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!
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.
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>.
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.
I’ve been published! There was some miscommunication and a few changes of the guard but it’s finally live. A paper I wrote called Pura Vida Wanderlust has been published on a website called Journal2020. I am a part of Volume V Online Edition. A hard copy should be available in the fall (Volume 6). More updates to follow. This is very exciting! Before I forget, here’s the website:
I’m at the bottom. There’s some fantastic stories here. I recommend you take the time to read them. Thank you for reading!
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.
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.
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.
The Local’s Guide to Boulder (currently under construction)
There are few things that are necessary in life. There are the things we need and there are the things we want. Whether it is in or out of life, that is up to us to decide. It’s a funny world we live in; it’s a small world with its nearly unlimited means of communication and travel. It is a small world we live in but by its sheer vastness and expanse we could never dream of visiting every location without these nearly unlimited forms of communication.
Some of the best parts of life is the ability and conscious effort to meet someone, something or some place. For the very first time of you meeting the entity in question, we say ‘hello’ and exchange pleasantries. And in the end when you leave, you say ‘goodbye’. Often we may feel regret in our goodbyes. So fond are we remembering the goodbye that we hardly remember the hello from which we began. Fast friends though you may have become after the hello, the goodbye may come just as quick.
We remember Rick seeing Ilsa off before she gets on the plane. E.T. bidding adieu to Elliot before going home. To Scarlett: Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. Even we felt the despair and utter devastation after Chuck Noland lost Wilson. These are not quintessential break-ups; they are friends or lovers seeing each other off for the very last time. There is no Paris, no Reese’s Pieces or island rescue big enough that may fill the holes in their hearts left by their partner’s departure.
We are afflicted with strong emotion evoked by these scenes. So wrought with anguish we are by their absconding that we rarely remember their hello until the movie is re-watched. These are the sorts of stories, books and movies that we remember; for the hello but especially the goodbye. Dare I compare these titans of written word and film to that of a town? Dare I compare their good fortune and plight to that of a living, breathing population? Must I dredge up the feelings of darkness and woe so that you may remember the light and happiness? The answer is unequivocally affirmative. May I have the pleasure of introducing this town that which I speak. I speak of Boulder, Colorado.
Boulder is a town nestled safely against the bosom of the Rocky Mountains. Its magnificent, natural landmarks are affectionately entitled the Flatirons for what reason is a mystery for you to solve. Gazing upon these peaks, you shall know and feel what love at first sight truly means. Soon after your liaison with the Flatirons begins, you will be inundated with acceptance and care by those residing within this beloved town. Like a warm, inviting fog washing over your skin; the hairs on your arms and neck prickle at the very thought of visiting and now, you no longer want but need to come to Boulder.
From the Hill to the campus of the University of Colorado, from Pearl Street to the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory and beyond, you are welcome. Like with any new relationship, there is plenty to do, to see and to learn about Boulder. It will feel overwhelming at first; like a swirling torrent cascading upon your thoughts and will embellish and bewilder you. It is not a happy coincidence that storms are named after people, after all. But fear not! For we, the locals, the insiders, the college students and facilitators of this blog shall be your intrepid, virtuous guides through this confounding rabbit-hole and out the other side.
Within this literature you will find first-hand accounts of local eateries, of bars both dive and posh, and more beer breweries than you can shake a stick at; marijuana dispensaries that sell you the most chronic, dankest and skunkiest strand of brand; if that’s your cup of tea we shall help you pour. As your fearless Cyrano de Bergerac, we will whisper in your ear sweet nothings and suggestions to where you may start. Perhaps the runner or hiker inside grows anxious having been cooped up in a train, plane or automobile for too long and needs to be let loose from its cage. With Boulder you gain access to miles of trails and sidewalks for both hiking and running for which you unleash your inner pedestrian beast.
Perhaps the need for savoir faire in you screams for informed and academic instruction and talk. To where we would refer you is to the home of our beloved mascot, the buffalo and our home, the University of Colorado. Visit the oldest building on campus, Old Main. Whet your (non-alcoholic) whistle at the University Memorial Center. Watch the pendulums swing at the Duane Physics building. When the time is right, you can cheer on our Buffs as they strive tirelessly towards their respective championships. Or just simply lay down the simple grass that feels as if it has been spun from silk at Farrand Field or the Norlin Quad and enjoy the beautiful weather that often brings forth the sunshine and smiles from all of us here
Catch a show at any of our dozens of live productions acted, performed and played by fellow students and local actors alike. From funky to freaky to just plain fun, we have just the performance for you. If performance art is not your ticket, then perhaps other forms of art? Within the university is a microcosm entity; it is a city within itself. We have the living and the still art prints and canvas to satiate your thirst for the arts. Feel your desire fade into need, that need for which we are happy to help deliver.
John Muir once said, “The mountains are calling and I must go.” Now may you know to what and where he was referring. And when the Flatirons call, it is in your best interest to answer. Hop on a train, a plane or an automobile; you’ll get here fast then you’ll take it slow. This is where you wanna go, down deep in Boulder and enjoy the rich colors, the lively characters, the unique architecture. You may reconnoiter and observe or you may allow that welcoming fog mentioned earlier to consume you because here in Boulder, you’re no longer are a tourist but a local. We accept all those who come. We love all those who stay. We weep when it’s finally time to say goodbye.
But unlike Rick, Elliot and Chuck, Boulder is big enough, warm enough and shaped just right to fit into that hole bore into your heart as you say your goodbye. Unlike with these few, minute details that which those men and boy latched upon, you take with you none of those things. When you leave Boulder, you never truly leave. We become a part of you and you a part of what makes Boulder a magnificent melting pot of ideas, food, activities for the health and the lethargic, and exceptional primary and secondary educational systems.
As your liaison with the Flatirons, the Rocky Mountains and the wonderful kingdom it overshadows draws to a close, we ask you to remember something. When you say goodbye to Boulder, you’re not saying that but see you later. We together have no special moments but a special time when you came to visit. The town of Boulder and its people puts the ‘colorful’ in the state’s slogan, “Colorful Colorado.” One visit to our town and you will see that the hello is just as important as the goodbye with one notable exception: when it comes to Boulder, it’s never goodbye but see you soon. No Parisian paradise, chocolate covered peanut butter treats or volleyballs with woven palm tree hair here. Forgo the want; feed your need. Abandon the woe. Leave with trepidation. Come to Boulder. Let the town into your heart and you’ll never have to say goodbye. You won’t regret it.
Cast Away. Dir. Robert Zemeckis. Prod. William Broyles. Perf. Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 2000. DVD.
Gone with the Wind. Dir. Victor Fleming. Prod. David O. Selznick. By Sidney Coe Howard, Max Steiner, and Ernest Haller. Perf. Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, Olivia De Havilland, Thomas Mitchell, and Hattie McDaniel. Loew’s Incorporated, 1939. DVD.
Love, Mike, and Carl Wilson. By Scott McKenzie. Kokomo. The Beach Boys. Capitol, 1988. MP3.
Muir, John. “John Muir Quote.” BrainyQuote. Xplore, 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.
Do you remember the first time you were away from your parents? I’m not talking about the first of many times your parent let you at home to deliver some mail or the first night you went to spend the night at a friend’s house. I mean completely away; in other words, isolation. I remember the first time I was away and isolated. That’s how I felt when I first travelled. From the seconds after the wheels of the plane leaving the tarmac, I had the sinking realization that I was not only leaving the state of Colorado but the United States entirely. I was on my very own island; you may as well have called me Chuck Noland. The parental units with whom I had relied upon at least on a weekly basis were going to be thousands of miles away. If I were to need anything from my parents, they weren’t there. In a plane filled to capacity with people, I was isolated and away.
My parents are the cornerstone from which I have built myself as a human being. I had decided well before my parents had that it was time for me to leave the nest. Sure I would come to miss my father’s simple but fantastic Italian cooking paired often with tiramisu and my mother’s daily rants about PTA, celebrity scandals and needle-pointing but this was for my own good. It was for my own sanity. I was constantly nagged by a sensational feeling in my heart. I could feel it pluck at the strings attached and eventually I was consumed with this burning desire. This desire had me search for anything that would soothe and cool the burning within me. I needed something pure, something that would invigorate my life and expose me to adventure. I realized that I needed to travel.
I blame Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway always wrote about what he had seen and what he had experienced. Though his main characters bore little physical resemblance to Hemingway, it was well known and discussed to death in every literature class that it was Hemingway who ran with the bulls, drove that military ambulance and he who had caught that big fish only to have sharks gnaw it away. His life was so full of travel, danger and adventure; it was so exciting for me to read about his life and accomplishments that I couldn’t wait to get started on my own. One problem I encountered was that I had no idea where to start. The second problem was the fact that I lacked the funding to leave the state let alone the country. The third problem was that Pamplona was months away, I am a terrible driver and terrified of sharks and large fish.
I figured my parents wouldn’t foot the bill. So I resorted to saving. The horror! I scrimped. I scrounged for every quarter, begged for every dime and nabbed every nickel and placed it in a five-gallon water jug piggy-bank. I even had time to pick up pennies. I was saving; saving for seemed to be an impossible budget to afford such a trip. So I managed to mostly solve the second problem. I wish I could say that I unfolded a map of the world and flung a dart at it for my destination but that would be a lie. Had I actually done that and knowing my rotten luck, it would’ve landed squarely on Pyongyang.
I heard good things about Costa Rica. There were no bulls, no wars requiring ambulances and I hadn’t planned to go fishing. Problem number three solved. In Costa Rica I had heard, they’re laid back, they don’t mind tourists and they love American money. Winner winner, chicken dinner. It was meant to be discovery-of-self trip. My parents were astonished that I was able to save a single dollar. I had enough money to survive but things would be tight. I would have to downgrade from the ramen-noodle lifestyle I subjected myself to saltine crackers and ketchup in order to afford this trip but I could manage. The plane ticket would be the single costliest part of the trip. Then one day, along came a surprise.
My father handed me a tall and slender white envelope. My father is a trickster and anything could be in that envelope. Could it be money? A plane ticket? A coupon for a ‘free’ slap to the head like it was the last time? Who knew? My father knew and by the way he was smiling, it made me wary. Then I opened the envelope and immediately dropped it in shock. My father went on to inform me that he had intended to buy a one-way ticket to Costa Rica and ‘screwed up’ at the online checkout by ‘accidentally’ buying me a round-trip ticket instead. I wore on him, he said. It was about time; sweet victory never felt so good. I wondered why he told me not to buy a plane ticket just yet.
That feeling of victory quickly faded. When the wheels had touched down on the tarmac at Juan Santamaria Airport in the capital of Costa Rica, I was in full panic mode. I had uncontrollable heart palpitations and shortness of breath despite the weak gin and tonic prepared for me by the flight attendant. Fly the friendly skies, they said. It’s funny how they never mention turbulence. My head was floating in a quinine tainted fog; I wanted to deplane as quickly and cautiously as possible without making a fool of myself. Weak drink or not, I’m still a lightweight.
Everyone around me seemed to be speaking an alien language. I could recognize and understand the Spanish and the English well enough but even then I had a difficult time understanding just about everything. Then I met the woman sitting politely next to me. Her name was Elaine. She had a house in Limón, a city on the Gulf of Mexico and came down whenever she could. The conversation was pleasant and she invited me to dinner, to get to know one another she said, once the plane landed. I gave her proposal some thought and realized she maybe meant to invite me for something more than just dinner. She was a cougar stalking her prey and found me, a young who’s strayed from his herd. I was in no mood to slake the appetite of a predator so I politely declined. I’m committed to my mission. Little did I know just how much I would learn on this mission. Upon this rock, I shall build my church and this church shall be me. It was time to figure out what I was made of.
I can speak and understand Spanish. But I spoke in that high school Spanish pacing and in that high school Spanish accent that makes me stick out pig among guinea pigs. My words were slightly slurred as I asked for directions to the main exit. Juan Santamaria Airport is smaller than Denver International. It’s still as confusing as D.I.A., but just not as big. Everything is written in Spanish save for a few pronouns. I realized quickly that despite being able to read and speak the language, I had no idea what anyone was saying. I was used to that high school Spanish drawl, that slow sort of Spanish speaking you get when you know the words but don’t know how to say them properly.
I say ¡Hola! and before I can ask ¿Cómo estás Usted? they’re asking me about where I came from, where do I need to go, what would I like to see first, my first pet’s name, favorite color, if I though the los equipos de fútbol de Costa Rica were going to the FIFA World Cup and then finally introduced himself as Alejandro.
Well Alejandro, I managed. Then Alejandro went on to talk about how he’s lived here all his life, he had a family of three including the wife, how his brother got him this job and never lets him forget about it at the weekly familia dinner. I would like a taxi, I blurted out.
Alejandro was the concierge of sorts and out of the hundreds of people milling from gate to exit and vice versa, he found me. His concierge spider-sense must have detected a wayward traveler, honed in on me and figured I needed assistance. To his credit, he was absolutely correct. He escorted me beyond the baggage claim and to the nightmarish world outside the airport. Everyone was shouting. Why were they shouting? I have no idea. I asked Alejandro why everyone was shouting. Because they’re cabrónes, he answered with a wry smile and escorted me to a taxi.
This is where Alejandro saved my life. I started walking over to a red car. To me it looked like a death trap on wheels. It looked to be a car stitched together with old car parts by duct tape and spit. As it turned out, it was a death trap on wheels but not for the reason you’re thinking. Alejandro swiftly scooped me away and politely scolded me. In Costa Rica, it is sometimes difficult to determine what’s a legit taxi and what’s a fake designed for nefarious intention. A taxi usually has a yellow triangle painted all over their car. Alejandro escorted me to the yellow triangle-painted car and I gave the driver the motel name that which I would be staying. The Kidnapper Deluxe I almost took had no triangles anywhere. Before Alejandro could slam shut the door, I gave him $20 American. I’ve never seen a man’s eyes light up before like Alejandro’s did. For what he had done for me, it was the least I could do in return.
Suddenly there was a bolt of lightning that lit up the dark and cloudy sky. Before the thunder could make contact with my ears, the heavens opened up and unleashed hell. I was within the safety of the taxi to protect me from the deluge of rain pelting everyone. For now, I was relatively safe from the rain in this taxi that reeked of an interesting combination of good incense and bad beef jerky.
Okay call me Chico, Chico said in broken English with a snaggle-toothed smile and slammed his foot on the gas pedal. The tiny engine whined and the tiny car rocketed forward and I was blasted backwards. Only after Chico took the first turn and me sliding across both seats did I realize that this taxi didn’t have any seatbelts. The cracked vinyl lining of the backseat helped arrest my slipping and sliding. I had never seen raindrops the size of quarters until that afternoon. I could barely see outside the windshield. I wondered how on earth Chico could see. In retrospect, he probably couldn’t see. There’s a saying that there are no atheists in foxholes. Well, this was my foxhole and you better know I was believin’ and I never stopped. Journey would be so proud.
¡Derecha! ¡Izquierda! ¡Alto! Chico narrated as he drove as if he was the suspect of a high-speed car chase. ¡Estamos revirtiendo! ¡Iquierda! ¡Izquierda! ¡Alto! Okay, we here! Esto no es mi motel. It was a veterinarian clinic. I could tell by the dog and cat silhouette on the sign. I told him no, this isn’t my motel again in Spanish. Chico blushed and apologized. ¡Derecha! ¡Derecha! ¡Izquierda! ¡Alto! Okay, we here! Wrong again Chico. Este es un supermercado. This went on for an hour and several more wrong stops. I was beginning to suspect that Alejandro had played me like in the movie Taken and Chico was taking me to a warehouse where they could sell me. Lucky for me, my parents had Liam Neeson’s phone number on speed dial. He does have a particular set of skills, after all.
I eventually got used to his erratic driving. I had to keep my wits about me because Chico was now pulling up to my umpteenth stop when I recognized the sign. It was my motel! Holy sweet mother of God we had finally arrived. I kissed the rain stained street and inhaled deep the throes of the alien jungle surrounding the city. I gave Chico a $10 and bid him farewell. He gave me his card and told me if I ever needed a driver, Chico was my man.
I wobbled into the clean, well air-conditioned and static lobby and plopped my passport down onto the counter. A beautiful and svelte blonde woman manned the desk and was surprised hearing a slap against her counter. An expatriate in her own right and she was an American studying at the local university. Her name is Julianna. We exchanged pleasantries before checking in. I was exhausted and wanted nothing more than anything resembling a bed. Julianna remarked that it had been a while since she’s been able to speak English with anyone so she invited me to dinner. An invitation I accepted. No feelings of being stalked this time around. I had a feeling that good food and good conversation were going to be on the endangered species list while I was there.
Julianna was an incredible cook; her room had a kitchen as it was her apartment attached to the lobby. The motel belonged to her tia. Julianna was her ward, receptionist, turn-down service attendant, chef, and pool cleaner when the pool was in season. She cooked for me ‘simplicity’: fish, rice and beans and some funny looking bananas called plátanos and some vino to take the edge off. The smells were incredible and indescribable. And for dessert, she had prepared tres leches con pasas. Made from scratch by her earlier that day, she told me. It was sweet, delicious and simple. It was all I could ask for. I was to be the only guest at the motel that night so she rolled out the frayed red carpet for me.
After the pleasant dinner and polite conversations, I was escorted to my room. When the door opened I dropped my backpack in surprise. I paid for some hay in a manger and I received the presidential suite. One hell of a bargain, I thought. Julianna bid goodbye with a wink Everything inside was huge and I suddenly felt very small. I took in everything that had happened that day as I laid down on the bed stuffed full with clouds. I sought to summarize the day in a sentence or even a few words. I started with impossible. It was impossible to condense the day into a single sentence let alone a handful of words. Then I thought about Hemingway. WWHD? Drink alcohol, bed a good-looking woman, travel somewhere exotic, write a short story about it, and win another literary prize, not necessarily in that order. I could strike one thing off that list and I started with that. This is my second strike off that list:
To travel to a destination never been explored is to experience purity in its finest form. To be consumed by experience of alienation is to invite a metamorphosis of self. Never before had I had been consumed by wanderlust. And when I did travel, I desired nothing more than to go back home. My ambitions began with boredom and bled into anxiety. Isolation in a world full of people blended well with my growing confusion and doubt. Flirtation and flattery by Elaine inflated my confidence. A terrifying taxi trip by Chico would aggravate my anxiety and created a dense, disconcerting fog around that island of mine. Wilson? Wilson!
Kindness by Alejandro and Julianna were my guiding lights out and away from this fog. There is no cure for homesickness but there are ways to ease it. Little did Elaine, Alejandro, Chico, and Julianna know how much of an effect they had on me. I had gone from becoming an appetizer for dinner, paying for a family’s dinner, compelled to provide and provided to with compassion by a traveler for a traveler.
My travels within the world at large was less about the destination and more about experience. This was what Hemingway was all about. I wanted to be like Hemingway but be myself simultaneously. I had no idea who I was. I want to travel and subject myself to danger and adventure and chronicle it all. It took me travelling to Costa Rica to realize this. I still don’t know fully who I am, but I knew this was my start. In Costa Rica, they say pura vida, meaning pure life. Without my lust for travel, this story could not have come to fruition; I didn’t know how to live until I left home.
I wanted to leave home and when I did, I wanted to come back. I realized that balance between both worlds was the key; it was the only way to unlock the secrets of self. Pura Vida Wanderlust is my thirst for purity, for travel and for my life. If you ever have a chance to discover who you are, take it. Doubt be damned. Trust in yourself. We’ve only one life to live and this is our chance to enjoy it. So go. Find your Elaine, your Alejandro, your Chico or Julianna. Find your pura vida wanderlust within yourself.