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A Modern Modest Proposal
April W. Russell
Moondance
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[art]
"The Gateway" by Diana Stanley

My mother's life tells a fascinating story. She has been married three times; all were very handsome young men. She had nothing of substance to offer the men she wed, only her own remarkable looks. I was a product of the second attempt to find marital bliss. She left that union sporting a house, furniture, a car, child support and me. Daddy had to look for an apartment. After the divorce she began her hunt -- a hunt for another man. I watched with wide eyes. I was five years old and my mother was twenty-nine. She dressed up in all the finery the seventies had to offer and prowled for her elusive male. Soon, she met a strapping youth, fresh from college with wealthy parents to boot. I watched the ritual of dating with curiosity, and then I witnessed the marriage. I was present during the blood testing, the physical, the laughing, the arguments, the indecision and finally the ceremony. What a peculiar and time-consuming search. Would this marriage work? It didn't. At 50 years old, my mother is back prowling the unattached men of her generation.

Our ancestors, as well as many eastern countries today, understood how matters concerning marriage should be handled. The United States, England and other "advanced" western cultures have lost a secret. The secret that keeps marriages together. What is lacking? Why is the divorce rate shockingly high in today's civilization? The problem is not lack of love or even adultery. Societies know nothing about commitment. Perfect love, sexual attraction and fidelity are petty niceties of romance and illusion that fade and die. They are not what constitutes a working relationship. My answer to divorce is a reinstatement of arranged marriages. A marriage decided by the parents and guardians of the couple for economic or political reasons, or merely for convenience. Such a marriage holds no disappointing delusions. Arranged marriages are ideal in order to promote a working family structure.

In the past, arranged marriages were important in order to create and hold alliances. In Scotland marriages were arranged well into the twentieth century in order to create bonds between warring families. Such was also true in marriages arranged diplomatically through the governments of different countries. Some reasons for these engagements were to prevent wars, to strengthen ties and create allies in case of national need, or to gain land or colonies. The familiar story of Henry VIII includes such a marriage. Due to the marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, Great Britain and Spain enjoyed a generous friendship. However, when Henry VIII fell in love with Anne Boleyn and annulled his marriage with Catherine, the former English Queen returned to Spain in shame. The resulting turmoil split the English Church, caused a political upheaval among the monarchy upon Henry's death and resulted in civil disturbance and many unnecessary deaths. All because Henry lusted after a fresh, new face. This example shows the extremes of both sides of the coin, the happy union of two countries through the marriage of their sons and daughters and the upheaval resulting from the careless annulment of the union.

The advantages of alliances can be applied to the twentieth century as well. The owners of two mediocre and warring convenience stores could find it in their best interest to wed their heirs and thus unite their companies. Instead of constantly competing with each other and keeping the prices of fuel and groceries relatively low, a union would form a successful way to undercut competitors. A monopoly, as well as a workable marriage, has been forged.

Arranged marriages would bring certain calmness to modern dating rituals. The fear of contracting AIDS and other dangerous sexually transmitted diseases would be lessened, as dating would not be necessary if marriages were arranged. The hunt would be left up the parents of the single individuals. Therefore there would also be a decline in date rape and other horrors that could ultimately result in disease or even death. Imagine the extra amount of time teenagers and college students could spend studying and devoted to their grades. And think about how much easier life would be if there were an end to the heartache of love and dating. Men would no longer have to envision nights of purchasing flowers, expensive dinners, and pretty, meaningless words, only to be left cold on a doorstep never to be called again. What a wonderful feat it would be if Mom and Dad actually approved of your mate - after all, they picked him out. And hallelujah, what a relief not to be left home on a Saturday night because one's best friend stole one's date. What an easy life! Arranged marriages would end the hassle of dating and leave the mind free to contemplate the decisions that really matter.

Traditionally, arranged marriages were accompanied by a "bride price", also known as a dowry. A dowry was usually a gift; a sum of money, furniture, property, agriculture or real estate that a wife's family gave to her spouse and/or his parents. The wealthier the female's family, the better the catch for the man. A younger son, not meant to inherit, could be married to a wealthy young woman in order for him to gain property and wealth. Many a young man found himself fairly wealthy due to such a union. Arranged marriages were also contracts between families exchanging land or money. They often opened new opportunities for financial or political gain.

Another aspect, one that champions the struggle of children from broken homes is that arranged marriages cut down on divorce. Trillions of dollars a year are spent on lawyers to settle domestic problems, especially the ones that arise with divorce. Most couples divorce because they "don't love each other any longer" or "aren't sexually compatible." Arranged marriages would put an end to the fickle habit of falling in and out of love. The marriage, merely one of expedience, would not be based on the illusion of love. They would be marriages of convenience, and divorce is never convenient. If at any time the marriage was terminated, the contract of marriage would be null and void; property and wealth would be returned to those who gave it. This would be a high price to pay for giving in to silly emotions.

One's birth is usually decided by his or her parents. All through life relatives or friends will largely influence his or her choices. Parents take part in deciding what school their child will attend, the first car, and perhaps even the decision of college to name a few. Many ideas are influenced the society and community. And after death, both family and government settle a person's estate. Yet marriage is a step in life in which people will not hear of someone else's interference. In modern times a parent or experienced individual is allowed little or no involvement with the choice of a mate. An extremely complicated decision is made alone, in the confines of an individual's "head." Today, half of all marriages end in divorce or separation. Marriage is an important decision to make. It effects family and community in which the couple will be a part. It concerns the welfare of a couple's children. Divorces have an uncanny way of throwing children into emotional unrest. Arranged marriages insure that an experienced, guiding force plays at least some part in the most important decision of one's life.


April Russell has spent several years as a desktop publisher and has added web design to her many talents. She is the owner of Aprilrain Web Design, which has been responsible for the design of several successful corporate sites. She has a strong background in journalism which has included broadcasting, newspaper editing and publishing, photography and press releases. April volunteers her time as the Asst. Website Manager for Moondance and spearheaded the design templates for the magazine. She enjoys quilting, smocking, sewing and spending time with her daughter and family.

E-mail April at
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