Have you ever been told you “got up on the wrong side of the bed” when you were cranky or irritable and wondered which side is the wrong side? Various online sources trace the phrase to ancient Rome, where getting out of bed on the left side was superstitiously thought to cause one to have a bad day, similar to “getting off on the wrong foot.”
While I don’t think there’s a wrong side of the bed (unless you wake up under the bed, that might count), there is a right and wrong side of history.
In researching family history (which is about to get ridiculously expensive thanks to proposed fee increases to access records, so if you want documentation of when your ancestors crossed the pond, do it now), I discovered that one branch of my family tree were British loyalists during the American Revolution. They were well-to-do Brits who wanted to protect their comfortable, familiar way of life in the Americas, and strongly believed that loyalty to the British crown was the way to accomplish that. The other branch — there’s a romance novel plot in there somewhere — were Patriots who fought for American independence. Looking back, I’d say the loyalists were on the wrong side of history, and not just because they lost.
The other side of the family has branches that ended up in the South. Some were slave owners and some were abolitionist preachers. I think most would agree that the abolitionists were on the right side of history.
Scurry along the ladder of time to World War II. Up until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Americans were sharply divided about Hitler and the Nazis and the war in Europe.
In the late 1930s the German American Bund organization, “an organization of patriotic Americans of German stock,” grew to include tens of thousands of members who worked to “extol German virtues” and promote causes helpful to the Nazi Party. Wrong side of history? Do we even have to ask?
Did those British loyalists, pre-Civil War slave owners and “patriotic” Germans know they were on the wrong side of history? Does anyone ever know that when they’re in the thick of it?
One day in the future (unless some wackadoodle blows us all to Kingdom Come), our progeny will look back on the days in which we lived, at the beliefs we professed, and what we acted upon (and what we ignored), and make a determination as to which side of history we chose, as individuals and as a collective group. That’s a sobering thought, and one we should all consider no matter which side of the aisle (or the bed) we’re on.
By Niki Turner | firstname.lastname@example.org