Today In History: On August 13, 1976, Left-Handed People Got A Day Of Their Own

About five years before I was born, Left-Handed Day was created. For most of the world, this might not seem to be too big of a deal. After all, most people do not go to a dinner table in a group and automatically seek out a spot where being left-handed will not lead to the social faux pas of getting into an elbowing context with the person next to you. I only know a few people who would appreciate an elbowing contest, and I do not get the chance to sit next to them often while eating, although if I did I would probably take advantage of the opportunity. Even in my own family, where left-handedness is somewhat common, there would usually be a whole side of the table devoted to those of us who were left-handed, which is the only alternative to seating lefties in one of two safe corner spots or at the head of the table (which is not as popular as it should be). When even eating requires a ballet of sorts, one has to know the seriousness of life as a left-handed person.

We live in a day and age where minority groups everywhere demand to be recognized and demand that the world show them respect and smooth their way to success and happiness. Yet left-handed people are all too often not able to make themselves known for the many and profound ways in which the world is designed contrary to us [1]. One time at work, I had a computer that was set up with the mouse on the left side of the cpu, and I responded to this by making my mouse a left-handed one, which worked out great for me but made my manager and some of my coworkers upset because they were completely flummoxed by having to use a left-handed mouse, even though as a left-handed person I have had to become proficient in using a right-handed one to get by, which is no less difficult a task for me. Apparently, no one thinks anything of left-handed people having to live their entire lives in a backwards world that makes us look more gauche and maladroit than we would be otherwise (not that some of us need any help in that), but when the other 93% of the world has to suffer just a little bit of inconvenience then everyone goes up in arms.

It is perhaps not well known just how difficult life has been for left-handed people throughout history. With the exception of some Benjaminite slingers whose left-handedness earned them the grudging praise of the author of Judges, while their tribe was almost slaughtered in a civil war [2], the literature of the ancient world is not very kind to left-handed people. Whether it was getting only the second most desirable place, or whether it was being considered as goats instead of sheep, even Jesus Christ managed to make the left side undesirable. Even the word sinister, which tends to signify dark and villainous plotting, is itself a word that relates to the left side. While right-handed people get called dextrous or adroit, left-handed people are considered awkward and out-of-place. If you have ever had to prepare for trips by learning how to eat and socialize without betraying that one is left-handed (which I had to do before going to Ghana, in order to avoid causing offense there), then you will understand that being left-handed can be stressful and unpopular.

Both my father and paternal grandfather were physically beaten for being left-handed. One might think that corporeal discipline in the good old days of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s was limited to actual misbehavior, but no, being left-handed was considered enough of an offense that it warranted being hit on the wrist until the person started writing with their right hand. Even if it unnatural to do so, most people are sane enough that they do not wish to be beaten over and over again simply for writing left-handed, an activity that can be somewhat awkward when it comes to using pencils or pens, because of the smudging that often results. In fact, even as a college student myself I found drafting courses an immense challenge in large part because professors would design drawings to be drawn by a right-handed person, in such a way that it was a much greater challenge to draw left-handed. The fact that I was regularly the only left-handed person in my studio classes did not make this task any easier was not something that helped my cause either in avoiding india ink all over my hands, which was rather difficult to get off.

I could rant about all the difficulties of being left-handed for a long while, but I hope that my point has been made that being left-handed is something that causes difficulties in the world, and has for all of human history, for anything that has a handedness in this world is probably going to be made, by default, for right-handed people, and poorly and rarely if at all for left-handed people (this includes guns, golf clubs, scissors, desks, and bowling balls). Even if left-handed people have a higher risk for schizophrenia and ADHD, we all have a disproportionate number of American presidents as well as generally creative people, and so for all of the struggles of being left-handed, we are considered either an ignored minority (no protests for the 7% of oppressed left-handed people around the world) or a privileged minority. At least we have a day of our own, though.

[1] See, for example:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Lefthanders_Day

http://www.indiana.edu/~primate/left.html

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/judges-19-the-sons-of-korah-start-a-civil-war/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/05/26/divine-providence-in-the-book-of-ruth-part-one/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, History, Musings and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Today In History: On August 13, 1976, Left-Handed People Got A Day Of Their Own

  1. Pingback: Those Who Are Dead Are Not Dead, They’re Just Living In My Head | Edge Induced Cohesion

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