Today on the radio, the sports commentators remarked how today's Pirates v. Cardinals series was "perhaps the most important series in PNC Park history". They said the same thing two years ago when the Pirates and Cardinals played a five game stretch in August, and the same thing the year before that when the Pirates and Reds faced off immediately following the All-Star Break. It's great jargon for the radio, but ridiculous if you consider it logically.
Of course, sports radio isn't the only place you see this line of thinking. If there's one phrase that's stood out in the political spectrum over the past month, it's "be on the right side of history". The saying, of course, is meant to shame everyone who disagrees with a particular viewpoint with the notion that, one day, when history looks back, that view point will be as archaic as slavery. It has the added effect of presuming that one's current views will not only be vindicated by the coming generations, but celebrated as prophetic genius. (I'm declining to bring up the particular issues in question, mainly because this isn't a political blog nor do I think the internet, via text, is a great way to have these debates or conversations. What I am more interested in talking about, however, is the modern notion that our lives are "historical".)
While the "right side of history" line is an excellent combination of rhetorical devices (straw-man, allegory, bandwagon, etc.), it also as the added effect of elevating modern events to historical proportions. By comparing our modern political debates with the Civil War, or the Civil Rights era, it's as though we imagine ourselves as heroic and transformative as the leaders during those events. After growing up in the 90's (with relatively little global conflict) and the 2000's (with a post 9/11 anger combined with a decade of war-fatigue and economic stagnation), it's clear that recent events haven't been nearly as "good vs. evil" or "change the world important" as they're been seemingly portrayed in the past. As a result, the "right side of history" line neatly solves these problems. Now our political struggles are instantly right on par with the American Revolution, the Emancipation Proclamation, and Forest Gump. We too get to be important just like the Greatest Generation and the Founding Fathers...all within the safe, comfortable confines of a Twitter hashtag.
Now yes, every event every single day is "history", but it's often not clear what's important, or what will be long lasting until years later. The stories still have to be written by the actions and legacies of what follows. Unfortunately, there's a huge push to be "on the right side of history" before history has a chance to write the story. The result is a political debate where everything becomes of vital historical importance...and therefore nothing is. Rarely do things reveal themselves as "right side vs. wrong side" unless it's a new Star Wars film; if you're debating because you want to look like a hero historical, you're probably in the wrong field.