First off, I want to say that I think it's really cool that we can agree to work for our posts to be at
least non-partisan, and reasonable. I really appreciate that from everyone.
First, factual problems.
Ben, you are factually misguided in 1 key way and your friend Colin P.A. Jones is wrong on 3 points.
First, Colin's mistakes.
1. "If the presumption of reproduction is no longer needed, then there is no real reason to prevent incestuous marriages."
There is a very big reason to prevent incestuous marriages. Whether you "presume" reproduction or not, incest is more than half likely to produce a child with severe genetic diseases. Moreover, incest is known to cause psychological problems. These two reasons have been proven by reason, science and lots of history, so I don't feel I need to cite sources here.
2. "Islamic or Mormon fundamentalist marital corporations could allow polygamy."
This wouldn't be ok or normal. There is a big problem with this: Polygamous marriages are known to cause large psychological problems. Among them, it demeans the percieved value of individual women. Seconod, much infighting occurs between wives for favor of the children. There was a NYT magazine article a while back that documented this among outlaw polygamists in Utah. If you want more evidence about why polygamy is unhealthy for society, you can read
"Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe of Nigeria. Or, read the history of the early Muslim royalty.
3. [I agree with you here, Ben:] I also get the feeling that Colin seems to presume that marriage is only a practical contract, like you'd find in a business. It's not. It's a contract both of concrete rules and of deep emotional commitment. I think we can all understand this from our experiences growing up in the United States, and our relationships with our parents and their relationships with each other. *1
Second, Ben's factual mistake:
1. "All marriages are this way [of love], not just the one's between two people, and again, I'm using marriage to describe the myriad co-habitation rituals that exist in the world)"
That's not true. In some cultures, there is no concept of "love," at all. For example, the country people of Mali only recognize lust, or desire for sex, in their lives. Neither romantic nor maternal love is recognized there. (My cousin spent a semester in a poor village in Mali researching them). In many other cultures, love is understood, but marriage is completely unrelated to love. For example, traditional Indian culture. Marriages are all arranged, economic contracts. There are so many tragic Indian novels, plays, and movies about arranged marriages that are depressing and spiritless. For one, read "Nectar in a sieve."
(I'm remembering all my hi school required reading for some reason....;)
=====Ok, now the response.=====
Ben: I have to say, I agree with you. Love is the most important thing, especially in a marriage.
I think the prevalence of Christianity, the religion of love, in the most successful societies, proves
this. But I don't agree with you about making marriage just up to the people. I think that though Love is always first, Responsibility is always second.
If you just have marraige completely voluntary, people will get lazy about it. They'll go in, the first time, thinking, "Ok, this is marriage, this is the most super important thing," but when they realize how easy it is (under Ben's idea) to break it off, they'll be strongly tempted to do so.
I find that the study of history and especially the study of eocnomics generally proves that if there is an easier way to do something, people will choose the easier way, in vast quantities *2. And if making marriage easy and stripping it of all obligations and responsibilities is what you're talking about, Ben, then I won't support it.
The greatness of Western marriage is that it is one of the ultimate combinations of love and responsiblity, one that everyone has the potential for. Marriage laws are important because they commit families to each other, reward that commitment with benefits, and then punish the couple if they try to separate. It's a path that is very difficult to conform to, but that ultimately brings some of the most wonderful rewards, be they healthy children, or simply a more loving and constructive life.*3
That is why I believe it is in our utmost interest to open marriage to any two consenting adults, and otherwise retain it in its current form.
=====Preemptions of possible criticism=====
A. With regard to the raising of children by same-sex parents:
-Two loving, committed parents, of the same gender, are far better than one parent, and vastly better than none, even if possibly inferior to two opposite-sex parents. *4
B. About the marriage of two friends who are consciously NOT in a romantic relationship with each other:
-I agree that this is really not the purpose of marriage, but as I can't see it having any negative effect, I don't see any reason why it shouldn't happen.
C: Marriage should be interpreted religiously in whatever way the citizen desires (despite the Bush Admin's efforts to force its religion on everyone). Yet, as it stands today, I think marriage should be ultimately a legal and not a religious matter. This is because a marriage of responsibility and love is in the best interest of the country as a whole: committing families to work together to support each other's success and love each other.
*1 These three mistakes are not surprising to me, considering that Colin Jones lives in Japan. Japan, in all my experience of it (and I have a lot ;) is a place where the value of the individual,
especially of individual women, and the value of love, is not understood. It's easy to get used to
once one is there, because it's a culture that surrounds. Nevertheless I would say it is a bad culture in that sense because Japanese kill themselves and become depressed much more than do Americans. Japanese women who are excluded from economic life become resentful and take out their anger on their children, especially male children, which causes those boys to grow up with generally misogynistic fantasies and continue the cycle.
*2 Otherwise, the poem about taking the road less traveled by would never be so profound.
*3 I'm not a marriage/children Nazi like Leon Kass. Everybody is different and marriage is not for everybody. But I feel sure that for many people it brings some of the best rewards of life.
*4 It has not yet been proven whether or not same-sex parents or opposite-sex parents are a better environment for children. So far there is only speculation. I have heard persuasive speculation from both sides of the argument, and seen persuasive statistics in favor of gay parents. But I don't want to judge until I have all the facts.
UPDATE: I found these statistics from the Heritage Foundation. They regard constant, 2 parent households and are not related to sexual orientation of parents. Observe:
Adolescents in intact families, as a group, are the least likely to feel depressed compared to those with divorced, step-, cohabiting, or single parents; (National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health)
The national average grade-point scores of children in intact families is 2.98, compared to 2.79 for children of cohabiting parents and 2.71 for children living in stepfamilies; (National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health)
The rate of youth incarceration is significantly greater for children raised in single-mother and stepfamily homes than for those raised in intact families, even after controlling for parental income and education; (National Longitudinal Survey of Youth)
Children in non-intact families are three times as likely to have children outside of marriage; (National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.) and
Rates of engaging in problem behaviors such as lying, stealing, drunkenness, and violence are sharply higher for children of divorce compared to children in intact families. (National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health)
Still awake? ; )