The What If Pit

Thanks for your patience; last week I was occupied with a re-write of a colleague’s book. The project made its way to me in need of quick turnaround, and we’re both very pleased with the results. It’s therapeutic to feel good about something these days, as lately EVERYTHING seems to bother me.

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Maybe this is why we’re all missing the ‘90s, for that false sense of security our formative years provided? Our adolescence had more optimism, it seemed, for changing what was wrong with society; think back to how you viewed the government when you were a teenager. By age 15 Fran Lebowitz’s and Al Franken’s books were on my bookshelf, and Carlin, Hicks, and Garofalo were on the tape deck. It’s safe to assume I was beginning to question the narrative, really believing the future could be re-directed to something less selfishly destructive than what some powerful Boomers were providing. Did any of us realize the oligarchy would become this conspicuous? See what happens when Biff grabs the sports almanac?!

If permitted, the what ifs in life can prevent us from moving forward. This is normal, and from time to time you’re going to dwell in what I call the “What If Pit.” You’ll slosh around for a while, maybe even attempt to pull others in when they graciously extend a hand, but ultimately, something clicks and will allow you to take that first step out of the muck. Be kind to yourself during this process, because if you’re anything like me, you beat yourself up over “mistakes” rather than appreciate your ability to learn from the life lesson. Don’t let any Howard Roarke mouthpiece try to convince you otherwise: Every single person is guilty of being in the What If Pit. There could be an evolutionary advantage to being dissatisfied or regretful; many of us need to suffer in the swamp before finding the strength to pull ourselves out, BUT sometimes playing the What If game can be an interesting conversation starter, especially if you’re a dinner party full of boring grown-ups who ask the same standard questions. Try some of these noodle-scratchers next time you find yourself without haunted shrimp.

A simple trick to cut a dinner party short.

A simple trick to cut a dinner party short.

WHAT IF JOHN F. KENNEDY, JR. WERE STILL ALIVE?

We may not have been aware of it, but Donald Trump became president of the United States on July 16th, 1999. It took only a few decades, but now that ethical journalism has been replaced with a circus, it’s unsurprising that a low-class narcissist like Trump would be elected its carnival barker. Oh, and in case you missed it, that was the date John F. Kennedy, Jr.’s airplane went down, and with it a political career that would have likely led to the White House.

He roller-bladed, rode his bike, took the subway, yet JFK, Jr. was anything but ordinary.

He roller-bladed, rode his bike, took the subway, yet JFK, Jr. was anything but ordinary.

While an official bid for office never took place, it’s been documented that Kennedy was strongly considering a career in politics, particularly in the state of New York…but by 2000 that senate seat went to Hillary Clinton, who then used it as a springboard to dive into the murky waters of the presidential cabinet. She had more supporters back then (myself included), but her domestic and international affairs helped her became one of the most unpopular candidates of the modern era, easily losing to an anomaly like Trump. Ask yourself this: Do you really think Ms. Clinton, even at her most popular, could have even touched JFK, Jr. in the polls? Now think about that entitled schlub Donald Trump running against him; would he even stand a chance against his “friend” JFK, Jr.?

He would have made a great president-turned-actor, the polar opposite of Reagan.

He would have made a great president-turned-actor, the polar opposite of Reagan.

John-John had his father’s intellect and his mother’s class, and by most people’s standards, above-average looks. He was a natural in front of the camera, and boy, did it love him. He was human and I’m sure had difficult sides to him, but it’s of popular opinion that he would have pursued politics with that Sub-Pop optimism that’s lacking these days.

I was just a few years too young for George magazine and not well-rounded enough to appreciate its trendy presentation of politics and entertainment, but its eclectic nature essentially became its own roadblock: it crossed into markets already dominated by the likes of Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, GQ, and MTV. It’s as if the magazine was a visual allegory of Kennedy himself, a striking cover filled with interesting (if unfocused) pages that implored respect but settled for admiration.

My two cents, had John F. Kennedy, Jr. lived:

  • Ms. Clinton’s New York political career would be uncertain

  • He would have been elected president, twice

  • JFK’s death would be re-examined, possibly dismantling the Federal Reserve

  • He would become an actor after political burnout

For the record, no, I don’t think Hillary Clinton is responsible for JFK, Jr.’s plane crash. Certainly there are other political dynasties that fit this puzzle?

Her face says it all.

Her face says it all.

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WHAT IF HARVEY MILK SURVIVED?

I first learned about Harvey Milk from Emily Mann’s play, The Execution of Justice. If you’re not familiar with him, definitely check out some books and documentaries, but in a nutshell, Milk was one of the first openly gay politicians elected into office, in this case the Board of Supervisors of San Francisco. His campaign is a good example of what happens when voting laws reflect the people, as Milk tenaciously ran for office a number of times before his district was re-zoned; this provided the gay community with authentic representation, a loud voice for the voiceless.

Hearing Milk shout to the camera, “Just come out!” caused me to rethink the closet that could have suffocated me.

Hearing Milk shout to the camera, “Just come out!” caused me to rethink the closet that could have suffocated me.

Here’s a question fit for the What If Pit: How do you think the AIDS crisis would have been handled had Harvey’s voice been present? By the time he was assassinated in 1978, the HIV virus was insidiously working its way through the gay population, and by 1981 healthy young men began to fall ill. It took about four years and over 5,500 deaths before AIDS was even uttered by President Reagan, who was preoccupied with preventing another outbreak of that pesky Legionnaire’s Disease; why waste time acknowledging a mysterious new virus with a 100% mortality rate, particularly when its victims are a bunch of Godless fags?

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It didn’t seem like Milk’s nature to take a fight sitting down, and with his voice present it would not have taken The New York Times until mid-1981 to publish an article about 41 gay men dying from skin cancer. Many gay men in the late ‘70s were already showing signs of immune deficiency, and an openly gay man on the Board of Supervisors would have brought these concerns to health officials. Had he lived, Mayor George Moscone would have acted promptly, putting pressure on the mayors of New York and Los Angeles to do the same. Could you imagine what three years of education and research would have done for the “long term survivors” of AIDS, the ones who managed to stay alive 2+ years?

Gay lives don’t matter, either: Dan White received 8 years and was out in 5 after killing two government officials.

Gay lives don’t matter, either: Dan White received 8 years and was out in 5 after killing two government officials.

My brain directly goes to televised debates: New York-native Milk would have annihilated that self-hating closet queen, Mayor Ed Koch. Couldn’t you picture Milk on cable news, turning Koch around on his head? How about the inevitable Howard Stern interview the following morning?

Now THAT would have been legendary.

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