Wrong Side Of History?

It’s A Cliche That Means Nothing

Posted: April 16, 2014

Whoever first uttered “It is what it is” must be startled to know this street-corner profundity has become a catch-all. Likewise, who thought no politico could navigate a statement or interview without saying “at the end of the day”?

This verbal clutter is harmless. Not so for the most recent candidate for cliche, “the wrong side of history.” If this were the Old West, “WSOH” would be drawn like a gun. In the past few months, it’s become omnipresent, an omnibus accusation.

Throughout history, as it were, a case could be made that certain people or movements were on the “wrong side” of it — Loyalists during the Revolution, fire-eating secessionists in 1865, isolationists after Pearl Harbor. Usually though, history itself — i.e., the passing of time coupled with the pursuit of knowledge — made such a determination.

No more. Folks are now dispatched to the “wrong side of history” before history plays out, a precipitous move for the dispatchers given that no one knows the future, which will soon become the past. Or, that is, history. Even those who should know better, such as The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen, use the term. In his column today, Mr. Cohen cast the Republican Party adrift on the seas of the “wrong side.”

Mostly, this rhetorical standby has been deployed to marginalize oppponents of same-sex marriage. Even some conservatives join liberals in leveling the charge.

If these people reside on the “wrong side of history,” cannot the same be said ... of “history” itself? For two millennia, marriage was generally assumed to be the union of one man and one woman. Only in the last, say, quarter-century (if that) has this distinction been seriously questioned.

Do Earth’s current inhabitants deem ourselves so “evolved” that 2,000 years of human tradition is flat-out wrong?



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