Op-Ed: Is the best of all possible worlds left-handed?

Not long ago I was at a meeting when a colleague started taking notes. When I saw her holding a pen in her left hand, I couldn’t help it. “Ah,” I said, “another leftist” – as if we were both members of a special club.

In a way, of course, that’s true; Left-handed people make up about 10% of the population, although we’ve also had five of the last nine US Presidents. And it’s not just in the Oval Office that we stand out. Julius Caesar, Leonardo da Vinci, Winston Churchill, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Oprah Winfrey, Babe Ruth and Jimi Hendrix – all left-handers who have played outsized roles.

There are various theories as to why this is, ranging from the way we process information (“While nearly all right-handed people process language exclusively in their left hemisphere,” reports the New York Times, “about half of all left-handed people do Hands have language centers on both sides of the brain”) on the hurdles left-handers face. Being left-handed means adapting to a world built for right-handed people; from school desks to fountain pens to notebooks, from wearing a watch to stringing a guitar. When I was a kid, my dad—also left-handed—taught me to hit with my right hand, which he had been encouraged to do growing up. As far as fielding goes, don’t get me started with the limited left-handed baseball glove options, at least for the time being.

Left-handedness has always been a badge of honor for me. It’s a trait I’m happy to share with my father. Maybe my only regret is that my kids are both right-handed; I feel like I let the site down. When he was a boy, my grandfather was retrained to use his right hand – he eventually became ambidextrous – and in elementary school we were never more than one or two of us. So being left-handed has always felt exclusive, like an identifying brand.

However, society has often seen things differently. Traditionally, left-handers have been derided as unreliable, even suspect. The word “dark” comes from “Sinestra‘, which means ‘left’ in Latin. In certain cultures where the left hand is used for personal hygiene, it is known as “the unclean hand.”

And then, of course, there is politics, in which the “left” takes on a whole range of eventualities depending on where you are on the ideological spectrum. During the last few election cycles, as partisanship has been super-ionized, we have seen the word thrown around as some sort of insult. I cringe every time I hear it being used as if it constitutes a direct attack.

That’s partly because of my dominant hand and partly because of how I vote. I am unquestionably a leftist political advocate for diversity, justice and inclusion, for immigration reform and same-sex marriage, for abortion and LGBTQ+ rights. I know many right-handers who share these values; how could I not, given their majority? Despite this, I am particularly proud of the connection between the hand I use and the ideals I hold, as if this represents an alignment of my body with my soul.

During this month’s midterm elections, Americans in many jurisdictions — including many independents and apparently some Republicans — leaned left or left enough to keep the expected “red Republican wave” from sweeping us all. As much as I’d like to think this marks the beginning of an ideological shift, I’m content to appreciate the just-in-time emergence of a sane electorate.

I myself was on this page from the beginning. I made a decision a long time ago about where I stand and what I believe in.

At least I think I made the choice. According to a 2009 Stanford University study, “The way we interact with the physical world affects our judgment.” The study did not correlate physical asymmetry with political beliefs, but concluded that “rights tend to do so to judge objects on their right as positive and objects on their left as negative. Leftists do the opposite.”

Does this mean we need more leftists? Perhaps in a Panglossian best of all possible worlds. In the real world, however, I trust our choices and respect a woman’s right to vote. If that sounds leftist, so be it; that’s just common sense to me.

What I mean is that at this moment in our history we could be doing a lot worse than embracing our own left-handed tendencies.

David L. Ulin is a contributing author to Opinion.

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-11-24/lefthanded-politically-left-midterm-election Op-Ed: Is the best of all possible worlds left-handed?

Alley Einstein

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