -- in your debt."
"Exactly," said George. "That's why we feel so pro-American. For years Canadians have been in America's debt, and frankly it's been a pain in the a--. For the first time we don't feel inferior to you."
"I see what you mean," I replied. "But still you people went beyond the call of duty. Did you see Foreign Minister Ghotbzadeh on TV? He was fuming and said Canada will pay dearly for smuggling out the diplomats. He called it a 'flagrant violation of international law, a betrayal of Iran and a brutal act of espionage.'"
"It was the icing on the cake for us. Ghotbzadeh is a twit."
"All the same, you people didn't have to do what you did. Iran had no quarrel with you."
"For heaven's sake, man, stop being so grateful! A little groveling can go so far. If you were up here you would realize how happy the Canadians are that they could spit in the ayatollah's face. We rarely get a chance to play even a small part on the world stage and, believe me, it feels wonderful. There's nothing better for a Canadian's spirit than to pull an American's chestnuts out of the fire. All of us would have given up three embassies if we had to -- for this opportunity."
"When you put it that way I guess we did do you a favor by letting you rescue our diplomats. Well, if I can't thank you, what can I do?"
"Just don't become bitter," George said.
"How can I become bitter?"
"People do when they are beholden to somebody. We Canadians have felt that way for years. Now you owe us one and we don't want you to sour on us."
"There's something wrong with this conversation," I said. "I called to thank you. You say you should thank me. And now you tell me not to become bitter for what you've done."
"That's correct. Just let us enjoy the Iranian caper for what it was. It may be quite a while before we have an opportunitiy to help out our little brothers to the south again, so allow us to savor the moment as long as we can."