Best 100 reasons to hate top 100s

WASHINGTON D.C. (U-WIRE) — 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 stories 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 3 billion people in the world at the 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 if 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:
ù the top 100 “The Simpsons” episodes;
ù the top 100 conquests of Wilt Chamberlain;
ù the top 100 even-numbered days in history;
ù the top 100 members of the periodic table of elements;
ù and the 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 …

This opinions piece by Helder Gil originally ran Thursday in The Hatchet (George Washington University).