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My daughter just turned 7. I would like to arrange her marriage. I would like to find a family that shares my Marxist-Leninist values and match one of their kids with her. If I left the matter to my daughter's heart, she could marry anyone, even a Republican. She could connect my family with one that believes in driving big cars and bombing the shit out of poor people in countries that happen to have too much oil. I just don't trust what her heart might do. Cupid can be so stupid.

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Instead of leaving the future to chance, I'd like to interview several families in the Central District who hate Bush, use electric cars, donate money to organizations that help the needy, and grow vegetables in urban farming programs. I want one of these liberal or commie families to become a part of my family. And because we are unified, our liberal values are strengthened.

But why bring up this subject in the first place? Because if we are going to talk about the institution of marriage, we must not only discuss its romantic form (marrying because of love) but also its practical one (marrying because of an agreement between two families to join forces and resources). Love, however, is not banished from the realm of arranged marriages. Indeed, it is its final destination, its terminal point. With an arranged marriage, love is something you hope to eventually arrive at. With romantic love, it is the point of departure, and then you drift and drift to the nowhere of a long marriage or into the storm of a divorce. With an arranged marriage, love is the target, not the bow. Yet another way of putting it: If you remove a boiling pot from a stove and let it cool, this is marriage in its romantic form; if, on the other hand, you put a pot on a stove and heat it up to the boiling point, this is a marriage in its arranged form.

Despite the apparent strengths and time-testedness of arranged marriage, people look down on this custom. Many see an arranged marriage as a sign of backwardness. Romantic marriages are celebrated as progressive and liberating. They offer an individual the freedom of choice. Therefore, the political system mostly associated with romantic marriages is democratic; as for arranged marriages, it is despotic. But what is lost in this way of seeing things is a little history. One must understand that the transference of the right to select a marriage partner, from the parent to the offspring, essentially weakened the power of the family. In fact, one can see the history of the family in the West (and the world, as it is now totally Westernized) from late-antiquity to today (the period that charts the rise of Christianity) as one of the church and state reducing the social position of the family. This reduction is continuous with the current Christian war against abortion rights. What the church/state wants to maintain (and increase) is the power to intervene and manage the institution that produces individuals—the family.

And so romantic marriages actually empower the church/state and disempower the family—and how can that be progressive or democratic? Also, arranged marriages can easily accommodate and promote the principles of the left. For one, a teenager whose marriage has been arranged is still free to have sex with other partners until the day of his or her wedding. What the parents don't want is a pregnancy to come out of this free premarital period, and so contraceptives of every kind must be available over the counter and sex education is a must. Secondly, an arranged marriage does not have to be heterosexual. If it turns out that your teen is sexually oriented to his/her kind, then a family with a teen with a similar predilection must be located. In the ordered system of arranged marriages, love becomes a rational and controllable creature—it does not spring out of the jungle of desire and cause all kinds of misery and mental havoc. recommended

charles@thestranger.com

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