Just who are these people that comprise the so-called left? Are they really those you should fear, commie pinkos and violent rioters who want to eradicate your freedoms and torch your suburban neighborhood as you stand there defenseless lacking that full-auto, military-grade, tactical weapon you have a right to possess? Just what is meant by “Left” and “Right,” besides those terms being convenient, broad-brushed, rhetorical divides, rallying points to define the “us” and “them” of an emotional conflict within an intellectual masquerade.
After three years of marching in cadence in an ROTC unit in high school, I have learned to respect my left.—”ye’r left, y’er left, y’er left”–such precision from a platoon of disparate cadets, that even those who stubbornly resisted were eventually brought around by gentle persuasion, mild humiliation, forcing them to carry a pebble in their left hand denoting the proper foot to synchronize with a variety of lewd limericks employed to stimulate the march…. “ I got a girl in Kansas City, she’s got freckles on her… ye’r left, y’er left, y’er left,” and so on. And in spite of this robotic attempt to create teamwork through enforced discipline, I nevertheless departed high school with a healthy respect for my left.
I suppose that is to say, in spite of relentless attempts to define the Left by placing a small stone within your heart, a reminder that the Left represents everything bad–anti-capitalism, anti-war, anti-romantic individualism, Hell even anti-John Wayne–you can still be a lefty aspiring to all the heroic cowboy values, the traditional American values of fierce individualism, unbridled freedom and boundless courage.
Thus, it might be helpful to take a second look at the Left in an historical perspective. In conflict after conflict, it has been the Left that has set precedent and paved the way to the future, however imperfect, that we enjoy today.
In 1952 as Senator Joseph McCarthy was waging a full-throttled campaign against so-called, left-leaning Hollywood writers, stimulating a blacklist designed to deprive them of both voice and income, his interpretation of “freedom of speech” included only those who agreed with his version of patriotism. What became of Joseph McCarthy and where are the writers he sought to censor? He was delivered to the historical ash pile and the writers he persecuted not only survived, but ultimately flourished! And today we are the better for it. Historically, the Left prevailed protecting our freedom of speech. Not bad for a bunch of “pinkos.”
But at age three, I was unaware of all this hoopla. So it was that in the mid-sixties, I was so infatuated with a sweeping social movement that started with mod fashions and British music, that I was oblivious to Left and Right politics, that is, until I went to college in 1967. There I learned that there was such a political ideology that taken together with my long hair, bell bottoms and a paisley shirt defined whether I was the despised object of all those car-window stickers sporting a waving American flag and the rallying cry “Love it or leave it,” or less-likely, a true patriot willing to die for his country or kill witless “Gooks” in the process of preventing the “inevitable” enactment of the “Domino Theory” in Southeast Asia. At first it was Lyndon Johnson and then ultimately Nixon who paraded the banner of the Right, while I marched to Jimi Hendrix’s “freak flag.” “Y’er left, y’er left…” And where are they now, Nixon and Johnson, but dark stains on American history? And what became of that Domino Theory? Take a good, long look at a peaceful Viet Nam today and the surrounding countries, those precarious dominoes and ask, “ultimately who prevailed, and who failed?” Was the Left not vindicated and those autocratic figureheads of the Right vanquished in disgrace?
Oh, and don’t think I forgot about Watergate . Enough said. More points for the Left.
But in 1967, the year I entered college many ideas were germinating, that at the time did not rise in significance beyond that most important goal of ending the war in Viet Nam, ideas like recycling, organic foods, concerns regarding air pollution, water pollution, industrial pollution, and the offset in the natural balance of all things with the ever-increasing list of endangered species. These ideas were being discussed openly in small circles of friends, but many larger issues had to take precedent. Issues like civil rights, women’s rights, and voting rights had to be solidified to give weight to all the attempts of the Left to “save the planet,” for ultimately that awareness, all of those issues, would funnel into one big issue, American independence was at the mercy of energy dependence. The rising oceans, the melting icecaps, and the ever-increasing plethora of natural disasters can all be linked to the inability of the Right to accept the warnings of the Left going back some seventy-five years or so, until it arrived at their door in the form of an economic disaster, with financial penalties imposed for floods, forest fires, hurricanes, tornadoes and droughts, property damage, environmental damage, personal loss and worse yet, alienation from the very soul of this nation, hardened by the desire to be “Right.”
As roughly 30% of all Americans cling to an unsupportable political position devoid of facts, this new strain of brain-washed novitiates of the Right don Red MAGA hats, while mask-lessly chanting mantras like “lock her up.” Packed into a rally, designed to promote the vague concept that “Right is Might” (when in the final analysis, it has always been the Left that has protected freedoms, ended wars, moved civil rights forward and sought to maintain the environment for our children and the generations that follow), they submit with a willingness to allow Covid to decide who among them will live and who shall die, all the while trusting that Jesus, incidentally the prototypical Lefty, will protect them from this latest plague. To them I say, next time you pick up the bible, try reading it.
But for now, just test my argument. It is no slight-of-hand, no magician’s trick. Pick a decade, any decade and take a close look at the issues and you will see that the Left has always prevailed in the broadest of historical context. You are living the life they have secured for you.
So, I say, “Ignore the Left at your own peril!” In this crazy upside-down world can you not see that it is Trump, the figurehead of the GOP Right, that embraces Putin, Erdogan, Kim Jong-un and Duterte, commies and freedom-despising authoritarians. Perhaps we do not truly understand these labels, Left and Right. How far true-Left does Trump have to lean before tipping the balance to right-side up for his followers to awaken from their folly in this “if 6 was 9” world?