For better or not-so-better, any moment in political history occurs just once, without a retake, yielding an indelible result. Still, it’s often fascinating to consider alternate outcomes– both immediate and long-term– especially with the help of a deeply insightful book on the subject.
Suppose President-elect John F. Kennedy had been killed before his inauguration, as truly came close to happening one December morning. Say the gunman in the Ambassador Hotel on that June night had been tackled before hitting his target, allowing Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign to proceed. And even without an act of violence or death, consider how words alone could have gotten President Gerald Ford elected in his own right– and from there, who would have succeeded him.
Historians, academicians and philosophers often like to ponder the age-old question, “What if?” And for the rest of us who like to ask it as well, reporter/author Jeff Greenfield presents a captivating 400 pages to feed such an appetite, adding to numerous works of alternate history while showcasing an extensive and unique cast of characters. As fact launches into fiction, we the readers are invited to contemplate, through good and bad, how history might have been written. The entire “if, then” logic structure rings loudly, hypothetically enough. Let’s just say the film in my last post clearly would not have been made!
“Then Everything Changed” proves a fascinating and reflective read for anyone who appreciates how it really was, while craving a glimpse into how it could have occurred. “It” is far more than merely who holds office; the everyday media and social divergences are intertwined. I’m thrilled to have picked up this two-year-old book, in the end leaving me satisfied that some pieces of history happened as they did– while wishing others might have turned out differently. Ironically enough, some very memorable events that defined our reality still took place in Mr. Greenfield’s alternative scenario, just at different times among other players. Such compelling instances simply strike nerves with all the more impact on the reality vs. fantasy balance. And of course, in scenarios both real and imagined, Bugs Bunny always does beat Daffy Duck.
Ultimately, from tragedy, loss and failure to peace, victory and opportunity, with all that might have happened and the rest that never did, “Then Everything Changed” concludes with a final paragraph demonstrating the mark of a thoughtful and well-balanced author. That is, I laughed out loud. I bet you will too!