Category Archives: thinking out loud

Second Official Publication!

It’s official. I am twice published! The second paper I wrote is called Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum. It is an academic paper written about the wars Lincoln and FDR fought to establish the social paradigm in which America has become accustom. Read the article here and tell me what you think below!

Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

 

America was forged by great peace and greater war. The wars fought were for territory or for independence and from invasion. The peace enjoyed afterwards would generally improve the overall quality and equality of life, but a war had to always be fought in order to ensure this peace. Abraham Lincoln inherited a fiercely divided nation locked in a bitter struggle for equality of opportunity and emancipation against slavery. Franklin D. Roosevelt inherited a ferociously unified nation teetering on the brink of economic collapse created by a disproportionation in both economic and educational equality of opportunities. Both men oversaw a nation fraught with despair; they individually identified the issue and committed to combat the disparity with one difficult resolution: to advance equality. Lincoln and Roosevelt were tenacious advocates for equality of opportunity, and they were hesitantly waged war to ensure its prosperity.

In context, equality of opportunity may speak to many different levels of understanding. The pursuit of equality of opportunity is a long, often treacherous endeavor for the protection of those who have not from those who have.  Those who participate in this endeavor often encounter resistance, criticisms, protests and in one case, a cold-blooded assassination attempt and subsequent success. This pursuit is the reestablishment of the current status quo; it is the formulation and execution of an explicit agenda to effectively destroy that status quo and establish a new one. The pursuit is to establish a greater quality of standards; it would lead to a greater quality of living and improved relative protection from what had subjugated the ‘have not’ populace prior to its application. Lincoln and Roosevelt sought to reestablish the status quo by their own unique applications, through bloodshed and economic hardship.

“…The true pilot must pay attention to the year and seasons and sky and stars and winds, and whatever else belongs to his art, if he intends to be really qualified for the command of a ship, and that he must and will be the steerer, whether other people like or not…” (Plato 321). In the years preceding the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was a precocious young politician from Illinois. Lincoln was a fervent admirer of Henry Clay. As described by Fredrickson, [Lincoln] was drawn to particular political parties by his admiration for [Clay] and [Clay’s] sincere adherence to the Kentuckian’s principles and programs (41). As time progressed from the 1830s on to the 1850s, Lincoln’s views and ethics were molded largely by Clay’s influence; this influence included the “conscientious effort to adapt a certain set of personal principles and preferences to the circumstances of the time (40). As the budding question of slavery dramatically escalated to a fiery controversy that began to bitterly divide the nation into pro and anti-slavery camps, Lincoln withheld his opinions.

He instead proposed several alternative arguments to the gradual emancipation and introduction of relative equality of black slaves. As opposed to addressing whether slaves ought to be liberated or whether abolition could demolish the Southern economy, Lincoln took hold a different position in the matter. He took his position in a speech before the Wisconsin Agricultural Society in 1859. The argument was for the positive virtue of free labor and against James Henry Hammond’s ‘mud-sill theory’; the ‘mud-sill’ concept of how there will always be a lower class for which the upper class may rest. In this speech, he separates the distinction between education and free labor and the ‘mud-sill’ theory. Lincoln subtly insinuates that the institution of free labor is the “just, and generous, and prosperous system, which [would] open the way for all, gives hope to all, and energy and progress, and improvement of condition to all” (664).

By contrast, Lincoln points out that the ‘mud-sill’ theory assumes that there is a distinct separation between free labor and education, that the two concepts are unsuitable for each other. Because Hammond’s ‘mud-sill’ theory holds the perception that there will always be a lower class for which the upper class may use as a foundation for their success. A man without education is more likely to be content with manual labor than a man with education. Lincoln argues the opposite, which free labor and education are not only connected, but education acts as “the natural guardian, director, and protector of the hands and mouth inseparably connected [to the head]” (664). Later in his speech, he later points out that he was able to illustrate the opposing theories without advocating for one theory over another. Lincoln eschewed his own personal opinions about abolition and advocated for a number of alternative theories that also included colonization. According to Fredrickson, Lincoln’s “ well known advocacy of colonization [would be] the only solution to the race problem followed inevitably from his premise that insurmountable white prejudices made racial equality impossible in the United States” (48). While he made numerous allusions to gradual abolition of slavery including the virtue of free labor as opposed to indentured labor and the possibility of ‘shipping off’ freed slaves to colonize their own country, Lincoln never made an outright proclamation for abolition. That would come later during the height of his first term as president.

When faced with either advocating for a unified nation or for the abolition of slavery, Lincoln would choose the former. While the controversy of slavery would be a point of contention for many Northerners including Lincoln, it was the controversy of a unified nation that kept Lincoln from making his proclamation for abolition. His argument for the ‘virtues’ of free labor and against Hammond’s ‘mud-sill’ theory, his Henry Clay-infused proposition of colonization, all had connotations of his intentions to increase the blacks equality of opportunity though through ambiguous courses of word and action. Lincoln was an ethicist and rarely contained his own personal opinion of slavery, as Dorothy Ross had written, as a particular “revulsion from the inhumanity of slavery” (381).

Lincoln disputed his opponent’s accusations that Lincoln advocated for abolition as he ran his campaign for the presidency. The Union began to crumble and Lincoln’s focus was that to maintain its existence in lieu of advocacy for abolition. He advocated for the subtle nature of equality of opportunity for slaves, made a strong case for instead of slavery, free labor and the possibility for colonization in case the residence of freed slaves would cause further contention. Despite his best efforts to repudiate his accuser’s perceptions of Lincoln’s stance on slavery, the nation would secede not only ideologically but physically as well. Lincoln’s reserved stance on abolition and emancipation took a subordinate position to his goal of preserving the Union. Sharply divided on slavery, the Union and the Confederacy would engage in the bloodiest, most brutal and abhorrent war the young nation had and would ever engage. Lincoln fought a war to preserve the Union and to improve the status quo; he would improve the status quo of slaves, freed or otherwise, through blood spilt by both soldier and himself alike and through legislation. Though he never would see the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments ratified, Lincoln’s ambition and struggle for equality of opportunity was ensured. Lincoln was the ‘true pilot’ that kept ever mindful of the Union’s struggles. Whether people liked it or not, Lincoln kept his hand steady on the wheel of the ship as it steered away from exclusion and into a new era of equality.

Seventy years later, a different type of war would send the nation careening into a different direction. The nation was being torn apart by an economic depression unlike any the world has ever seen before. Joblessness, homelessness, poverty, and a catastrophic disparity is the dispersion of wealth between the have’s and the have not’s. According to Donavan, by 1929 the top 0.01% controlled as much wealth as the bottom 42%. She goes on to lecture that the same 0.01% controlled 34% of all savings whereas 80% of the population had no savings whatsoever (Donavan 2015). The stock market had continued to trend explosively upwards with an increasing amount of people purchasing stocks on margin and credit instead of using tangible currency. By the end of 1929, the stock market margin called, asking for the money owed. With turned out pockets, those who had bought on margin had nothing to give. Inflation exploded and employment imploded. As a result, the stock market collapsed and sent the nation into an economic tailspin.

Government non-intervention and lack of oversight from key executive bureaucracies had plunged the nation into an economic depression. “State and local governments, along with private relief agencies, did try to respond to the needs of the [newly] unemployed, but they were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task” (Harvey 89). Hoover fiddled as America burned and by 1933, newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt inherited the ashes. Whether America felt that Roosevelt would be the “true pilot” the nation needed was irrelevant at that time; Hoover did nothing to prevent the economic catastrophe that had stricken the nation. According to Harvey, “when the Roosevelt administration assumed office in early 1933, a consensus existed across the political spectrum that some form of government intervention was needed to meet the relief needs of the unemployed, reduce the levels of unemployment, and facilitate a return to prosperity” (90). Franklin’s administration quickly got to work on an audacious and bold plan to set America back on its feet and reset the status quo for equality of opportunity.

Roosevelt resolved to put American to work. In what would come to be known as the New Deal, Roosevelt sought to employ as many able-bodied Americans as possible to build skyscrapers, dams, roads, whatever it took to restore a few extra coins in an American’s purse. Roosevelt subscribed to a Keynesian theory of economics in deficit spending and government intervention, to correctly steer the sinking American ship into shallow waters. Despite voices of opposition from Congress and critics, Roosevelt’s resolute agenda was set into motion. By 1937, Roosevelt’s New Deal became the First New Deal as Roosevelt proposed and employed the Second New Deal. Critics continued to cry foul the dramatic increase of government intervention; Roosevelt sought to silence those critics with his second inaugural address. In it, Roosevelt declared that a new chapter in self-government was being written and that “a century and a half ago [they] established the Federal Government in order to promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to the American people” (Roosevelt 1937).

From the inherited ashes of Hoover rose the phoenix by Roosevelt. While America would never truly snap the cold spell of depression until after the outrageous attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in 1941, Roosevelt’s New Deals fought to reestablish the status quo. He did so by employing the unemployed, by improving their quality of standard by ‘leveling the playing field’ and writing specific legislation that would protect those who saved and gave the means to save to those who had not before the Depression. Roosevelt’s daring New Deal plans sought to improve the equality of opportunity for all as his predecessors had done nothing to stop the economic implosion or ensure the survival of America’s people. Through his experience, Roosevelt proposed a ‘second Bill of Rights’ in 1944. These ‘Bill of Rights’ was a set of “self-evident” economic rights including the right to a job, the right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing, the right to a home, among others (Roosevelt 1191). These ‘Bill of Rights’ would ensure the legacy of equality of opportunity Roosevelt and his administration had fought so hard to not only create but to maintain. As time would tell, Roosevelt was the “true pilot” who was well aware of his surroundings and sought to rectify that which he saw was a disparity in equality. Roosevelt declared a war on joblessness, a war he would eventually win.

Lincoln and Roosevelt ideological similarities came at a time when the nation was at its worse. Their fortitude and ability to see and understand what ailed the Union, America, the United States came at a time when those attributes were needed the most. Lincoln’s strong attitude towards slavery led to his drafting of plausible compromise only to be eventually met with secession and death. His resolve to reestablish the status quo and equality of opportunity for not some but all led to division and reunification of a young Union. His resolution cost him his life but his legacy continued through Constitutional Amendments. Franklin Roosevelt inherited a broken nation fraught with economic disparity. Roosevelt’s courageous plans to wage war on the Depression and to put America to work were his plan to solve the economic disparity and resolve America’s joblessness and improve their equality of opportunity. Lincoln and Roosevelt’s respective wars were met with peace, both militarily and economically speaking. Their resolution to improve the equality of opportunity was unwavering. Their examples are living proof that if one wants peace then one must prepare for war.

Works Cited

Donavan, Dr. Janet. “Part IV: Capitalism, Individualism, and Reform, 1865 – 1932, The Progressive Era (Cont.)” University of Colorado – Boulder. Clare 207 Boulder CO. Class Lecture. 07 Apr. 2015.

Harvey, Philip. “Learning From The New Deal.” Review Of Black Political Economy 39.1 (2012): 87-105. Business Source Complete. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

Kramnick, Isaac, and Theodore J. Lowi. “A Second Bill of Rights.” American Political Thought: A Norton Anthology. New York: W.W. Norton, 2009. 1190-191. Print.

Kramnick, Isaac, and Theodore J. Lowi. “First Inaugural Address.” American Political Thought: A Norton Anthology. New York: W.W. Norton, 2009. 1179-83. Print.

Kramnick, Isaac, and Theodore J. Lowi. “Address Before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society.” American Political Thought: A Norton Anthology. New York: W.W. Norton, 2009. 662-66. Print.

Niemi, William L., and David J. Plante. “The Great Recession, Liberalism, And The Meaning Of The New Deal.” New Political Science 33.4 (2011): 413-427. Academic Search Premier. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

Plato, and Benjamin Jowett. The Republic. Seattle: Amazon, n.d. http://Www.amazon.com. A Public Domain Book, 13 Apr. 2013. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0082SV87G/ref=docs-os-doi_0&gt;.

Roosevelt, Franklin D. “Second Inaugural Address.” Miller Center. University of Virginia, n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2015. http://millercenter.org/president/fdroosevelt/speeches/speech-3308

Ross, Dorothy. “Lincoln and the Ethics of Emancipation: Universalism, Nationalism, Exceptionalism.” Journal of American History 96.2 (2009): 379-99. JSTOR. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

 

 

Great Satan / شيطان بزرگ

 

 

Introduction

 

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter was presented with two options to retrieve the hostages taken by Iranian militants. The first option was to impose strict economic sanctions against Iran, freeze Iranian assets and expel all Iranian students and diplomats and engage in ongoing negotiations. The second option was a small-scale military intervention in an attempt to rescue the remaining fifty-two American hostages held in Tehran, Iran. The Department of State and the White House Chief of Staff advocated for increased economic sanctions and diplomatic agreements with Iran. The Office of the Secretary of Defense, National Security Advisers, Central Intelligence Agency, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff advocated for the small-scale military intervention/incursion option. The small-scale military incursion option prevailed for two reasons. President Carter’s trusted advisors assured him the military incursion, while risky, would succeed. Carter’s reelection campaign was failing and was advised by his trusted advisers that a military incursion to rescue the hostages would ensure a successful reelection campaign.

The background section will detail the events leading up to the Iranian Revolution, the storming of the American Embassy and the hostage crisis and the disastrous military rescue incursion attempt. The executive branch division section will take each policy option to be examined more thoroughly. Each of the foreign policy actors involved in either decision will be clearly defined and under great scrutiny. A visual aid is provided to separate each foreign policy option and its supporting actors. The foreign policy outcome section will begin with what policy option had won in greater detail and what bureaucratic divisions had contributed to the decision for military incursion. There will be two political reasons explaining why these bureaucratic divisions won against other bureaucratic divisions. The final section is the conclusion where I will summarize the paper.

 

Background

 

The year 1979 was a difficult year for President Jimmy Carter. The country of Iran was goaded into a revolution that would eventually alter the political landscape of the Middle East. To further understand the causes of the Revolution in Iran, one must take a brief glimpse into the history of Iran, starting with the Central Intelligence Agency assisted coup in 1953 to restore Shah Pahlavi back to power. Prior to the events in 1953, the United States ‘played a benevolent role in the great-power politics of Iran’ (Sick 7). Following the events of 1953, the United States played an integral albeit passive role in Reza Shah Pahlavi’s authoritarian government. The Iranian government enjoyed a relative level of peace for roughly a decade. The United States relationship with Iran was tentative; Iran maintained an active oil trade with the United States in exchange for western money and values. It was not until a religious cleric named Ruhollah Khomeini began to openly criticize the Iranian government, and more directly Pahlavi, to spark the flame for revolution.

Khomeini resented and denounced the Shah’s willingness to ‘westernize’ and shirk Iran’s more traditional Islamic values. Khomeini’s fiery reproach of Reza Shah Pahlavi’s government had drawn a swift, violent response from the king. Pahlavi, then obsessed with military security, dispatched his elite police force to disband the growing mob only to have the disbandment turn to bloodshed. Khomeini was arrested several times and eventually expelled into exile from Iran into Iraq. The events that occurred in 1963 would serve as a dress rehearsal for future sedition. As time passed, Pahlavi’s power and his health began to wane. Sentiment towards the ailing king began to grow hostile. Years of living in decadence and opulence introduced by western money began to take its toll on the Iranian people. Revolt was in the air.

Reza Shah Pahlavi was dying of cancer. As his world around him began to crumble. He sought temporary asylum in the United States while he actively pursued treatment for his cancer. After extreme reluctance and coercion from his National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, President Carter granted him access to the U.S. (Riedel 103). This had been the final straw for the Iranian people. On November 4th, 1979, thousands of radical Iranian students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking the Embassy by force and with it over 60 American hostages. The uprising took the world, and the U.S., by surprise

Sanctions were imposed, assets frozen, emissaries sent and negotiations negotiated. Six months passed with no resolution. After negotiations with the Iranian Prime Minister proved fruitless, President Carter authorized a brazen rescue mission utilizing U.S. Army Special Forces. Code named Operation Eagle Claw, the mission was intended to send the Special Forces in helicopters into Iran undetected, storm the Embassy and rescue as many hostages with minimal U.S. civilian and military casualties. The mission was executed but never left the first checkpoint. Eight soldier’s lives were lost and four more were critically injured due to a sudden dust storm created by one of the helicopters, causing it to crash into a C-130 airplane and exploding. The mission was a spectacular failure and would eventually seal Carter’s fate in his bid for reelection. Ronald Reagan was elected in a landslide victory and on Reagan’s inauguration day, the remaining hostages were released unharmed after four hundred forty-four days of captivity.

 

 

 

Executive Branch Division

 

According to McDermott, President Carter had five basic options to consider in order to have the hostages released and terminate the diplomatic stalemate (242). Of those five, President Carter and his advisors seriously considered only two. Of those remaining three options, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance supported the option of ‘do nothing’ and in time the crisis would end by itself. The second option was to mine the harbors and utilize any means necessary to restrain and reduce commerce. The third option would be a full military incursion and an all out attack against Iran. The second and third options were deemed too ‘risky’ both politically and militarily. Including the risk of the inability of not retrieving the hostages, mining the harbor and/or directly attacking Iran could influence the interim Iranian government to seek assistance from the Soviet Union (244-245).

Foreign Policy Option Executive Actors
Increase economic sanctions, diplomatic agreements; ‘wait-and-see’ approach Department of State, Executive Office of the President*
Small-scale military incursion Office of the Secretary of Defense, National Security Adviser(s), Central Intelligence Agency, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Executive Office of the President

*The head of the Executive Office of the President, Hamilton Jordan, would eventually advocate for a military incursion in hopes to both retrieve the hostages and assist Carter’s reelection campaign which faired poorly.

 

President Carter was a humanitarian president. Be it that he was a humanitarian, he would prefer to pursue peace and not war. “By the spring of 1980 Carter had tried every peaceful means he could think of to obtain the release of the hostages. He had stopped importing Iranian oil, broken off diplomatic relations…sent a variety of third parties and intermediaries to Tehran…” (Houghton 2). Carter initially pursued avenues of diplomatic negotiation, of economic sanctions and of the approach that he should perhaps wait out the disintegrating political climate in Iran. It was clear that Carter beheld the hostage’s well being deep within his day-to-day actions. Carter had originally sided with his Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. Vance was a strong proponent for a passive ‘do nothing’ executive response in hopes that the Iranian situation would resolve itself. Vance’s ‘wait and see’ proposal was briefly pursued though quickly abandoned by Carter as Carter determined that nothing could be accomplished.

Carter sought to strengthen his position by following Vance’s advocating of sanctions and open lines of communication with Iran through Algerian translators. The sanctions imposed were meant to bring pressure to European allies to follow the United States’ lead (McDermott 243). Carter had even dispatched his Chief of Staff, Hamilton Jordan, to assist with the negotiations with Iran through Algerian translators. The mirage of diplomacy, that negotiation and sanction would prevail, soon began to fade away into the desert sands and with it, Carter’s reelection prospects.

As time crawled on with the hostages no closer to liberation, Carter’s popularity and confidence in his foreign policy skills began to decline. “[I]t seems that the President cannot rely on his own image or popularity to stimulate support for military actions. For such initiatives, the President must call upon the public’s basic sense of patriotism in order to generate support” (Conover 263) Hamilton Jordan was crucial to Carter’s reelection campaign and was well aware of Carter’s downward spiral. Carter had not faired well in the New York and Connecticut primaries against his primary Democratic opponent Edward Kennedy. While Carter enjoyed an initial increase in his polling numbers after announcing a breakthrough in the negotiations, his popularity began to slip below that of his Republican opponent Ronald Reagan. Vance’s sanction proposals were met with resistance from the European allies. Vance’s failure to rally the allies began a break in the relation between the Secretary of State and the President. “…The real shift in Carter’s policy allegiance from Vance to [Zbigniew] Brzezinski came after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in late 1979” (McDermott 248). A complete breakdown in negotiations on April 1st, 1980 led Carter to pursue the other seriously considered option: a military rescue mission. McDermott argues that the main perspectives that were examined are those espoused by Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, and [presidential assistant] Hamilton Jordan. In the end, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance resigned his position over this episode. Vance did so because he believed that the mission could not work and should be pursued because it was too dangerous (245).

 

Foreign Policy Outcome

 

It would come that two options were seriously considered. Each option was carefully revised according to variability of risk both politically and militarily. The Department of State and the Secretary of State Cyrus Vance advocated for a passive response to the Iranian uprising. Carter had sent Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan to assist with the mediations. When this passivity failed, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, more specifically the Secretary of Defense Harold Brown and Carter’s own National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski strongly advocated for a bold and decisive resolution to the conflict. Hamilton Jordan’s efforts to rally America behind Carter’s reelection campaign began to sputter as the hostage crisis crawled on with no end in sight.

As previously stated, Carter’s reliance on Vance’s methods and efforts to encourage European nations to join in on the sanctions had begun to falter. A sharp divide between Carter and Vance began with Vance’s inability to assemble European nations to sanction Iran and culminated in the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. Carter’s slippage in the polls instigated a strong response from Hamilton Jordan that something must be done to recover his campaign. Carter decided to pursue a rescue mission much to the disappointment of Vance but to the satisfaction of Jordan and National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.

The rescue plan was strongly instigated by Brzezinski and facilitated through the Joint Chiefs of Staff with guidance and insight from the Central Intelligence Agency. Brzezinski assured Carter that such an audacious and complicated plan would be successful and restore U.S. prominence in the world. A successful mission would effectively ‘kill two birds with one stone’ in the sense of restoring that prominence to Carter and the U.S. while minimizing hostage and soldier casualties. “Carter would regret not listening to his own counsel” (Riedel 103). A haphazard, complicated plan was concocted by the CIA and the Joint Chiefs with assistance by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and authorized by Carter upon the negotiation failures on April 1st. On April 24th, the mission was executed but failed in a dramatic fashion, not because of Iranian intervention but a freak chain of events that led to the death of 8 American Special Forces and injured 4 more (Lu Fong 6). A successful mission would have rescued the hostages and elevate Carter far and beyond his political opponents. A successful mission would have reestablished the U.S.’s strong military prowess to the world. A failed mission would be disastrous to all parties involved, and failed it did. However, Radvanyi argues, “Operation Eagle Claw may not have resulted in the rescue of the American hostages, but it was not a total failure…Many of the recommendations prescribed by the Holloway Report were implemented subsequent operations in Grenada and Panama, with much better results in the handling of (operations security) and command and control” (38). Eagle Claw was a costly lesson learned.

 

Conclusion

 

A revolution to reset Iran to traditional Islamic values took the U.S. by surprise. Militant Iranian students led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took hostage American citizens. President Jimmy Carter weighed his options to rescue the hostages and seriously considered two; the Department of State and to an extent the Executive Office of the President advocated for a peaceful resolution through economic sanctions and sustained negotiations with Iran. The Office of the Secretary of Defense, National Security Advisers, Central Intelligence Agency, and Joint Chiefs of Staff and eventually the Executive Office of the President advocated for a stronger response in the form of a small military incursion to rescue the hostages. Carter chose the latter due to political pressures applied by Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan in hopes of recovering his faltering reelection campaign. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski influenced Carter to choose the latter as it would have reinforced the United States’ prestige. The failed rescue attempt only ensured Carter’s failure to be reelected and the United States’ reputation was tarnished. Only after Carter left office did the hostages earn their freedom from Iranian captivity despite Carter attempting viable politically and militarily risky options. Freedom came at an implicit price and cost Carter a presidency and the United States a much desired return to grace.

In Fortune and Men’s Eyes

It was four-thirty in the morning and I was running for my life. My vision was blurred and all I could see was a shadowy figure gaining. My shirt was shredded, my jeans torn, matted and sticky with blood. My vision was blurred by alcohol. My skin shimmered with glitter in the pale lighting. I took the right turn down the wrong road and found myself being followed. I was in a mysterious passageway that stretched for miles and millennia. The question in my mind was not who or why I was being chased but how. I had to chase the white rabbit. And once I did, I found myself tumbling down, down, down the rabbit’s hole to nothingness and beyond now with that burning question. How did I get here?

Opinion may vary to what would constitute a quintessential perfect, dreamy vacation. While any argument about touristic intention may be relevant, anyone could agree that tourism at its core provides to the consumer something they may not have access or be able to observe otherwise. In this paper, I will attempt to illustrate and examine an unparalleled adventure to California from Denver and back and the events that unraveled. In order to analyze the story, I will utilize the writings of John Urry’s “The Tourist Gaze,” Jack Selzer’s “Rhetorical Analysis: Understanding Texts Persuade Readers,” and Jerome Bruner’s “The Autobiographical Process.”

In Urry’s piece “The Tourist Gaze,” he writes about the observable behaviors of those who travel. People tend to fall into patterns for the sake of comfort, familiarity, etc. and they view the world through rose-tinted lenses while they travel. With considerable explanation, Selzer dives into the depths of rhetoric. Though several fields of rhetoric are cogitated and discussed, the analysis for this paper will be rhetorically contextual as defined by Selzer. This is an autobiographical account of a travel experience to California and loosely structured to suit Bruner’s autobiographical guidelines. Travelling is not about the destination. It’s not why you leave while you’re alive but how you live once you’ve left. With Urry’s potion and Selzer’s cake, we shall tumble down the rabbit hole and through the doors together.

I awoke on a couch early one morning. A lumpy couch, a globe and the television playing softly in the background were but the few possessions left to me by my ex. She had taken everything else including the ice trays out of the freezer and my heart; a visceral act that which she removed my heart, placed in a jar and arranged it atop her mantelpiece as a conversational focal point. Bruner would argue that “the “rightness” of any autobiographical version is relative to the intentions and conventions that govern its construction or its interpretation” (40). Surely she didn’t actually remove my heart; I would dead, you may be thinking. But yet here I am, free of heart and writing this. I was trapped in a tail-spin. Partying with no regard and there was no end in sight. I had spent my entire adult life with her and without her, I had no idea who I was.

It happened one night. I put in Total Recall and dozed off. A story about a man who pays for an exciting memory only to realize the memory was his reality. I awoke on that couch sometime later. It was during the scene where the salesman was delivering his pitch to Quaid. “What is the same thing about every vacation you’ve ever taken?” he asks. “You. You’re the same. No matter where you go there you are. Let me suggest that you take a vacation from yourself” (Verhoeven Total Recall). The salesman goes on to talk about implanting memories about travelling to Mars. I could neither afford memory implantation nor a Martian excursion but the movie did give me an idea. I needed a vacation. More than a vacation, I needed to escape. I had money from my tax return. Spring break was coming up. In my mind I constructed the dream. I took the globe and spun it.

I love the ocean but hate the beach. I love islands but hate travelling on a boat. I love clam chowder and fine chocolate. What city could accommodate all those things but San Francisco? I could disappear for a week and be thousands of miles away from her. I had the money to do whatever I wanted? I wasn’t about to live like a king for a day but for an entire week. I could reinvent myself. No one knew who I was. In the ‘divorce’ she got all our friends too. I knew that I played into a tourist trope identified by Gottlieb and written by Urry stating that “[what is] sought for in a vacation/holiday is inversion of the everyday. The middle-class tourist will seek to be a ‘peasant for a day’ while the lower middle-class tourist will see to be ‘king/queen for a day’” (Urry, 11).

But unlike the everyday tourist described by Urry, I wanted to avoid the quintessential tourist destinations within S.F. I did not want to put on horse-blinders and mill around Ghirardelli Square, Alcatraz or Golden Gate Park. I had my own agenda and to widen my gaze. Though I would do many things, none stand out more than my last night in S.F. “Rhetorical analysis [or rhetorical criticism] can be understood as an effort to understand how people within specific social situations attempt to influence others through language” (Selzer 281). I strolled the pier, gorged on chowder and chocolate and rode the cable cars. But I fell into the same habits as home. I drank at the hotel bar. I fell into the cliché of the man drunkenly spilling his guts to a stranger. The common message in S.F. is love and cohabitation, a message I would hear from a drag queen named Thor(a).

Thor was the Norse god bartender. He insisted that I come out with him and some friends. I accepted. I went upstairs to change. Thor invited me out. Thora picked me up, with two of her fabulous friends. The god I met was now wearing a wig and sequined black dress. Her other friends were similarly dressed. They caught me completely by surprise. I thought I was going out with a bunch of guys. I fumbled my words and apologized for giving Thor(a) the wrong impression, that I wasn’t interested in men. The three ladies rolled their eyes as if choreographed. Steph(en) responded with, “We know. You’ve got a broken heart honey and we’re here to piece it back together.” That is, if I had my heart. One beer couldn’t hurt. So I got in the car.

They didn’t serve beer at the first bar. Luminescent martinis with tropical fruit sprouting from within the rim? Check. Loud music? Check. Inability to hear? Check. I wanted to leave. Not because of the music, the drinks or the company. I wanted to go home and scrap the rest of my trip. The third passenger Regina, with her fluffy white dress and rabbit ears to match, noticed my sadness. She assembled the Avengers and away to the second bar we went. And the third. The fourth we found beer. Country, dance on the bar, ‘knock ‘em back’ type of dive. It was by the third I started having a good time. By the fourth, I was jubilant. Cohabitation is a language we all spoke. The ladies did not love me nor I them. They saw someone in need and assisted.

Steph convinced me to hop on the bar and hop I did only to tumble over the other side. A bottle of grenadine shattered under my weight. The bartender helped me up only to accidentally tear my shirt. I excused myself. I passed through the crowd out the exit. I had walked through a tunnel the day before. There was a tunnel nearby and I was sure it was the same. It was not. There’s a difference between the Stockton Tunnel and the Broadway Tunnel. I took the right turn down the wrong way down Broadway. I heard someone behind me. Saw shadows and started running. Thora was spry running in those pumps. She saw me leave and followed. She called my name then called for a cab. We exchanged our goodbyes and the dream collapsed.

And then I woke up on a couch, to a television playing softly in the background.

Beside you in time

I did not invent time travel. I did not create a vessel in which I may be allowed to watch Washington cross the Delaware or see whether there was a second shooter on the Grassy Knoll. I am not a physicist versed in String Theory or relativity or a mad scientist with plans of world domination. I am the researcher; an outsider looking in. I did not invent time travel, but I did manage to perfect it. Well, sort of. H.G. Wells gave us the ability to imagine what it would take to travel through time. Einstein gave it a name. But I used neither a machine nor a German accent to get to when I was going.

Time is inert. No matter how much I attempt to change it, somehow alter the past it will never move. I have worked in retail for half my life. While I find the prospect of working in retail for the rest of my life repugnant and ludicrous, it does not explain why I’ve worked in retail for so long. If I do and did not like working in various jobs in the service industry, then why on Earth am I still doing it? I could, and did, ask my fellow and former co-workers why do I work in retail. Then I realized that they could not answer that question for me, that at the end of the day it was only I who could but how? How could I interview myself when I already knew the answers? There in lies the rub. I had to travel to place and time from memory to memory and ask.

In this paper, I will utilize the “The Autobiographical Process” by Jerome Bruner, “Researching People: The Collaborative Listener” by Elizabeth Chiseri-Strater and Bonnie S. Sunstein and a few interviews conducted by myself to myself but by an older me to a younger me. The title of this paper is a song by Nine Inch Nails; the title is befitting of the subject matter at hand. Because of a strong ethical code built up over two decades, I cannot allow myself to lie about the interviews regardless with whom I have interviewed. It is because of an extremely unique memory it is possible to allow myself to travel within my mind to when I was seventeen, twenty-five and twenty-eight; all years spent working in one form of retail or another. It is by these guidelines I tell my tales of travel. It is by these guidelines that I may be able to answer the question, “Why do I work in retail?”

It is July 5th, 2002. I am an incoming junior in high school and seventeen years old. From where I stand and what I could see, I am sitting alone on a stage with a cigarette dangling from my mouth and thinking about nothing in particular. When I was seventeen, I worked at a place called Seven Falls in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It’s a tourist attraction deep within a canyon; the main attraction is a waterfall that falls seven different times in rapid succession. As a tourist, it’s a beautiful landmark of nature. As an employee, big deal. It’s cool the first time you see it but after a summer and a half, you become immune to its beauty.

There were storm clouds on the mountains. By dark, it began to rain. As the only male working that night, I was given the task to making sure no one attempted to climb the stairs that ran adjacent to the waterfall. Water makes stairs slippery, apparently. I set up an old metal folding chair under the one place where no rain fell; a performance stage intended for a small group of Native Americans to perform upon for the tourists. The night darkened well before its time and the heaven’s opened. I had little less than two hours by myself. It was dark, muggy and wet and I was on my last few cigarettes. I was alone and wondering to myself why in the hell was I there, babysitting steps when there was no one except employees in the canyon? So I approached.

My mind is a chaotic flux of wind blowing and lightning striking and ruining the meticulous order of papers (memories), as my mind often works. Attention deficit hyperactive disorder and the superhuman inability to forget to remember. With my distinct memory I am able to erect and construct the world as I remember it, emotions, distinct smells and all. In this world as I know, I walked through the rain with nary a drop touching me. I could feel my old emotions wash over me as I approached myself sitting alone on that stage. He was no more surprised to see me as I him. We both knew why I was there. It’s a funny thing to interview someone you’ve known for so long; you can skip the formalities and dive straight in. But I know me, who I was and knew that closed-ended questions would not yield the result I want; open-ended would be the answer (Chiseri-Strater, Sunstein 221-22).

Why do you work here, at Seven Falls of all places, I asked.

They were hiring. Plus, it was a seven-minute drive from home.

We could, and often did, roll out of bed and be at work before we were late.

Do you like working here, I queried.

Yeah, sure. I like working here. All my friends are here.

And I added to my youngest self’s consternation, but the pay is terrible.

This was the time when the Colorado minimum wage was on par with the rest of the nation. $5.15 an hour. Because this was my second summer, I got a quarter bump.

Look around you, my youngest self said as he outstretched his arms and cigarette ash falling onto his blue Seven Falls polo. I’m getting paid to literally sit here and smoke cigarettes.

I was a precocious, lazy little shit. I smiled and thanked myself for taking the time. We did not pay rent and we did not pay for food. All the money that we made, the $5.40 an hour, was all ours to take and blow on whatever we wanted. I didn’t have the heart to tell him what was to come. In the next year would be one of the most difficult in our short lives. And even if I did tell him, it wouldn’t have mattered. The smell of rain was sharp on my nose as I approached the first exit and through the second entrance.

It is September 30th, 2010 and I am in a bar. No surprise there; my alcohol tolerance rivaled that of Russian, German and Irish drinking champions. I have been four years sober; the twenty-five-year-old me is far from that. We are at the Fat Tire Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado, and I am drinking with my freshly minted 21-year-old girlfriend. It is cause for celebration. So many years together and all those years, she had been drinking underage. Now it was official, and we drank and were to be merry. Eventually engaged. She was a love of my life. Between my third and fourth craft beers that I could still taste on my taste buds even now in the present, I approached.

It was a rare day off for the two of us. We could never coordinate schedules to spend little more than the night and early morning together. Months of planning brought us to this time, this place and this level of happiness I swore I could never top so long as I was with her. By now I was working from RadioShack in Colorado Springs after having been fired from Seven Falls to working part-time at the Best Buy in Fort Collins. I had the electronics background, I was a shoe-in, my slightly younger self answered when asked by me the question. The girlfriend took a job as a receptionist at a doctor’s office where the affair with a doctor began, but that hadn’t happened yet.

With the sheer volume of money, we were raking in we had to hire a second butler just to scoop up all the hundred dollar bills swirling around in our McMansion. That was sarcasm, by the way. We were at Fat Tire because it was free beer day and together, we had maybe $30 in our respective accounts to last us the next four days. We were constantly penniless but today we were drunk and we were happy.

I want to move up in management, I blurted out. Best Buy has a great management program; they don’t even need a college degree to move up!

And there it was. Several years out of high school, spinning our collective wheels and circling around the one thing we both knew where we would eventually end up. Broke, broken up and listless, soon to be partying with manic cross-dressers seeking to heal a shattered soul (Pavlick, In Fortune and Men’s Eyes). The world faded from inebriation to darkness and on to nothing.

It is December 23rd, 2013 and I have just heard earth-shattering news. I am working part-time at Target before transitioning to work for Samsung and at 2.75 times the pay of Target. I am looking at my transcripts from Front Range Community College in complete and total disbelief. Three classes were attempted that fall semester: Spanish 2, Intro to Chemistry and the worst subject on the face of this tiny, blue marble. College algebra. I had gotten a 57% on the final. I needed a bare-bones minimum 70% in order to graduate and transfer to the University of Colorado in Boulder. I was sure that I bombed the class, that I ruined my chances of getting into the college of my dreams. Then one night out with my friends, I decided to check my transcript online. Spanish 2: B+ 88.4%. Chemistry: C+ 79.1%. College Algebra. Holy. Shit. C- 70.1%. I fainted. Legit fainted. My friend’s mom is a nurse and had smelling salts in her purse for such a situation; a grown man fainting after seeing his college algebra grades must be a common occurrence in her line of work.

After I was revived, I asked my questions.

Will you stay with Samsung?

Yes, I will because it’s damn good money. I can pay for my books. I can pay for my classes without using loans now.

My rebuttle. But what of the school load in addition to working 40 hours a week?

I’ll think of something, the young me responded.

We would think of something and nearly drove ourselves back to to the Jägermeister bottle we had been so fond of. We resisted the temptation. My young self was going to graduate with an associate’s and attend the school of our dreams for a bachelor’s then on to law school to get one of those degrees and then become a politician and save the world! If only my young self knew what would happen in that span of two and a half years. I didn’t have the heart to tell him. It would all come crashing down on his head; I still have the deep scar on my forehead to prove it.

Through the final memory I retrieved the truth I knew I had and shared. Jimmy, Jim and James all had answered some questions the same way. Money and people. We all knew we weren’t talking about the tourists, the restaurant connoisseurs or the customers that frequented all the different stores and businesses we worked in. It was the money that got us there; it was the people that got us to stay. As the researcher of this project, I am able to determine that while the money did get us there, it is the people that makes work bearable. But even though people make work bearable, they don’t pay our bills or our rent. So we move on. We moved up. Being an outsider all our lives, we are easily integrated as quickly as we would leave. Observation data could be simply condensed to a single sentence about all retail: every day is exactly the same; nothing ever changes, it’s always the same.

These are not random assemblages of memory cobbled together. These were key turning points in my life. They are three moments that are a culmination of a thousand moments leading up to and the aftermath they created. I hesitate to refer to these moments as demons. Even in a thousand moments, there were some good ones too. I realized that in the process of chasing down these memories to answer one question led to more questions. This is not a sustainable event that I can continue to create. My memories are exceptionally powerful and bring forth emotion. To say this paper has inspired would be an understatement. I believe I have the unique opportunity to create a new means of travel writing. It would be a twist on the concept of memory implantation from Total Recall.

In medias res. It is Latin for “in the middle of things.” Within my story I gave you but a glimpse into my past; information you may have not known had I not told you. These are my memories that which I have chosen to share. But I did not share all the details, i.e. how I came to be at Seven Falls, a craft beer brewery or fainting in front of a nurse. I am able to visit any location of any time at my leisure. This provides a powerful means of ‘travel’ but not everyone will have the luxury of delving deep within their mind. As children, we have little to no choice of where or how we are expected to travel. We are the constant companion of our parents/loved ones/others whether we like it or not. What I am to suggest is to write a list of the most iconic, most enjoyable or unpleasant locations of your childhood and why. Then travel to those locations. Write about it. Share what you want but be sure that the information shared does not necessarily cross a comfort threshold but at least pushes you close to the edge. I will attempt this idea upon completion of this spring semester; this attempt shall be called, “Hello, and goodbye.” It will be about my travels as a child and my revisiting the places I believe are pivotal to my development in adolescence and in adulthood. I am a companion of both travel and time. May you come with me and I may stand beside you in time.