August 30, 2010

Accidents of history

Painting by the artist Jacques-Louis David of members of the National Assembly taking the "tennis court oath" not to disband until they had given the country a constitution.

It is only by an accident of history that we divide political perspectives into left and right. It just kind of happened that in the early days of the French Revolution supporters of the monarchy sat on one side of the room while its opponents sat on the other.

In the long run, this was particularly unfortunate for the left, at least in terms of spin or "framing." Left in several languages has connotations that are sometimes quite literally sinister, while right sometimes means, well, right.

I think it's high time we come up some other metaphor, spatial or otherwise, to describe political differences. As a friend of mine likes to say, these days is more a matter of up and down than left and right.

ALONG THAT LINE, here's a New Yorker piece on some billionaire backers of "populist" right wing groups.

STILL MORE. Here's Times columnist Frank Rich with more of the same.

OH THE WATER. This op-ed by a friend of mine looks at one of our most vital natural resources.


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