The Widdershins

“What if” and “if come“…

Posted on: August 5, 2014

Good afternoon Widdershins.

James S. Brady 1940-2014

James S. Brady

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.”

Jim Brady and The ReaganExamples 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“…"

Strange that we were able to pass gun control when Repubs were shot. Just saying.

Excellent post Prolix. I can say that speaking as a gun owner it’s a travesty that the Congress critters have been unable to keep the ban on assault weapons in place. There’s no need for the average person to own one of those things.

@1, great point Chat!


Prolix, what a thoughtful and interesting post! The “what ifs” can be a difficult thing to shake, especially after a tragedy. When my darling step son died in an horrific accident a few years ago, the pastor that gave his main funeral, warned us all to fight against the natural urge to “what ifs”, but of course we were haunted by “what ifs” for a long time. I really like the points you bring out, especially:

“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.”

So true.

I thought this was kinda funny…democrats waging a war on whites:

@2, totally agree on assault weapons, but my head-banging point is and will always be those 100-round automatic drums and extended clips. They are nothing more than convenience must-haves for mass murdering criminals.

@6, Ah, Mo Brooks — now there is a study in xenophobia walking on his hind legs. I actually saw the guy interviewed last week and he said he supported rounding up the 500,000-700,000 dreamers and deporting every last one of them. If that wasn’t bad enough, his reason was: They are taking American jobs.

Honestly, I don’t know why the Dem. Senatorial Campaign Committee doesn’t buy massive amounts of air time and just play Mo Brooks and Steve King sound bites.

@7: Although I agree, when word came out that they might ban the extended clips, I quickly ordered two more 15 round clips for my Glock. I didn’t and don’t think those truly fall under the extended rounds thing because my model was designed for the 15 round clip. That’s what came with it as standard. Now, a long 30-something or longer clip, I see no reason for. If nothing else it makes it awkward to fire the pistol.

WordPress was in the middle of updates or something so it may have messed with comments if you were in the middle of posting.

annie@6: I saw that. Absolutely incredible. And prolix, they could also add in just a soupçon of Louie Gomert for good measure too. 😆

Here’s the latest from Rep. King. To a dreamer, “You’re very good at English.” There’s a video — he proclaims himself as the maker of national policy at one point. Save us!

@10, I torched the duplicate. I had never had that happen before — all of a sudden I got a message about the WP servers were in update. Strange, but they seem to be just humming along now.

Prolix@13: It did it to me on two comments and I wasn’t sure if the comments were visible or not since they weren’t showing up in the right hand column.

Maker of national policy? Oy vey ist mir! 😯

Have mercy!

Hillary made a surprise appearance on The Colbert Report. It was awesome, the audience went nuts for her.

annie@17: Aw shoot! I almost never watch Colbert. 😦

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