In an April 7 opinion piece published in The Echo, Ms. Hannah Schwab suggested adding an expiration date to marriage would be an improvement over its current state. I do not know what level of literal seriousness she attached to the idea, but despite the absurdity of how it sounds, I do not find it to be without logical grounding in the present age. In fact, one may look at it merely as the conclusion of already prevailing ideas.
Both civic laws and cultural expectations view marriage as only permanent until decided otherwise. That is more or less the definition of temporary. Simply put, we already tend to look at marriage as Schwab does.
As far as I can see, this is a wholly negative trend. Even more unfortunate is the belief system that supports such a cavalier attitude towards marriage is dehumanizing and just as common in other aspects of our society.
If I may quote Schwab directly at this point, “We can taste-test ice cream, tour a house before we buy it and test-drive a car before we sign the papers. Why can’t we ‘test-drive’ marriage?”
I should answer simply that gaining a spouse is nothing at all like gaining an object. Taste-testing ice cream works because when a man uses his tongue to taste ice cream, he does so with only his interests in mind. When he uses his tongue to ask for his beloved’s hand, he does so with only consideration of her interests.
Marriage is so high a fulfillment of love because it involves selflessness and the giving of oneself to another. To undermine this conception of what it is to be married and replace it with only how the individual can benefit from a partnership is to treat the people we say we love as things. It is an affront to human dignity, and, as I have said previously, is true in a broader context than just marriage.
When we gossip we use a non-present third party as an object to propel our conversation forward, denying him or her the respect we would if forced to acknowledge our conversation topic as a person. Similarly, when we discuss politics and policy it is all too easy to forget the consequences of legislation are realized by its citizens (and non-citizens) who are, of course, people.
One may look at the recent attention given to immigration and notice it seems to be more about placating voter demographics than genuine concern for poor workers and their families or the safety of affected communities.
But because all this is true of the civilization we inhabit, it does not follow that we must submit. Ironically, as individuals we may choose to invest in the humanity of our community. We may change what we say or how we act. We may reconsider how we treat those we like and those we dislike. We my even decide that when we marry it shall be forever. ’Til death.