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September 22, 2015

One phrase I’d like to see vanish into the dustbin of history is, “On the right/wrong side of history,” I always kind of detested this phrase because, as an aficionado of history…’ehh…it’s bullshit. I also take it as a sign of whomever’s using that their argument is really flimsy. It’s used as a cover for a weak argument–either knowingly or unknowingly; it’s meant to give whatever you’re saying a ‘stronger’ position by implying, “This issue is so momentous that  you would be on the wrong side of history to disagree with it.” And as anyone who studies history seriously will tell you: it is not written on that day, or a month from that day, or a year from that day. Really, history is written when enough time has passed to give a good accounting of all of the affects of this change–for good or bad.

Now, I’m not saying that gay marriage or global climate change are necessarily going to be seen by historians as negatives or positives. Just that..well…we don’t know. And that’s what irks me about this whole assumption of being on the right or wrong side of history. Sarah Silverman said that college campuses are on the right side of history with respect to their over-sensitivity to offensive language. What basis does she have for that? At this time, no one is saying the culture on college campuses are a good thing because it’s not. I’ve talked about it several times about why it’s not a good thing and is in fact hurting our society.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to say they’re on ‘the wrong side of history’ because it hasn’t been written yet. No history has. Think of history like a movie that gets really positive or negative reviews upon its release. Some movies like Heaven’s Gate completely end eras in movie-making and while they’re not appreciated in their time, they do gain a following and a reevaluation. Think of Avatar: great when it came out, made lots of money on its release, but who the hell cares about it these days? History is like that. Some decisions are unpopular and will always remain that way, some decisions are unpopular but end up being great for the advancement of society, and then there’s others where…while applauded in their time have been completely seen as a negative for us all. Glass-Steagall act being butchered was cheered for at the time, but now we’re seeing what the loss of it meant for all of us.

History is a slow-moving beast and there’s no point you can definitively point to and say, “Yep. If we had done that then things would be different,” because…there never is. Even the decline of the Glass-Steagall act is a cause, but not the only cause of things being as screwed up as they are now. So yeah…let’s retire this ‘wrong/right side of history’ bullshit. It’s useless and insulting to anyone with a brain. Also allows for the propagation of weak argumentation and intellectual dishonesty.

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