Sunday, January 25, 2009

The sinister hand of power.

On January 23rd, the new American President, Barack Obama, signed the order to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, ending one of the most appalling blots on a democratic country's history.

But what I immediately noticed in the above photographs is that a man - who is usually regarded as the most powerful in the world - is a member of a minority group regularly and routinely discriminated against, and subjected to second rate education, among other difficulties. No, not that he's black.

He's left handed.

That's 'sinister' (from 'Sinistrus' - Latin, left) 'cack handed', a 'southpaw', and so on and worse.

You thought the 'sinister' in the title had quite a different meaning, didn't you?

That's part of the left-hander's problems.

More interestingly for a man who received a 'good' education, going on to practice law, this photograph shows that at an early age his school failed him.

No-one taught the future President how to hold a pen properly. He has the classic 'crippled crab' of the left-hander trying to avoid smudging his ink because he was taught a right hand grip on his pen.

There's lots of study (and rubbish) written about left handedness from the erliest days when they were regarded as the devil's children, to today where they might have an advantage on the cricket field or in the arts, but from the right-hander's pocket in a man's jacket to scissors the world is set against us. Left-handers are regarded as 'more clumsy' and 'die younger' on average (66 rather than 75) because they are more prone to accidents. Using tools which are designed for someone else is quite a big bit of the explanation.

But then, the Chinese regard all western writing as incredibly cramped and restricted, their brushmanship requiring free fingers, wrist, elbow and shoulder for control. And those writing right-to-left operate in a different world on many levels.

Any left hander will know of the many minor problems we face, and that this isn't even a news item about the President's background is no surprise.

But then this minority group (7-10% est) has had quite the run in power. The only right-handed US Presidents since 1974 are G W Bush and J Carter. That's quite the minority's achievement.

It's probably not important.

But I think it's interesting.

I'm left handed.



sahlah said...

Hello - I followed a link to your blog from Google. I am doing some research on my British Grandfather and his service during both world wars. I see from your profile information you are an aviation writer.

I am trying to identify the airplane in this picture. It belonged to the Surrey Flying Services.

Would you be so kind as to have a look at the link and let me know if you can identify it.

Thank you.

P.S. - left handed people rock!

Joanne said...

We noticed that straight away, on the TV news. One of our sons is a lefty! He's top of his class in maths and is artistic too. My other son (right-handed) tops his class in reading and is good at maths and loves science. I'm with you that hand-orientation is interesting, but probably not important in the big picture.
Joanne, who follows Bev's Taccolina blog.

eileenr said...

Oh I hear all the stories about how Greg didn't have left-handed scissors when he was in school. He should have come to my school (us poor Catholic elementary school students) where the majority of New Brunswick's left handed scissors showed up. You poor things...