august 13th


August 13th is National Left-handers’ Day. I will celebrate quietly. I’m not sure about my sister; she is also a southpaw. That means our parents created two left-handed children, well above the national average of 10 to 13 percent.

If you believe human traits are the result of parenting and choices from our youth, my parents did something radical to create this high percentage of southpaw children, something I wasn’t aware of. If you accept science, and think we are preprogrammed with certain traits then it was a matter of chance.

Being left-handed used to be a tough way to live. Every religion, including Christianity, considered the left hand to be evil. Nearly every society shunned southpaws, or worse. The forward march of science and reasonable thinking slowly allowed those of us who used the wrong hand to be considered normal and productive citizens in most places.

Sadly, the percentage of lefthanders in Asia remains markedly different from here in America, and elsewhere around the world. Those folks still frown on such frivolousness, and do things to remedy this malformation. I’m not sure if they use religion to cure the wrong-handed children or other tried and true methods. I’m just glad we in America are above such foolishness.

Muslims also consider the left hand the more evil of the two. It is used for any unclean tasks, like tidying up after nature calls. Anyone who is left-handed and naïve about certain customs can get in a lot of trouble by overlooking religious attitudes toward taboo practices. This is a great thing about America. We don’t have any religious nuts running around trying to enforce ridiculous taboos based on ignorance and fear.

This wasn’t always the case. Before scientific discoveries explained most of the world’s mysteries and put an end to scary and superstitious reasons for all bad things that happened being left-handed was grouped together with other unexplained things as evil; one of the many things linked to the devil. Even the Bible insinuated that being left-handed was a sign of sin.

The Age of Reason, the Bill of Rights, and American sports, primarily baseball, helped to move public opinion out of the Dark Ages and into a sensible assumption about how we come into this world.

Even deep into the Sixties, there were people who didn’t get the memo. I played baseball with a guy who was born left-handed and forced to primarily use his right hand. I’m not sure if his dad wanted him to be a sports success, free from sin, or just easily adjustable to the modern world, but the experiment backfired. It was obvious something was wrong with RP from the first time anyone met him. Nothing major, just a little different. Most people my age know someone just like him.

Today we don’t have such issues. Famous baseball players like Babe Ruth, Sandy Koufax, and Cliff Lee helped move public opinion away from ignorance and hysteria and toward a scientific explanation. Left-handed people are treated just like everyone else these days.

I often wonder what it would be like if a political or religious group were to decide left-handers were unworthy of the rights of the populace and declare southpaws to be unfit parents or school teachers, and banned from getting married.

But lucky for me and my sister, and all other people born slightly different, no such attitude exists. America is truly the land of the free and the home of the brave and no one forces their views on others. We are all free to live our lives as we see fit, without pressure or censure from wild-eyed lunatics with some crazy idea about how others should live.

What a great country.

Image: The Awkwardness of Southpaws by Derek Bruff via his flickr photo stream and used under a Creative Commons license.
Mike Cox

Mike Cox

Mike Cox currently writes a weekly column in South Carolina for the Columbia Star called "It's Not a Criticism, It's an Observation." He is trying to grow old as gracefully as possible without condemning the current generation in charge to doom. Each day this task gets harder as the overwhelming evidence mounts. He currently has two published books; Finding Daddy Cox, and October Saturdays. His columns have won three South Carolina Press Association awards since 2003. Mike has three sons and two grandchildren and lives in Irmo, Sc, just outside of Columbia.