The right to be left

Besides being Presidents, what’s common to Felipe Calderón (Mexico), Laura Chinchilla (Costa Rica), Hugo Chavez (Venezuela) and Barack Obama (the US)? They’re all lefties! Although these rulers rule big countries, they’re ruled by cultures and religions that are unfair to lefties. Recognising this discrimination, since 1976 we’ve been celebrating “International Lefthanders Day” on August 13. Today, let’s examine life from the viewpoint of that 10 per cent of the world’s population, the lefties who are rendered “handicapped” for no fault of theirs.
Languages and cultures are biased against the left. The English “sinister” comes from the Latin sinistra meaning “left-hand side”. French gives us “gauche” meaning “left-handed”; thus, uncouth and tactless. Parents browbeat kids to be “right” when they effortlessly extend their left-hands to shake another’s or to get something. “Not that hand!” they’re chided.
The Bible has positive, neutral and negative nuances towards the left. Positively, there’s mention of 700 handpicked warriors “who were left-handed” and “could sling a stone at a hair and not miss” (Judges 20:16). There’s also left-handed hero, Ehud, whose left-handedness made him smuggle a sword tied to his right thigh to murder evil King Eglon (Judges 3:12-23).
Neutral references of the left advise us: “You shall not turn to the right or the left; but follow God’s path” (Deuteronomy 5:32-33), and tell us that Lady-Wisdom, “has long life in her right hand and riches and honour in her left” (Proverbs 3:16). Paul uses “weapons of righteousness” — love, patience, kindness, truthfulness — “for the right hand and for the left” (2 Corinth 6:7).
Negative connotations of the left hand are seen in blessings believed to be effective only when imparted by the right hand. Joseph protests when his father, Jacob, deliberately crosses his hands when blessing his two sons. Consequently, instead of his firstborn, Manasseh, getting a lion’s share of blessings, Ephraim, the younger son — on whom Jacob’s right hand rested — benefits most (Genesis 48:8-20). The Book of Ecclesiastes says, “The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of a fool to the left” (10:2).
The Biblical case against lefties often rests upon the “Parable of the Last Judgment” wherein the goats — referring to the “condemned ones” — are put at the King-God’s left-hand side while the sheep or “saved ones” are on the right (Matthew 25:33,41-46). However, it’s unlikely that Jesus despised lefties.
Besides facing religio-cultural discrimination, gadgets, too, can get frustrating for lefties. Despite Bill Gates being left-handed, computer keyboards are not ideally fashioned for left-handers; and, scissors and stringed musical instruments can be nightmares for them. Let’s respect lefties and give them a helping hand. Walking hand in hand we’re likely to have an ambidextrous ambience where everyone — righties and lefties — will enjoy their rights and not feel left out.

Francis Gonsalves is the principal of the Vidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi. He can be contacted at

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