Today had me thinking about watershed moments and big historical events. I was asking my mom what she remembers about some from her lifetime, and there are so MANY – the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK’s assassination, the moon landing, MLK’s assassination and the Civil Rights Movement, Watergate, Vietnam. I’m sure there are more after that, but, uh, I’m a little fuzzy on U.S. and world history in the 1970s and 1980s, sooo.

Anyway, it’s got me thinking about what the watersheds from my lifetime are – the most obvious, of course, is 9/11 (and subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq). Others are the dot com bubble, the global financial crisis, and all the recent strides in marriage equality (I still feel like we are waiting for The Moment on that one. Come onnnnn).

But I wonder if there are other things that don’t feel that huge to me right now, but in 50 years will prove to be historically significant? And things that felt really big at the time, but will end up being fairly minor or mundane.

Like, I don’t know – Obama’s election in 2008. It felt like a sea change, at the time. Like a huge, big deal. Like history was happening and I was experiencing it, and WOW. And on some level, I think that’s certainly the case: we have a black president! That IS a big deal. But some of the rest of it, the hope and change and everything I felt so swept up by at the time? It feels kind of like a river that turned into a stream that turned into … I don’t know, an overused irrigation canal. This metaphor got away from me. Anyways, it felt like it was going to be a big historical Thing, and now it seems like it’s actually just politics as usual.

Wow, this went in an unexpected direction. But it is my bedtime, so I’m leaving it, even though I’m sure I’ll think of a bunch of obvious things tomorrow, and also that I’ll be embarrassed at my limited world view and lack of awareness of current events.

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12 Responses to Watershed

  1. Jesabes says:

    Y2K? Although that turned out to be a non-event. But even if you figured it probably would be (as I think most of us did) it was still kind of exciting to go through.

    Maybe Monica Lewinsky? (My phone apparently thinks that counts because ‘Lewinsky’ is in the autocorrect.)

  2. Dinsdale says:

    I think a lot of the things that will be Those Moments in the future are probably things we don’t really think that much about – the recession, for example, that was and still is big and awful but also… normal? Just ordinary life, in a (terrible) way. I’ve asked my dad about the Cuban Missile Crisis (he was in London at the time) and he remembers it not really being SO massive, the way we see it now. On a lighter note, my mother remembers the Beatles appearing just down the road from her workplace in 1964, and she didn’t bother to go see them. Because they were just a band, you know? I feel like our kids and grandkids will be asking us about stuff that we’re basically ignoring, because whatever.

  3. Swistle says:

    I remember after 9/11, people were saying this was the first time our generation had a “I remember where I was” moment. But I felt that with the Challenger explosion, too. The Challenger mostly affected me because of the way it affected the grown-ups, though (the teachers at my school were crying, and we spent most of the day watching footage and not doing schoolwork), not how it affected me per se.

    I think the election of Obama will still feel like a big deal to me. The subsequent normalness of the presidency is good for reminding us that skin color really DOESN’T matter: presidents are presidents, and none of them are able to follow up on their campaign promises.

    The Internet, and cell phones—those are changes that remind me of how we liked to hear our parents tell stories of when television was invented. Now I tell my kids how when I was a babysitter, the only way to get in touch with the parents was to call the restaurant (or theater or whatever) where they were and ask someone to find them and bring them to the phone. And how I had never used email until I was in college. And how I remember when URLs started appearing in ads, and I was like, “What IS that?” And the first time I went to Amazon.com: “Wow, we can get books that AREN’T IN THE BOOK STORE!!”

    • snoozical says:

      Oooooh I should have guessed that the Internet anthropologist would have something good to add! Of course, the Challenger explosion.

      And I think you are absolutely right about Obama. I was writing something to that effect in the original post, but I was sleepy and afraid I was failing miserably at making my point, so I deleted it. But yes, it distills to: OF COURSE it doesn’t matter what color his skin is. COME ON.

  4. Swistle says:

    Oh: AIDS. I remember AIDS as one of the Big Deals. I remember it was on the news every single night.

  5. april says:

    I thought of the Challenger, and then had to find out when that was to confirm it was in my lifetime (obviously I don’t remember “where I was”). Unfortunately the other things that stick out to me? OJ’s Bronco chase, Princess Diana’s death, Mother Teresa’s death a week later. Mission Accomplished. I did not have sex with that woman. Bin Laden’s death?

  6. HereWeGoAJen says:

    I’m wondering if Columbine will be a memorable one too because it was the first big school shooting and now those seem so…common? I have a lot of bombings in my head too, when I think of major events (London, Bali, and Madrid) but I think those are more Jen specific because I was more closely connected to them than your average American. (Lived in England growing up and knew way more people in London that day than I knew in New York on 9/11, lived in Indonesia and my sister used to go to Bali nightclubs.)

  7. Aliza says:

    I would add the Challenger explosion (we watched it on TV in my kindergarten class; I went to K and 1st grade in Massachusetts, so Christa McAuliffe was a BIG DEAL), maybe the 2000 election, and yeah, the rise of the Internet. It blows my mind to remember getting the AOL floppy disks in the mail to connect at the lightning-fast speed of 14.4K!

  8. Miranda says:

    I kind of can’t believe you forgot the Madonna, Christina, Britney kisses during the Super Bowl halftime show.

  9. K says:

    My dad and I JUST talked about this last night. He remembers being in junior high basketball practice when Kennedy was shot, and I mentioned remembering the exact moment 9/11 happened.

    And, like you, I told him that I thought the ability for EVERYONE to legally marry might be the next biggie and, oh my goodness, how I hope Ezra and Iris look back and think we were ludicrous for it taking so long or being an issue at all.

  10. Audrey says:

    Princess Diana’s death is the first Big One I remember, and therefore it’s the first one I think of when people mention these types of events. It’s funny, because I never followed her in the news much, but I very specifically remember being in the basement with my whole family, we had just finished watching a movie, and the channel the TV had to be on for the VCR to work was CNN, so when we turned the movie off there was something about Princess Di on, and I just kind of rolled my eyes and went to turn the TV off. But then my mom spoke up, sounding very alarmed, and said “Wait! Princess Diana?” so we started paying attention and saw that she’d died. More than anything it was my mom’s reaction that made me realize it was a Big Event, and I’ll never forget it.

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