Is it possible that right may be wrong?

Bird Droppings September 22, 2012

Is it possible that being right may be sometimes be wrong?


“One of the most common errors is to suppose that the opposite of being wrong is right, when in many cases it is only another way of being wrong. We see this most obviously in political and governmental doctrines, where one extreme proves as futile as the other.” Sydney J. Harris, Strictly Speaking


I was thinking last night as I drove back from Cleveland Georgia with my son and looking through several books on research for a paper I am finishing where I would start today. Since we need some rain I will avoid cutting grass this weekend and that than become good thinking and pondering time for me, and grandbaby playing time too. My granddaughter is spending the night so who knows I might get a few moments between Lego and Sesame Street to think and ponder perhaps, then maybe I spend way too much time thinking who knows. I find interesting thoughts reading the old columns of Sydney J. Harris who was syndicated back in the 1970-80’s. Nearly eleven years ago a fellow teacher offered me a page or two from one of his thoughts and I was hooked and since then periodically I will read and reread his columns. We so often try to simplify the rightness and the wrongness of issues.


“It is not who is right, but what is right, that is of importance.” Thomas H. Huxley


“When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.” Martin Luther King Jr.


These are very interesting comments coming from these two great thinkers from two different eras. Huxley was one of the greats in British science of the 19th century an advocate for Darwin, he is often called Darwin’s bull dog. His grandsons were prominent in science and literature. Huxley was about the science and the information not about who said it or why. King was a man, who could be radical and yet within his radicalism was conservatism, which some may find hard to believe. He fought for peace and equality in a time when politically equality was a dirty word. He did with a very powerful faith in humanity and in his own beliefs.


“Man’s greatness consists in his ability to do and the proper application of his powers to things needed to be done.” Fredrick Douglass


“I can honestly say that I was never affected by the question of the success of an undertaking. If I felt it was the right thing to do, I was for it regardless of the possible outcome.” Golda Meir


Two powerful quotes from a past great of the Supreme Court of the United States and a Prime Minister of Israel are in many ways was nearly contradictory to many of our own world views. Both very much believed in doing what was right and that if they believed it was right the outcome was not the issue. In many ways the means justified the end, so interesting in this world of reverse thought where the ends justify the means in so much of what we do.


“Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” Mark Twain


As I look at these thoughts from great thinkers from history the word right perhaps has gotten lost in semantics of our time. We use right versus left or conservative versus liberal, yet in history so often right was not conservative at all but very much for change. During the struggle for civil rights many times this was so true. I remember moving to MaconGeorgia in 1972 and that issue had just begun to sink into the community. Many white children were taken from public schools and placed in private schools.

I recall in 1968 driving through the south and seeing water fountains still labeled colored on a hose and whites only on the water fountain. Wrongness and rightness, simple words I recall in 1970 if you were against the war in Viet Nam you were unpatriotic. Our rationale for being there was to stop the spread of communism and to support the South Vietnamese who we had supported since their independence in 1954. Did we have anything to gain in reality? We were coming from a recession and in the course of the war our economy boomed, historically war drives industry. I should perhaps paraphrase in the past, wars drove industrial complex when it was in our country.

So applying the ends justifies the means we could justify the war in Viet Nam or so historians now say. But if we took Golda Meir’s view and Fredrick Douglass’ view the war would not have been justified as we now know it. Would Civil rights back in the day have been justified which depends on who you speak with. It is funny how ultra conservative right wing fanatics are against civil rights. I read constantly hints of this in blogs and comments made on Facebook.


“There are few people who are more often in the wrong than those who cannot endure to be so.” Francois De La Rochefoucauld


“As it is the characteristic of great wits to say much in few words, so small wits seem to have the gift of speaking much and saying nothing.” Francois De La Rochefoucauld


I am ending today with a 17th Century French writer who confronted politics in his own time. We are ending a week filled with political messages right and left and news both at home and abroad keeps me ending each morning still with please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks for what we do have namaste.


Wa de (Skee)





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