I’ve known for a while that I have trouble remembering left from right. For example, when I was taking my driver’s test at 16, the driving tester told me to “take a right up here, ” and I turned left. He then told me to take a right at this next intersection, and I turned left again. I was nervous after all. I’m sure the Wyoming Highway Patrol officer that was giving the test had seen everything, but when he approached the next intersection, he said, “Do what I told you to do at the last two intersections.” I turned right. I was certain I was going to fail my first attempt at getting my driver’s license so I started up a conversation about how flying an airplane was easier than driving a car.
“You don’t say,” he said.
I had actually handled the controls of a Mooney single-prop when I was 15. Seemed easy enough, although truth be told, I don’t think Bernie Weber, my boss, who was in the flying club that owned the plane, actually took his feet off the rudder. He did lift his hands off the yoke and say something like “take the controls boy.” I made the plane turn and go down slightly and back up. For all I know, Bernie put his hands back on the yoke because I was too busy watching the flight instruments, keeping the plane in the horizon as I was told. It seemed like I was in control, and so that’s what I was telling the Highway Patrol officer. I got the free airplane ride because I spent my Saturday waxing the plane with only the promise of a ride. The officer giving the test told me to turn right, and I did, and at the same moment realized what I had done the other times.
This right, left problem has continued throughout my life. I know I’m right-handed so that helps. But when someone says to me that they are a left-leaning Democrat, I have no idea what they mean. Right-wing of the Republican Party, same thing. So I decided to figure it all out. You might find it interesting that this goes back to the National Assembly in France in 1789-1791. Those that were radical, reformist, or socialist are considered left. The conservatives and reactionaries are on the right. The commoners sat on the left side of the president, and the nobles, who believed in centralized power sat on the president’s right. That really doesn’t help all that much.
In the U.S., the Republican Party is considered more conservative, and the Democratic Party is more liberal. I think I get this, but there’s that word “more.” So now you add “right-wing” to the mix and can you say that a Conservative Republican is right-wing? A right-wing philosophy tends to be extreme, like, in this case leaning towards fascism. How could a conservative republican favor fascism? If they are left-wing, they would lean toward communism. Or would they? A left-wing conservative favors communism? I’m digging myself a hole.
Here’s something you hear a lot, the “Liberal Press.” Biased reporting favoring the Democratic Party, the more liberal view. What exactly are Liberals? Well, they believe that it is the government and it’s actions that achieve equal opportunity and equality for everyone. It is the government that should alleviate social ills and protect all those things like civil rights and liberties. Liberals believe that bigger government is better and should guarantee that no one is in need. The government needs to solve the problems. Good luck with that.
Conservative views are in limiting government. Empowerment by the government to allow individuals to solve societal problems. You are responsible, not the government. Free markets. Necessary freedom to pursue your own goals. I can ascribe to this easily. I think you might find that all of the founding fathers were on this side as well, and, wait for it, would probably turn over in their graves if they saw how involved government is in the lives of its citizens today.
So I safely know I’m a Conservative, I must be a Republican, but wait, I could be a Conservative Democrat. What is that? Well, it’s the same, pretty much, as a Liberal Republican. They’re leaning a little or a lot to the right, but they come from the left. The conservative view of how the government should be, with some exceptions, like Social Security and obvious liberal government program.
So here’s what I’ve decided. We get labeled. We’re really not liberals or conservatives, at all. There’s this sliding scale with left on the left side of the center, and right on the right side, and a donkey and an elephant to make it easy to remember. Here’s some current issues and how what we think about them will label us.
Stem-Cell Research. If we believe in it, liberal, if we don’t, conservative.
Abortion. If we believe in right to choose, liberal, if we believe in life at conception, conservative.
Death Penalty. If we believe in it as a fair and just punishment, conservative, abolish it, liberal.
Energy. If we think the planet is running out of oil, then we need alternative sources and we are liberal. If we believe that we need to drill, drill, drill, then we are conservative.
Gun Control. If we’re for it, we’re liberal, if we believe in the Second Amendment, conservative.
Here’s a good one: Health Care. If we believe that everyone should have free healthcare, liberal, if we think a free market can produce affordable health care for everyone, conservative.
Now you can take it one step further and replace conservative, with left, and liberal with right. Get it? And if you’re a Democrat, but believe that life begins at conception, for example, then you are a left-leaning Democrat, but maybe only on that issue. But you will be labeled a Conservative Democrat in most probability for just that one left-leaning opinion.
It’s no wonder I still don’t know my left from my right.