“What if” and “if come“…
Posted August 5, 2014on:
Good afternoon Widdershins.
With the death of James Brady, I’ve found myself somewhat contemplative — or better said, as contemplative as someone with my limited reflectivity can be. Mr. Brady’s devastating injury from a stray bullet resulting in a permanent incapacitation morphed into an indefatigable activism for gun safety. Although he couldn’t walk, he stood for commonsense regulation resulting in untold lives being saved from gun violence.
With that said, I can’t but wonder that Mr. Brady didn’t at times ask, “what if?” What if he hadn’t accompanied The Reagan that day to the Washington Hilton? What if he had lingered to answer one more question before approaching the presidential limousine? What if he had been a foot or two behind where he was on the sidewalk as Hinckley fired? What if Hinckley hadn’t been psychotically enamored with Jodie Foster?
While we are spinning the roulette wheels of history, what if Hinkley’s shot had gone wide not striking Brady, would we have had the Brady Bill and enjoyed a ten-year ban on assault weapons?
All the time in the world spent contriving “what ifs” can’t undo what was, but it is amazing how much energy is spent spinning webs of alternative history. For whatever reason, be it pessimism, regret, or anger, we engage in the fool’s errand of enhancing the negativism of what was by wistfully wishing “what if“.
Conversely, we also fall victim to the overly fanciful “if come.” “If comes” are to the optimistic what “what ifs” are to the pessimists. Having been a campaign scheduler at one point in my career and knowing the claims event organizers make, I’m sure Mr. Brady heard about the great things and benefits The Reagan’s speech would produce on that chilly March day, but of course, those results were on the “if come.”
Examples of the “if come” are all too plentiful. If we just cut taxes and let the results trickle down, prosperity will soon arrive on the if come. If we invade Iraq it will just take a few months and the war of choice will pay for itself on the if come. If we deregulate banks, the competition will pay untold benefits on the if come. If we just unbridle corporate greed then the confidence fairy will paint the streets with gold on the if come.
The self-serving optimism of the “if come” is the same magical elixir you hear whether in Las Vegas or the halls of Congress — the folly of offering a future of certitude. Of one thing we can be certain, anyone engaging in the sale of the “if come” will be long gone before time unfurls the truth — much like the old door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen who were long gone before report cards disproved their overly optimistic sales pitches.
What I’m trying to say in a decidedly inartful way is that there is nothing inherently wrong or particularly productive with engaging in the slightly delusional thought experiments of “what ifs” or “if comes”. We just have to remember these mental flights of fantasy are untried by time and will most likely be untrue in execution.
What is wrong and terribly dangerous is if we allow these thought experiments to guide policy to the exclusion of hard data and analysis. The “what ifs” and the “if comes” are the phantasmagorically designed redoubts constructed inside the castle walls of reality for those of faint heart and feeble mind to flee in times of crisis. To listen to cable news, such times now occur on the hour and only break long enough for commercial interruption.
Of this I am quite sure — James Brady is a mighty fine example of a life lived untarnished by the retreat into the “what ifs” and the “if comes”. His even greater contribution might be the cautionary decoder key he offered us with which to decipher contemporary political-speak: What if the if come never does?
That is my feeble attempt at profundity today, please feel free to take the discussion wherever you like since this is an open thread.
18 Responses to "“What if” and “if come“…"
Comments are closed.