Rank and file silliness

With the new millennium approaching, it seems that everyone and his mother is coming up with a top 100 list of one sort or another. This summer, there was the top 100 books of the 20th century. Ladies’ Home Journal‘s top 100 women of the century is on newsstands now. The Columbia Journalism Review lists the top 100 stories of the century.

No word yet if Playboy magazine will have a top 100 spreads of the century.

The top 100 list that got my attention was one conducted by the Newseum in Arlington, Va. The Newseum asked a bunch of American journalists and editors to come up with their picks of the 100 most important events of the 20th century. The journalists should have kept working on their next story and left historical events ratings to the historians.

What annoyed me most about this list was that it was overly focused on American events. A total of 11 U.S. court cases or laws made the list. Now how did Congress passing the Interstate Highway Act in 1956 affect any of the more than three billion people in the world at that time, other than Americans who could now drive cross-country?

I admit that the list is subjective and that my criticisms are likewise subjective. But some of the events that made the list – and particularly the order in which they were listed – are mind-boggling.

The top four entries – the atomic bombing of Japan, Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, American entry into World War II and the Wright brothers’ lighter-than-air machine – are all monumental events. The entire world today would be much different is those things had not happened.

But does American women winning the right to vote in 1920 (No. 5 on the list) outweigh the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust (No. 7)?

Was the sinking of the Titanic (No. 36) really more important than the first atomic explosion (No. 48), the opening of the Panama Canal (No. 81), the first computer (No. 42) and Hitler’s Kristallnacht (No. 93)?

And for those who think that only “old” stuff made the list, rest assured that the Clinton sex scandal also has a home on the list (No. 53) between the first transmission of radio signals across the Atlantic Ocean and the Marshall Plan.

If the new trend is toward developing top 100 lists of one sort or another, I think we should go all out and come up with rankings of everything. Just think about some of the lists that have yet to be made:

 Top 100 “Simpsons” episodes;
 Top 100 conquests of Walt Chamberlain;
 Top 100 even-numbered days in history;
 Top 100 members of the periodic table of elements;
 Top 100 Dan Quayle quotes.

I don’t think any of these end-of-the-century rankings are valid. Instead of ranking the top 100 this or that, the listings should just be published in alphabetical order. One person’s No. 1 is another person’s No. 98.

But instead of getting any deeper philosophically, I’m going to start working on the top 100 events of my life. It’s either that or write a five-page paper, study for two midterms and work on a group project.

Let’s see, No. 100 .

The top 100 events of the 20th century

1. United States drops atomic bombs on Japan to end World War II (1945)
2. Neil Armstrong walks on the moon (1969)
3. Japan bombs Pearl Harbor; United States enters WW II (1941)
4. The Wright brothers fly their plane (1903)
5. Women win the vote (1920)
6. JFK assassinated (1963)
7. Nazi Holocaust exposed (1945)
8. World War I begins (1914)
9. Brown v. Board of Education ends school segregation (1954)
10. U.S. stock market crashes (1929)
11. Penicillin is discovered (1928)
12. DNA’s structure is uncovered (1953)
13. Soviet Union dissolves (1991)
14. Nixon resigns (1974)
15. World War II begins (1939)
16. Communists take over Russia (1917)17. Ford produces first major U.S. assembly line for the Model T (1913)
18. Sputnik launched by Soviets (1957)
19. Einstein presents his theory of relativity (1905)
20. FDA approves birth control pill (1960)
21. Polio vaccine developed (1953)
22. Hitler named chancellor of Germany (1933)
23. Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated (1968)
24. D-Day invasion (1944)
25. AIDS identified (1981)
26. Civil Rights Act passed by Congress (1964)
27. Berlin Wall falls (1989)
28. Television debuts in America (1939)
29. Mao Zedong takes control of China (1949)
30. Lindberg crosses the Atlantic Ocean (1927)
31. First mass-market personal computer launched (1977)
32. World Wide Web established (1989)
33. Transistor invented (1948)
34. FDR launches New Deal (1933)
35. Cuban Missile Crisis (1962)
36. Titanic sinks (1912)
37. Nazi Germany surrenders (1945)
38. Roe v. Wade legalizes abortion in United States (1973)
39. WW I ends (1918)
40. First regular American radio broadcasts (1909)
41. Global flu epidemic kills 20 million (1918)
42. ENIAC becomes world’s first computer (1946)
43. Regular American TV broadcasts begin (1941)
44. Jackie Robinson breaks American baseball’s color barrier (1947)
45. Israel established (1948)
46. Plastic invented (1909)
47. Rosa Parks refuses to give up her bus seat (1955)
48. Atomic bomb tested in New Mexico (1945)
49. Apartheid ends in South Africa (1993)
50. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech (1963)
51. Computer chip patented (1959)
52. Marconi transmits radio signals across the Atlantic Ocean (1901)
53. President Clinton’s sex scandal breaks out (1998)
54. Marshall Plan proposed (1947)
55. Robert Kennedy assassinated (1968)
56. Versailles Treaty rejected by U.S. Senate (1920)
57. Carson’s “Silent Spring” published (1962)
58. The Beatles debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show” (1964)
59. Voting Rights Act passed (1965)
60. Gagarin becomes first human in space (1961)
61. Jet airplanes debut (1941)
62. U.S. combat troops arrive in South Vietnam (1965)
63. North Vietnamese forces take over Saigon (1975)
64. Manhattan Project begins (1942)
65. Congress passes “G.I. Bill of Rights” (1945)
66. Alan Shepard becomes first American in space (1961)
67. Watergate scandal uncovered (1973)
68. San Francisco earthquake and fire (1906)
69. United Nations established (1945)
70. Berlin Wall built (1961)
71. Gandhi beings his nonviolent movement in India (1920)
72. Standard Oil forced to break up (1911)
73. U.S. troops leave Vietnam (1973)
74. NATO established (1949)
75. Stalin “modernizes” Russia; 25 million die in famines (1928)
76. FDR elected (1932)
77. Gorbachev becomes Soviet premier (1985)
78. Planck proposes quantum theory of energy (1900)
79. Sheep cloned in Scotland (1997)
80. Congress passes interstate highway bill (1956)
81. Panama Canal opens (1914)
82. Betty Freidan’s The Feminine Mystique published (1963)
83. Challenger explodes (1986)
84. U.S. troops go to Korea (1950)
85. Violence erupts at Chicago Democratic National Convention (1968)
86. Sigmund Freud publishes “The Interpretation of Dreams” (1900)
87. China begins “Great Leap Forward”; 20 million die in famines (1958)
88. United States enters WW I (1917)
89. Babe Ruth hits 60 home runs (1927)
90. John Glenn orbits the earth (1962)
91. Gulf of Tonkin resolution passes (1964)
92. Pathfinder lands on Mars (1997)
93. Hitler launches “Kristallnacht” (1938)
94. Churchill becomes prime minister of Great Britain (1940)
95. First test-tube baby born (1978)
96. Soviets blockade Berlin (1948)
97. Microsoft Corp. started (1975)
98. Chernobyl meltdown (1986)
99. Scopes’ “Monkey Trial” (1925)
100. U.S. surgeon general warns about the dangers of smoking (1964)Compiled by The Newseum, Arlington, Va.

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