(To commemorate National Left Handers Day, August 13, I repost this column, first published on July 3, 2008)
Whoever wins the November presidential election, the new Commander-in-Chief will be a lefty —guaranteed. Liberals shouldn’t get too keyed up and conservatives shouldn’t fret. It has nothing to do with red and blue politics. Both Barack Obama and John McCain are left-handed.
Since 1974, four of six presidents (Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush being the exceptions) have been left-handed, as will the next one. Perhaps this distinction will spur positive changes, as well as long overdue attention, for us right-challenged citizens. We’re fed up with society’s built-in biases that keep us down!
Obviously, correcting biases against lefties will never be on any political agenda, primarily because lefties’ lives are not greatly adversely affected. However, I can assure you, from personal experience, that there is an extra effort left-handers sometimes must execute in a right-hand dominated world.
Narrow-minded, intolerant right-handers have no idea what it’s like to be a lefty. Did you know portions of the Bible single out left-handedness, as if it was some kind of transgression? Does that mean God is a righty?
A line in Genesis reads: “The right hand confers blessing and signifies strength, while the left hand is treacherous and deadly.”
Another goes: “A place at one’s right hand is the seat of honor and dignity.” If you’re seated on the left, guess that means no dessert for you?
There’s also this familiar passage from Luke: “In like manner, both the passivity and inferiority of the left hand are apparent…forbidding us to let our left hand know what the right hand is doing.”
The effect of those biblical biases led to witch hunts and consequences for left-handed individuals in the Dark Ages.
Did you know that in religions with half-male and half-female images, the latter is always on the left? Medieval coats-of-arms indicating a bastard in the family contained a bar slanted to the left.
Almost any night on Fox News, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity disparage extreme liberals as leftists. But, coming from them, it’s flattery!
Does anyone want to be on the receiving end of a “left-handed compliment?”
Left-handed people have to put up with such everyday right-handed items as scissors, school desks, bicycle gears, corkscrews, can openers and most musical instruments. The bulk of sports equipment is made for righties, leaving lefties to use “special” gear, which also inhibits them from using friends’ baseball gloves, golf clubs or hockey sticks.
Most tools favor righties, pants with single back pockets are always on the right side, three-ring binders and spiral notebooks make it slightly uncomfortable for lefties as they interfere when writing on the front side of a page (righties suffer the same dilemma when they use the back of a page).
As the high-tech era emerged, computer mouses (mice?) are easier for righties than lefties. (At work I use my right hand for the mouse, but at home, it’s on the left. Go figure.)
Then there are and military rifles, which I discovered may hazardous for lefties. Many years ago, in Army basic training, I soon realized the M-14 was not lefty-friendly and I quickly adjusted. As the weapon was fired, the cartridge ejected just past my face. In some cases, it almost hit me, which could have resulted in a minor burn from the heated shell casing. It subsequently became second nature and I earned an expert marksmanship medal with the weapon.
Nonetheless, that’s what makes lefties sorta special since we have to demonstrate our flexibility by adapting to items manufactured for righties.
In major league baseball, left-handed pitchers are highly regarded and efficient ones are eagerly sought to bolster staffs and bullpens. Without a proficient lefty or two on a roster, the chances of a winning season are greatly diminished.
In the early 20th century the New York City Board of Education frowned upon lefties. My maternal uncle was born a southpaw, but when he attended elementary school, his left hand was forcibly tied behind his back (!!!), so he was forced to write only with his right hand. All his life he did everything with his left hand — except write.
Sometimes, combating left-handedness can be absurd. Eight years ago the New York City Council took up the issue of left-handed discrimination. After a trio of Queens high school students petitioned their councilman, who was right-handed, he introduced legislation requesting a study of whether left-handers should be protected against discrimination. Smarter right-handers prevailed and the proposal died a swift death.
Despite the obvious intrinsic cultural bias, studies have shown that left-handers are inherently more intelligent and more creative. In all modesty, this writer tends to agree.
Right-handers will always have an edge, as long as left-handers comprise only ten percent of the population. Nonetheless, it’s time for even handedness and there’s no better time for changes to commence than August 13th — the annual International Left Handers Day. There are no parades, no celebrations and it gets scant recognition. It’s merely a day for left-handers to remind everyone else that in a right-handed world, lefties deserve rights!
Left-handedness cannot be treated as some kind of curse or disability. The next time you see a left-hander struggling, don’t judge the individual a klutz, lend a right hand, because there but for genes go you.
All the same, no can anyone explain why lefties have dominated presidential politics in the last 35 years.
I’ve been a southpaw all my life. Maybe I coulda been Commander-in-Chief. Nah, you don’t get weekends off.
(P.S. Both 2016 major party presidential candidates are right-handed, but Hillary Clinton’s politics are, gratefully, far to the left of Donald Trump’s, who’s not only Right, but constantly wrong.)