Right, Left, and Center
Scripps-Howard News Service 12.04.02
People need labels. People like labels. To say that Americans
prefer the shorter version of everything is a monumental understatement.
The fact is, if one syllable will do the job, perish the idea of
wasting our precious breath on a second. I learned that forever
when "Mary" proved way too exhausting for the cast of
the Mary Tyler Moore Show. "Mar" (Mer?) was as far as
they were willing to go.
One wonders when all that happened, given that our great statesmen,
justices, men of consequence in general, were famous for their eloquence.
"It's cool, man" doesn't quite do when you want to say,
"We hold these truths to be self-evident."
We now have a profusion of political attitudes and an infinite
number of venues where they are discussed. There must be a way to
make it simple, people said, however complicated it has become.
The catch was that no American tradition existed to classify -
much less lump together - people who like baby seals with those
who wish to display their sexual life in public; or persons who
take their religion seriously with those who would drain wetlands.
What to do?
No one knows who, when or where, but someone hit upon a quick solution:
to adopt a system already developed and in full swing. Necessity,
as we know, is the mother of invention. In the 1930's, Josef Stalin
urgently needed to create the appearance of a vast gulf between
the Soviet brand of Socialism and Adolf Hitler's, which the latter
called National Socialism. So Stalin came up with "left"
for his, and "right" for Hitler's. Henceforth, "Left"
would be the equivalent of "good." "Right" -
you guessed it - would stand for "bad."
"Bingo," said someone at New York's New School for Social
Research, "we have our political scenario. We don't even have
to bother to call the good people Left. We just call the bad people
The foregoing may shock many a reader. But I ask you to offer an
alternative explanation, given that described as being on the Right
are people who believe that:
- the U.S. Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land;
- defense of the realm is a primary duty of government;
- no law is constitutional unless it applies to all;
- no one has a right to enjoy the fruits of another person's labor;
- immigration, like everything else, must be regulated by law;
- the freedom to exercise religion was basic to the founding of
- the Ten Commandments are so fundamental to the nature of our country
that persons offended by them should deprive us of the pleasure
of their company;
- no nation has ever been as generous to the world as this one;
- self-sufficiency is the key to independence;
- liberty does not survive if one's property can be taken under
Remember, these are the "bad" people, the ones on the
Right. Put it to the test. Take the opposite of these 10 points.
That is where you find the "good" people, the ones on
the Left. Isn't it time to rethink the whole scenario?
If any of my readers has a few spare moments, I would be grateful
indeed to find out if someone detects rationale in calling the above
a list of "right-wing positions." They appear to my eyes
as rooted deeply in the fundamental American model.
Or were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin
and James Madison all right-wing nuts?
So, I think it is time to dispense with the Soviet terminology
and begin using our own. After all, not only is Stalin dead - the
Soviet Union, even, went off the air more than 10 years ago.
Accordingly, how about the generic term, "American,"
for the foregoing list?
Now, for the other side. If we abandon "Left," what do
we call people who believe that:
- the U.S. Constitution is valid only when it helps their agenda;
- funding the Defense Department is a waste of money;
- laws are to be applied selectively;
- all sorts of people have a right to the fruits of another person's
- everyone has a right to come to America;
- the freedom to exercise Christian religions is offensive to new
- displaying the Ten Commandments violates the Constitution;
- America is usurping and abusing the planet's resources and exploiting
- society owes constantly increasing benefits to all citizens and
illegal aliens alike;
- property is subject to government regulation, no longer under
the protection of the Fifth Amendment.
Well, that's really for them to figure out.