Letter FromnWashingtonnby Samuel FrancisnLeft, Right, Up, DownnSince the time of the French Revolution,nthe labels “left” and “right” havenserved as universal symbols on the roadnatlas of modern politics. The exactnmeaning of the symbols has never beennclear, especially when they are appliednoutside the narrow streets of practicalnpolitics and extended to the broadernranges of philosophy, religion, and evennaesthetics. Nevertheless, like “A.M.”nand “P.M.” or “A.D.” and “B.C.,” leftnand right have become indispensablento the mental and verbal organizationnof otherwise incomprehensible phenomena.nBecause they originally pertained tonthe different sides of parliamentary assembliesnin the wake of the FrenchnRevolution and served to distinguishnthose, on the left, who supported thenrevolution and its legacy from those, onnthe right, who opposed it, left and rightnmight retain some clear meaning ifnemployed in that sense. Insofar as thenideological legacy of the revolution isncaptured in its motto of “Liberty,nEquality, Fraternity,” and insofar asncontemporary politics still revolvesnaround these terrible pleasantries, thennwe might continue to lump certainnschools of politicians and political thinkersnas “left” and others as “right.”nBut throughout the 1980’s (andnprobably henceforward) such schoolsnseem to be out for a long vacation.nWhat is called the “right” in Americannpolitics today seems to invoke and takenseriously all the slogans and cliches thatnderive from “Liberty, Equality, andnFraternity” and that would ordinarilynlocate their exponents on the left. Itsnchampions talk of the “global democraticnrevolution,” universal “humannrights,” “equality as a conservative principle,”nand the final emancipation ofnmankind from war, racial and nationaln40/CHRONICLESnCORRESPONDENCEnprejudice, tyranny, and poverty throughnuniversal economic and technologicalnprogress. No noble savage of Enlightenmentnlore nor his less noble descendantsnwho pulled the ropes of the guillotine innthe Year One would raise an eyebrow atnthe rhetoric and ideology of the contemporarynAmerican right.nThings aren’t much different onnwhat is called the “left.” While oncenonly rightish pessimists such as Spenglernor Henry Adams talked about the decline,nsuicide, or dissolution of thenWest, today that theme is a staple on thenrubber chicken circuit of liberal Democrats.nNewly elected Democratic MajoritynLeader Richard Gephardt soundednthe note when his colleaguesnelevated him to his new post in thenHouse, and last year he ran his presidentialncampaign on the issue of “economicnnationalism,” which MichaelnDukakis also picked up when his ownncampaign ran into trouble. Whatevernthe economic merits of their ideas, thatnissue presupposes the reality and significancenof national identity and contradictsnthe universalism implicit in then”Fraternity” that sans culotte armiesnspread across Europe in the 1790’s.nMoreover, Washington Post columnistnRichard Cohen, whose writingsnusually seem to be archetypal expressionsnof what the collective unconsciousnof conservatives want liberals tonsay, recently penned a column thatnolder conservatives ought to find unexceptionable.nMr. Cohen inveighednagainst the homogenization of Americanthrough shopping malls, fast-foodnemporia, motel chains, housing developments,nand “restorations” such asnthose in Williamsburg and Old Townnin Virginia. The ideological premise ofnsuch homogenization, of course, isnagain the cosmopolitanism and universalismnthat informed the French Revolutionnand that liberated souls such asnMr. Cohen have trumpeted throughoutntheir careers. Whether he has asnyet grasped the contradiction betweennhis recent column and his lifelongnconvictions I do not know.nOne gentleman of the left who hasnnngrasped it, however, is the radical historiannChristopher Lasch, whose recentnwritings reveal a profound suspicion ofnthe abstractions that lurk in “Liberty,nEquality, and Fraternity.” In a recentnessay in the New Oxford Review, Mr.nLasch dwells on his intellectual autobiography,nshowing how his personal andnintellectual development eventuallynled him to shatter the very idols of thenleft to which he had paid homage allnhis life. Noting that the left’s own roadnmap of America was divided betweennNew York and Washington on the onenhand and what it regarded as “the vastnhinterfand beyond the Appalachians —nthe land of the Yahoo, the John BirchnSociety, and the Ku Klux Klan” on thenother, Mr. Lasch expressed his emergingndisenchantment with the contoursnof that map.nBy the late 1970’s and earlyn1980’s I no longer had muchnconfidence either in thenaccuracy of this bird’s-eye viewnof America or in the progressivenview of the future with which itnwas so closely associated.n”Middle Americans” had goodnreason, it seemed to me, tonworry about the family and thenfuture their children were goingnto inherit. My study of thenfamily suggested a broadernconclusion: that the capacity fornloyalty is stretched too thinnwhen it tries to attach itself tonthe hypothetical solidarity of thenwhole human race. It needs tonattach itself to specific peoplenand places, not to an abstractnideal of universal human rights.nWe love particular men andnwomen, not humanity inngeneral. The dream of universalnbrotherhood, because it rests onnthe sentimental fiction that mennand women are all the same,ncannot survive the discovery thatnthey differ.nMr. Lasch’s thoughts in this passage,none would think, would induce ournkeepers of the conservative flame ton