Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth were both left-handed. It seems that there are a lot of reasons that lefties have an advantage in baseball as pitchers, batters hitting against right-handed pitchers, and first basemen. Not so much for catchers, since they are at a disadvantage throwing to third base.
Historical batting averages show that left-handed batters have a slight advantage over right-handed batters when facing right-handed pitchers. A right-handed pitcher’s curve ball will break away from a right-handed batter and towards a left-handed batter. Fourteen of the top twenty career batting averages in Major League Baseball history have been posted by left-handed batters.
And it does seem that left-handed people have swelled the ranks of famous artists, musicians and thinkers in greater proportion to their numbers, possibly because of the need to adapt to a right-handed world.
In his book Right-Hand, Left-Hand, Chris McManus of University College, London argues that the proportion of left-handers is increasing, and that an above-average quota of high achievers have been left-handed. He says that left-handers’ brains are structured in a way that increases their range of abilities, and that the genes that determine left-handedness also govern development of the brain’s language centers.
Left-handed people have had to contend with all sorts of minor indignities from can openers to scissors, and worse. Many lefties have been forced to suppress their natural preference to use the left hand and change to doing these tasks with the right hand. This forced change is called ‘transference.’
In an article in Popular Science magazine from December 1918, researchers reported on experiments with left-handed people. They found that in many of the cases where people were made to transfer to right-handedness, more than half of them had stammered or stuttered at some time in their lives.
Psychologists theorized that for the naturally left handed person the center of speech tends to develop in the right brain. When that person is forced to use his or her right hand to communicate, this introduces a complication to speech that experiments showed was relieved when the person was allowed to follow their natural ‘stronger’ hand. The article concluded that left-handed children should not be forced to change to using the right hand.
Prince William and his father, Charles, are left-handed, as was Charles’ grandfather George VI. George was forced to transfer writing to his right hand, and as we know from the movie The King’s Speech, had a life-long stammer. Moreover, apart from inconvenience, left-handed people have historically been considered unlucky or even malicious by the right-handed majority. “Dexter,” the word for the direction “right,” also means “correct” or “proper.” It’s the root of “dexterity” and “ambidextrous.” The Latin adjective sinister or sinistra means “left” as well as “unlucky,”
Other negative connotations are associated with being left-handed; words like clumsy, awkward, unlucky, insincere, sinister, malicious, and so on. A “left-handed compliment” is one that is not really complimentary to its recipient. One comic said that his dog was not a good dancer, “She has two left feet.”
In French, gauche means both “left” and “awkward” or “clumsy,” while “droit” or “droite” means both “right” and “straight”, as well as the legal sense of “right.”
The right side is considered the side of greater honor. By ancient tradition, the guest of greatest honor at a banquet sits at the right hand of the host. The Bible is replete with passages referring to being at the “right hand” of God.
The Great Seal of the United States features an eagle clutching an olive branch in its dexter talon and arrows in its sinister talon, indicating the nation’s intended inclination toward peace. In 1945, one of the changes ordered for the Flag of the President of the United States by President Truman was having the eagle face towards its right, towards the olive branch.
The two sides of your brain look very much alike, but there are differences in the way they process information. The two halves don’t work independently of each other but interact, and sometimes share tasks.
The left brain is more verbal, analytical, and orderly than the right brain. It’s sometimes called the digital brain. It’s better at things like reading, writing, and computations. Associated with the left brain are logic, sequencing, linear thinking, mathematics, facts, and thinking in words.
The right brain is more visual and intuitive. It’s sometimes referred to as the analog brain. It has a more creative and less organized way of thinking. The right brain is also characterized by imagination, holistic thinking, intuition, arts, rhythm, nonverbal cues, feelings, visualization, and daydreaming.
One thing that brought me to the topic of this article is the question of how to recognize when we have accepted a skewed representation of the left-ness or right-ness of our situation in the world. Its very likely that at one time or another, we find ourselves perched on a pendulum which has little room to move any further in the one direction, and is crying out to be released into a more natural equilibrium. I believe that is analogous to our situation today.
We know that a grandfather clock needs to be carefully leveled in order to give the correct time. This also goes for washing machines and metronomes in my experience. Sitting level, the metronome has a very nice tock tock tock tock, but tip it up slightly with a coin or two under one side, and pretty soon the tocks start to take on a skewed t-tock, t-tock, t-tock. Or worse, a very unmusical tockty tockty, tockty.
The use of the terms “left” and “right” to represent political orientation appeared during the French Revolution in 1789 when members of the National Assembly divided into supporters of the king to the president’s right and supporters of the revolution to his left. One deputy, the Baron de Gauville, revealed his personal prejudice when he explained: “We began to recognize each other: those who were loyal to religion and the king took up positions to the right of the chair so as to avoid the shouts, oaths, and indecencies that enjoyed free rein in the opposing camp.”
The Scottish sociologist Robert M. MacIver noted in The Web of Government that: “The right is always the party sector associated with the interests of the upper or dominant classes, the left the sector expressive of the lower economic or social classes, and the centre that of the middle classes.
“The conservative right has defended entrenched prerogatives, privileges and powers; the left has attacked them. The right has been more favorable to the aristocratic position, to the hierarchy of birth or of wealth; the left has fought for the equalization of advantage or of opportunity, for the claims of the less advantaged.”
Generally, the left-wing is characterized by an emphasis on ideas such as freedom, equality, fraternity, rights, progress, reform and internationalism while the right-wing is characterized by an emphasis on notions such as authority, hierarchy, order, duty, tradition, reaction and nationalism.
Political scientists and other analysts regard the left as including anarchists, communists, socialists, democratic socialists, social democrats, left-libertarians, progressives and social liberals. Movements for racial equality and trade unionism have also been associated with the left.
Political scientists and other analysts regard the right as including conservatives, right-libertarians, neoconservatives, imperialists, monarchists, fascists, reactionaries and traditionalists.
The labels that governments and parties choose for themselves can be very deceiving. Under Stalin, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was pretty clearly a totalitarian regime, not a coalition of republics and not socialist. Hitler’s party was the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. Again, no one would claim that his policies were anything like socialism.
In the book The Government and Politics of France, Andrew Knapp and Vincent Wright say that the main factor dividing the left and right wings in Western Europe is class. “The Left seeks social justice through redistributive social and economic policies, while the Right defends private property and capitalism.”
Left-wing values include the belief in the power of human reason to achieve progress for the benefit of the human race, secularism, sovereignty exercised through the legislature, social justice and mistrust of strong personal political leadership. To the right, this is regularly seen as anti-clericalism, unrealistic social reform, doctrinaire socialism and class hatred.
The Right are skeptical about the capacity for radical reforms to achieve human well-being while maintaining workplace competition. They believe in the established church both in itself and as an instrument of social cohesion, and they believe in the need for strong political leadership to minimize social and political divisions. To the Left, this is seen as a selfish and reactionary opposition to social justice, a wish to impose doctrinaire religion on the population and a tendency to authoritarianism and repression.
Michael Kazin writes that the left is traditionally defined as the social movement or movements “that are dedicated to a radically egalitarian transformation of society.” He writes that American leftists “married the ideal of social equality to the principle of personal freedom” and that contributed to the development of important features of modern American society, including “the advocacy of equal opportunity and equal treatment for women, ethnic and racial minorities, and homosexuals; the celebration of sexual pleasure unconnected to reproduction; a media and educational system sensitive to racial and gender oppression and which celebrates what we now call multiculturalism; and the popularity of novels and films with a strongly altruistic and anti-authoritarian point of view.”
Some have said that a measure of intelligence is the ability to contemplate and process opposing ideas. Pete Seeger stressed the importance of being able to have a conversation with people whose views you don’t agree with. I know that I want to have the broadest range of empathy with diverse political views in pursuit of solutions not presently seen by either side. I want to be able to create a wider center of understanding, and avoid always being in reaction to the outrages of the extremes. I know that there is more to it than just the red and blue pantomime, there are issues of class, and powerful movements afoot in the financial world.
When I was born in November of 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt was the president. Of course I don’t have many recollections of his presidency. And to be sure, World War II was a time of drastic national emergency, so it would be hard to characterize his administration during that time as anything but extraordinary and desperate coping.
Most would give him high marks for his conduct of the war. Most of us would also give him high marks for his earlier record of dealing with the Depression, although many of his policies were drastically socialistic, and earned him the ire of the establishment on the right. Not to mention three attempts on his life.
Truman was really a non-entity to me as a three-year-old, although it would be hard to dismiss the atomic bomb from my reminiscences of those fateful days. Certainly the cold war began and was pretty far along before I had any sense of something evil this way coming. It was probably the advent of the Korean War before I awakened to the larger world.
Eisenhower was the president that I and so many embraced as a father in Washington. Of course he was in office for eight of my formative years. His was a pretty admirable career, especially with the legacy of his heroism in leading us to victory in the Second World War. I’ll always think of him that way.
I know there were complexities in his administration; he had a Democratic congress to deal with for six of his eight years. He had the CIA bequeathed to him by Truman, which was already out of control, as Truman had acknowledged. The CIA’s U-2 “incident” sabotaged Ike’s treaty talks with Russia, and of course, they planned the Bay of Pigs invasion, which would fall to John Kennedy’s watch.
After the death of JFK, Truman called for the agency to be abolished. “For some time I have been disturbed by the way the CIA has been diverted from its original assignment,” Truman wrote. “It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas.”
C. Wright Mills, who wrote The Power Elite, was one of the first to write about the emerging cold war. “For the first time in American history, men in authority are talking about an ‘emergency’ without a foreseeable end... such men as these are crackpot realists: in the name of realism they have constructed a paranoid reality all their own.”
He also warned, “If you do not specify and confront real issues, what you say will surely obscure them. If you do not embody controversy, what you say will be an acceptance of the drift to the coming human hell.” We often hear those prophetic words of warning from Ike’s farewell speech about the ‘unwarranted influence of the military-industrial complex.’ I was told that the first draft of that speech had the line, ‘military-industrial-congressional complex.” One could say, that’s what we have today. But then we’d have to add energy, finance, tech, and pharma.
Fighting World War II required every hand in the nation to be turned to building massive stockpiles of weapons and engineering new ways of mass destruction, culminating in the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Moving back to domestic production and domestic considerations would take some time. And, that’s assuming that the titans of those industries would be happy going back to making washing machines and toasters. But it’s easy to see that the machinery of conquest had its own priorities, its own enormous profits and its own agenda.
So now we find ourselves in a country where the political parties are both somewhat captured by the dark money that circulates to influence voters and politicians in both the election process and the legislative process. The ‘unwarranted influence’ of the purveyors of this money has caused many officials to orient themselves and their conduct toward the millions of dollars that await them when they move into the private sector through the revolving door.
In 2010, the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC held that the free speech clause of the First Amendment applies to political speech during elections. This has given a free rein to the influence of money, making spending limits virtually unconstitutional.
There is a new difficulty that we face in this time. We are subjected to the dissemination of ideas and advocacies on all sides, but not necessarily in balance. Finding the center in the midst of strident insinuations is increasingly difficult.
Social media have created new and powerful means of political communication, without the traditions of editorial responsibility that in previous times helped make the media into partners of democracy.
In his book Antisocial, Andrew Marantz makes the point that: “The viral power of emotionally arousing messages is clearly part of the explanation for why extremism has flourished online at a historical moment when native-born whites, particularly men, have felt they are losing control. In the old world of mass media, extremists had an incentive to temper their views to gain access to the mainstream, but now the incentives have been reversed.”
Life Magazine offered the following description of Eisenhower’s presidency: “Ike was a centrist. He called his philosophy “The Middle Way.” He appealed to the majority of Americans by being neither a reactionary nor a socialist; neither an appeaser nor a warmonger. He developed his ideas on the Middle Way at Columbia in 1948.”
If Eisenhower had a nemesis in his time in office it was Senator Joe McCarthy. McCarthy repeatedly tried to block Ike’s appointees and called them “communist sympathizers.” McCarthy also subpoenaed members of Ike’s administration. Ike protected them by invoking executive privilege, which meant that Congress did not have the right to ask the president’s advisors what they told the president in private.
McCarthy responded to Ike’s executive privilege by calling on government officials to ignore their superiors and give him information on communist spying. Ike complained that “McCarthy is making the exact same plea of loyalty to him that Hitler made to the German people.” He said, “Both tried to set up personal loyalty within the Government while both were using the pretense of fighting communism.
“McCarthy is trying deliberately to subvert the people we have in the federal government, people who are sworn to obey the law, the Constitution and their superior officers. I think this is the most disloyal act we have ever had by anyone in the government of the United States.” McCarthy changed tactics and accused the army of harboring communists, knowing this could undermine Ike. This led to the Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954.
Ike helped arrange for the hearings to be televised so Americans could see McCarthy’s tactics. Many Republicans wanted the hearings ended as soon as possible. Ike made a cold-blooded decision. He wanted the hearing continued until McCarthy was politically destroyed, even if it hurt the GOP in an election year. The hearing climaxed when Joseph Welch, the army’s lawyer, said to McCarthy, “Have you no decency sir?” This seemed to break the spell and in 1954 the Senate censured McCarthy. Ike said McCarthyism had become “McCarthywasm.”
In his book, The Road to Character, David Brooks wrote: “JFK was, in many ways, Ike’s opposite in mainstream American politics. Ike’s Farewell Address called for calm, balance, and warned of “quick fixes.” JFK’s Inaugural Address called for ending “all forms of human poverty,” and pledged, “We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship.” It was a stark contrast between moderation and idealism.”
Again, the Kennedy presidency must be seen in the light of revelations of misdeeds by those in agencies beyond his control. I believe that some of those agents took his life. Johnson honored many of JFKs aspirations with the civil rights legislation and anti-poverty programs as part of the Great Society, which in some measure must be balanced against his conduct of the war in Vietnam.
Nixon was a leading conservative of his era, but pushed for a government health-care plan and government involvement in the economy. Timothy Stanley has said that Nixon serves as “a reminder of an older, more centrist kind of Republican, the kind you don’t see very much these days.” He bowed to the liberal consensus of his era, supported the Equal Rights Amendment, founded the Environmental Protection Agency; he even established the first federal affirmative action program. Taylor Marsh has written, “As far right as this country’s gone today, Nixon would likely be considered a Democrat now.”
I’m very grateful to Wikipedia for help in composing these articles.
Jack Clement wrote this song as a humorous send up of the left-right craziness not to mention a spoof of the folk groups of the sixties. It’s called, "The One on the Right Is on the Left." It was a pretty big hit for Johnny Cash. Here it’s sung by Homer & Jethro.
Homer & Jethro perform Jack Clement's "The One on the Right Is on the Left".