Friday, January 2, 2015

Which Side Are You On?

I've been mulling over the phrase "the right side of history."  What does it mean to be on the right side of things?  Historically, I'm coming to believe that it's a statement of morality.
or most of my 3o+ years in the classroom, the history and reality of Apartheid in South Africa was part of my curriculum.  In fact, I recall back in the 1970s I read an article that considered a probable date for the end of that peculiar institution.  If progress continued at the same rte, the author postulated, Apartheid might end around the year 2000.  My student's, at that time, figured that Apartheid would end the day that Nelson Mandella voted.  They were spot on in that regard, but it came in the mid-90s slightly ahead of any projected schedule.

Like slavery in America, Apartheid was certainly an example of supporters being on the wrong side of history.  We see these cling-ons now when we see who is still opposed to same-sex marriage or interracial relationships, or even what school reform rally should look like.
When films like the newly minted "Selma" come out and are in the public discussion, I'm reminded what history looks like for those who did not live through or experience such realities first hand.  Despite the soundtrack and the special effects, those that are experiencing a civil rights march from the comfort of a movie theater are only getting a small part of a larger whole.  Better that than nothing, right?
We have a wonderful opportunity in 2015 to examine this concept of what it means to be on the right side of history.  For those in the first half of their lives, the challenge is to identify those issues they think are most likely to impact change in this culture the most.  For the rest of us, a brief review of the change in thinking we have experienced in our lifetimes is in order before any focus on what and where social change matters now and in the decades to come.
If we consider all this thinking from a moral perspective, I think we'll get additional insights into what Steinbeck called "the perfectibility of the human mind.

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