He told me that we shouldn’t discuss politics because I’m on the right and he’s on the left. “I don’t enjoy talking with someone who’s on the wrong side of history,” he explained.
“The wrong side?” I declared, taken aback. “You just acknowledged that I’m on the right.”
“I’m on the right,” he replied, “because I’m on the left.”
Since I first heard it, I’ve often wondered what “on the wrong side of history” means. Oh, I know leftists think that when the present becomes the distant past, the vast majority will consider today’s rightists wrong. I just don’t know why. Do leftists believe time is on their side? If so, the clock must have stopped in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. Maybe they also believe they can turn back this clock.
Of course, time, which measures change, may have no more to do with what changes, than meters, which measure length, have to do with what’s long. Rather, leftists may simply believe that moral progress from a dark past to a sunny future is inevitable. If so, the inevitable march to utopia must have taken a detour around the twentieth century, the most violent so far.
But evidence to the contrary rarely undermines leftist faith in progress. This would explain Prime Minister Trudeau’s answer when asked why he appointed an equal number of male and female cabinet ministers. “Because it’s 2015,” he replied, and leftists everywhere nodded in solemn agreement. Of course they did. If progress is inevitable and they’re in the vanguard, it makes perfect sense.
I couldn’t manage an answer like that. Certainly not with solemnity. If my employer asked me why I quit work early, I couldn’t reply, “Because it’s Thursday.” I don’t have enough leftist faith. It’s not in me to believe my response would make it obvious that Thursday’s working conditions should be more generous than Wednesday’s.
I realize only too well that my lack of blind leftist faith puts me at a disadvantage. I’d love to be able to claim that 2016, December, Friday, or two o’clock, justify actions or omissions that might have been questionable a year, a month, a day, or an hour earlier. But I can’t. I’m unable to see that such claims are self-evident. I can’t help feeling that I need to support them with argument, evidence or both, not clocks or calendars.
Prime Minister Trudeau has no such qualms, apparently. He seemed unconcerned that science and common experience indicate men and women have different strengths and weaknesses, respond to different motivations and make different choices. Nor did he appear to consider that merit is superior to sex when judging qualifications for political office. After all, it was 2015.
Maybe my formal education was at fault, as I failed to learn that change is progress. If someone touted a new policy as better than an old one, my mentors taught me to test the claim against objective standards. So it didn’t occur to me that a novel policy could be inevitable and progress, alias change, unstoppable.
I also failed to learn that rhetoric outranks reality. “Because it’s 2015” and “being on the wrong side of history” are rhetorical flourishes. They’re not conclusions that follow logically from established premises, nor are they empirically tested hypotheses generated through the scientific method. They’re beyond all that primitive sophistry.
Among other qualities, they don’t invite rational discussion. On the contrary, they’re designed to stop it. Isn’t that clever? For one thing, they pressure, even shame, opponents into accepting an irresistible fate. For another, they exempt proponents from rigorously defending their positions.
Proof is unnecessary if, with a leap of leftist faith, you believe your positions prevail because they’re unquestioningly good. If anyone has the impertinence to ask how you know they’re unquestionably good, it would make leftist sense to answer because they prevail.
In short, leftist rhetorical flourishes are magical. However, due to my fastidious mentors, I didn’t learn how to invoke them and cast spells. When political rhetoric challenges me, I have no choice but to resort to reason and common sense to refute it. Not being a magician, that is my inescapable fate.