This week the Society had the pleasure of gathering in the company of our friends and fellow debaters from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We assembled in the height of midterm season to debate Resolved: Marriage Should Be Arranged in a classic matchup, pitting Sgt. David Edgar (SFS ’15) of Ohio on the affirmative against Vice President Warren Wilson (SFS ’15) of Florida on the negation. And, making their inductions were Ms. Natalie Caceres (MSB ’16) of Florida and Mr. Patrick Hughes (COL) of Pennsylvania, affirming and negating respectively.
Ms. Caceres opened the debate, cutting straight to the debate with a quote from Tennessee Williams: “There are two tragedies in life: the first to lose your love in life, the second to gain it.” She noted that media and movies dramatize “true love” and make us desire a love so passionate that it hurts. That’s not the only type of love though, she asserted. Instead, arranged marriages are based on a love from shared experience. It’s like the love between a mother and her adopted child; the child may not be biologically hers, but the love between them is still just as real as between a mother and her biological child. Ergo, Ms. Caceres posited that “love…is not a result of cosmic fate” and instead can slowly, but surely, grow. In fact, the climbing divorce rate from autonomous marriages shows that people often overvalue passion and undervalue the compatibility of lifestyles and beliefs. Further, Ms. Caceres noted that extended families arrange the suitors, but the bride or groom ultimately chooses the spouse and then suggested that couples in arranged marriages are more willing to sacrifice for their families, not wanting to break them up via divorce. Finally, she left us by saying that we are too “enthralled” with the idea of passion in our twenties and thirties to accurately decide who to marry.
Mr. Hughes subsequently began his keynote by declaring that Ms. Caceres had given a beautiful speech on friendship, but not love. Friends are two distinct people, whereas Mr. Hughes sees lovers as two halves of one whole. To be exact, the definition of true love implies that there cannot be any consideration of the individual above the spouse and family when there’s true love. Furthermore, true love “is what [life] is worth living for”! A true marriage doesn’t fade or break and while you can have true love without marriage, marriage is a signal of our love to society and our family and friends; it allows them to participate in our love. Let’s be honest with ourselves, Mr. Hughes said, most of the time true love doesn’t blossom from an arranged marriage. Additionally, true love and marriage are defined by honesty with ourselves; we must be able to look at our “brokenness” and share it with our spouse, accepting their brokenness as well as our own; can one honestly and wholly accept a person they did not choose to be with? The satyr Silenus said that the best thing for a man is to not be born or die quickly; Mr. Hughes ended his keynote by asserting that there is more than that for man. The reason we value marriage, and life, must be in love.
Sgt. Edgar followed Mr. Hughes by congratulating the inductees and then asking why we get married. He asserted that marriage is a commitment on various levels: emotional, physical, and mental. And even knowing that “how we feel about the people we love today isn’t something we can project”, we commit! It’s a hope against hope that we will feel the same way forever. Yet marriages fail as we fall out of love, and divorce is brutal; we feel the need to be consistent with our past selves, we don’t want to harm our spouse, and of course we don’t want to end our relationship with their family and mutual friends. It is the last reason that is the most important—we marry for love, but not just the love of our spouse. Arranged marriage puts the familial ties that we cherish so much in a marriage on the same plane as individual ties. You are pledging to a journey and to be with that person and their family, and through arranged marriages that bond to the family is made explicit. To that end, Sgt. Edgar left us with a deep question: Is there a greater love that than we feel for our parents, brothers, and friends?
Congratulating the inductees, Vice President Wilson spoke after our esteemed sergeant and began with the framing: arranged marriage isn’t forced, and the alternative is autonomous marriage. The family and social network of the bride and groom present them with candidates that they have a chance to reject or accept. Finally, we should debate as if our entire society were to use arranged marriages. Then VP Wilson affirmed that arranged marriage could not work within our society because our networks have become so global—economic and social exchanges no longer happen on a local level, and religion most certainly doesn’t play as important a role in our lives, eliminating the role of religious leaders in arranging marriages. But, more importantly, there’s a reason we have lost the habit of arranging marriages; history has brought us to capitalism, globalization, and autonomous marriages. “You would need a radical refiguring of our society for the majority of our society to have arranged marriages” and anything one receives from an arranged marriage can be found elsewhere.
Mr. Naft began the floor portion of the debate by proclaiming that “love doesn’t exist” and, as such, arranged marriages are ok. Mr. Ryan Rosenberg (UNC ’16) immediately went in a different direction, proclaiming that we should defend liberty, and a choice of 10 suitors is certainly not full of liberty. On another tangent, Ms. Blakeway-Phillips said that parents are the first to recognize if a relationship will last—they are the best people to consult on your spouse-choice. Then Mr. Mouch continued the group of independent speeches by giving Mr. Hughes many blessings (or rather one big roast).
The non-member speaking time ensued, with Ms. Brittany Logan (MSB ’18) emphasizing that the idea that marital happiness is based on longevity and not quick bliss. Mr. Brian Bies (MSB ’18) though, asked about who you would marry in an arranged marriage, avowing that it would prevent social mobility and permit the concentration of wealth. On the other hand, Ms. Annie Ludtke (MSB ’18) declared that for the people who can’t find true love, arranged marriage gives them the opportunity to leave a legacy. And, finishing the non-member speaking time, Mr. Daniel Ernst (COL ’18) rebutted Mr. Naft by saying that a scientist knows that love is real and can not only understand it on a basic level, but feel it.
Mr. Whelan then brought the Society a message from Mr. Hughes’ mentor, Mr. Young, who apologized for his absence and congratulated Mr. Hughes. He presented the interesting idea that matchmakers are the modern arranged marriage. Ms. Coccia then tried to redirect the debate by positing that the affirmation gives arguments for a prolonged dating period, but not an arranged marriage. Not to mention that the best relationships come from the most unexpected places. Also trying to shape the debate, Ms. Hernick asked us to look at the bigger picture of where individual autonomy is taking us: is it egoism or the opposite? Mr. Wang answered that question by saying that when you make a choice, you feel so much more committed. He also brought up whether the LGTBQ community or individuals who have different lifestyles from their parents would be well-served by arranged marriages.
Mr. Isaac Warshauer (UNC ’15) rebutted skeptics of arranged marriages by positing that they can adopt to the global network and that professional matchmakers can fill the “extended family” role. Ms. Grace didn’t directly disagree, but she did offer the thought that it is the journey to marriage that lets the individual “discover who they are themselves”, a necessary process. Her mentee, Mr. Perez-Reyes, had the opposite idea though, declaring that “priorities change” and that in arranged marriages “you learn to love” and invest in the relationship for the long-haul. President DiMisa stepped in at this point, saying that our society is functionalist, and as mere cogs in a machine, we work by leaving our homes and cannot work with localized arranged marriages. In response, the appropriately dressed Ms. Thanki left us with the final thought that there is nothing more poetic than an “I could love you” which comes from the bride and groom. Such a moment is enhanced by the culture of respect for the self and others that arranged marriages flourishes in.
VP Wilson began the closings by bringing up President DiMisa’s reference to dual societies, and the machine-like one that we are in. Unfortunately, we have lost much of our smaller, more local version of society and when the two clash we feel a strong sense of loss. That being said, the negation isn’t defending machine-like autonomy, but only recognizing that there are aspects of arranged marriages that can be incorporated in autonomous marriages whereas many elements of autonomous marriages can’t be replicated in arranged ones. We can find a free, beautiful, livable life even in our society.
Sgt. Edgar broke the debate down into two parts: societal implications and whether we want others to have a final say in our personal lives. We want to be a part of a local and global network, which is amply possible! And really, “does the danger of [arranged marriage] outweigh the benefits”? Even if there are occasional problems between individuals and their families, those cases cannot outweigh the good of arranged marriages; in fact, “is the problem of societal close-mindedness inherent to arranged marriage” or is it just exacerbated by it?
Mr. Hughes was the last to negate the resolution, declaring that arranged marriage would be a profound change in our society. Furthermore, in a good marriage we should not settle for saying “I fit with you”, but instead we should say “I want to love you”; no mere “I could love you”—true love and marriage is a process of becoming something and someone different. This autonomous love is edgy and dangerous—it’s building a whole new world—but it is embracing that that danger and seeing something more in someone else that makes life and love worth it.
Lastly, Ms. Caceres gave a powerful appeal on behalf of the affirmation, first noting that the ideas of fighting for true love (being one with another person) and fighting for autonomy are conflicting goals. She mentioned that it is “cool” not to feel anything anymore but we are just hiding our fear of sharing ourselves and becoming vulnerable. What happened to the days when it was cool to go steady and get married? Fortunately, with arranged marriage we can have love and stability again, especially because as our networks become global, so does our technology. And fortunately, our society is more and more accepting of the LGBTQ community.
With one final round of congratulations to the inductees—they have been and will continue to be several of the most eloquent members of the Society—the floor voted to negate the resolution with a vote of 40-3-24.