What if Amazon’s slow takeover of seemingly all business just…never happened?

featured image source

We like to all imagine ourselves as innovators. As people who, if given the perfect formula of inspiration and time, could come up with ideas that are not only impactful, but profitable. There’s the sort of “entrepreneurial spirit” that is drilled into most American’s at birth. Perhaps no better example of this is the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos. Not merely content to be the world’s foremost distributer of books you’re too embarrassed to buy publicly (I’m looking at you, 50 Shades of Grey), Bezos and his Amazon brand now own Whole Foods, the Washington Post, most of the Seattle skyline, and several key pieces of personal information thanks to their Ecco products.

But what if that just…never happened? What if Bezos was simply content to sell books, and realized he could continue to hone his craft doing what he was already doing really well. What would happen to Bezos? What would happen to Amazon? And what would happen to us?

Four Dead in Ohio: An Alternate History of the Kent State Massacre

One of the most recognizable moments of the Vietnam war era in the U.S. the Kent State Shooting on May 4th, 1970. Following the expansion of the war into Cambodia and the reinstatement of the draft, student protests began to gain steam all over the country. Students led by campus groups including the Black Student Organization organized large-scale protests against the ROTC presence on campus, sit-ins to protest the draft, and the presence of police recruiters on campus.

The Kent State protests might not have been as notable had it not been for tragedy. On May 4th, 1970 the National Guard attempted to disperse protests, and under mysterious circumstances, opened fire on the protestors. Four students died, 9 were injured, and one was paralyzed for life. Of the four dead, only two had participated in the demonstration. The deceased student’s names were:

  • Jeffrey Glenn Miller
  • Allison B. Krause
  • William Knox Schroeder
  • Sandra Lee Scheuer

Outrage from the shooting spread rapidly, as images of the dead were circulated in newspapers. The image below, depicting one of the dead won a Pulitzer Prize. Protests music referencing the event circulated the radio, including Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Ohio,” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Where Was Jesus in Ohio.”

Despite the outrage, Nixon was re-elected, and the Vietnam war continued to rage for several more years. In the aftermath of the shooting, over 100,000 people demonstrated in Washington D.C., and Nixon was taken to Camp David. Ten days after the Kent State Shooting, two more students were killed by Police at the historically black, Jackson State University – but did not receive the same nationwide attention. While this tragic event was crucial in the development of the anti-war movement, would the war have ended if it had never happened?

  • The alternate history below takes a somewhat more positive look at what may have happened.
Poster showing woman kneeling beside student lying on street during Kent State University riot.

Cover image source: Photograph of Campus Scene during Shootings at Kent State University

Lincoln – The Original Avenger

As the Civil War came to a close, plans for Reconstruction were drafted and approved. The reunification of the southern states to the northern Union was more than about political boundaries. Like the Civic War, which errupted over Southern sussession, the confrontation quickly lead to the larger issue – slavery. Abolishin plans looked not only to end slavery, but also its negative reprocussions for African Americans. With Lincoln at the helm, slaves could picture a future where their injustices were paid for, and their freedoms and liberties were restored. However, days after General Lee’s surrender, Lincoln is famously murdered at the Ford Theater, and history takes a turn, arguably, for the worst… What if Abraham Lincoln would have completed his second term in office?

“Mrs. America” and the ERA

The first time I learned about the history of the Equal Rights Amendment, I could not believe that I had never heard about it before. At the beginning, it seemed as if the ERA was on a foolproof path to success. It was the early 1970s and following the Civil Rights Movement, adding an amendment that barred discrimination on the basis of sex seemed a natural step in the right direction. It was long overdue to be added, having first been proposed in 1923 by the National Women’s Party, and was gaining bipartisan support. 35 of 38 necessary states had ratified the amendment, and the strong momentum behind the ratification process made it seem like they would get three more in no time.

Then, Phyllis Schlafly entered the scene. A member of the National Federation of Republican Women and biological determinist, Schlafly was convinced that the ERA would destroy American family values, remove sexual assault protections, get rid of alimony, take away maternal custody preference following a divorce, and result in a downward slide towards same-sex marriage and free for all abortion. Even though none of Schlafly’s fears were actually backed up with evidence, she was able to organize a shockingly successful grassroots movement called “STOP ERA” (STOP = Stop Taking Our Privileges) that completely halted the momentum of the ERA within a year. She was an effective speaker and debater and knew exactly how to tap into the fears of conservative women. She targeted battleground states, organized huge rallies, and lobbied all the right state legislators. By 1973, the number of states that ratified the ERA stood still at 35, and remained just three states short until it’s expiration in 1982.

As much as I have a personal vendetta against Phyllis Schlafly, the fact that she rapidly organized such an incredibly successful grassroots movement that took down something as monumental as the ERA is rarely talked about in history classes, and I think it deserves a place.

If we had passed the ERA back in the early 1970s, that would have paved the way for all sorts of major sex-based issues such as Title IX, same-sex marriage, and transgender rights to come to the stage decades earlier than they actually did. It also would have acted as extremely strong constitutional evidence in all of these cases when they did come about. This year, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA (a few decades late) but nothing has happened yet because no one knows what it means to have an amendment be ratified so long after it’s technical “expiration” date. I guess we are still waiting to see if we will ever get an Equal Rights Amendment.

Feature Image Source: Annie Goldsmith, “Revisiting the STOP ERA Movement—and Its Leader, Phyllis Schlafly—in Photos,” Town and Country Magazine, Apr. 26, 2020.