Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Memorial Marriage

In somewhat of a tribute to my upcoming wedding anniversary and losing my newlywed status, I wrote this for the medical weekly paper I edit/write for. While this is not my official anniversary tribute ( you didn't think you were getting off that easily were you?), I thought it'd be a nice little preview for Memorial Day to get you through the rest of the week. Further mushiness to come, and also a review of the conference I attended Saturday (where I met a new writing buddy!!!)

Memorial Marriage Day

For people outside the military, Memorial Day is a time to eat barbecue and celebrate with family and friends. For people in the military, it’s a time to reflect on the sacrifices they and their colleagues have made for their country. For me, it’s a time to reflect on the reasons I married my husband, and the blessing that I had the freedom to do that.

Early summer is wedding season. For some reason, the sun and warm nights attract brides to the aisle like lightening bugs to a lantern. This year I’ll celebrate my first wedding anniversary on Memorial Day weekend. The one thing I’ve learned, both from our wedding and upcoming anniversary, is that the world doesn’t revolve around us. Family and friends aren’t dropping everything to commemorate the day we exchanged rings. Rather than the weekend being about our marriage, it’s about family and remembering those who have died to protect and cherish the ideals of our country. My anniversary is just icing on the idealistic cake.

If you think about it, the freedom to get married to whomever we want is one of the most overlooked freedoms in this country. In other societies, parents arrange marriages when the children are getting their umbilical cords cut and sign binding contracts. In other societies, class and social standing dictate who you marry. Marriage has been used to negotiate political treaties, settle business agreements and even provide food for a family.

“My youngest daughter for 9 goats? Sure I’ll trade! How soon can you take her?”

In the past, brides often never saw their families of origin again after the wedding. They were forced to stay with their husband’s family and struggle to find their place between the established matriarchal members. Brides who ran from abusive or degrading marriages were often dragged back to their husbands and punished, even by their own blood. After their husband died, they were usually exiled from the family and or forced to marry a relative out of necessity.

In other countries, marriage is just a rite of passage. For example in Japan, couples are chosen by their parents and have children to continue the family name. These couples seek love through affairs through both sides, an action approved by society as long as it is kept discreet.

In the good ol’ US, we can marry whoever we please. Sure we might be disappointed that our swarthy Lothario morphs into a bald sports addict with a beer gut, but we had the ability to choose him. We have the option to marry for love, and to marry as many times as we want. We can marry our high school sweetheart or the person that said nice things to us in the bar last night.

I know what you’re thinking. Yes, it’s true many marriages end in divorce, but at least we had the freedom to choose our mistakes. Not only did we have the freedom to choose to get married, but we have the freedom to end it. Then if we want, we can walk down the aisle all over again. In fact, one of the greatest silent freedoms is that we don’t even have to get married at all! Couples can legally live together in a home without ever sliding rings on each other’s fingers. They have the freedom to decide to be in love without marriage, and even have children together. Whether or not you agree, that’s their right. And that’s the right many people fight for.

So if you see a soldier or veteran on Memorial Day, stop and thank them. Not only have they given you the freedom of speech and the right to bear arms, they’ve given you the freedom to choose who you love. Not only do you have the freedom to choose your spouse, but you have the freedom to choose well or poorly, never or often. And that’s a right worth fighting for.