Saturday, January 29, 2011

One Is Enough

My wife reminded me the other day that it was right about this time of year, 20 years ago that we first met. It'll be 18 years this summer since we married and, unless there's something she's hiding from me, our marriage is by all considerations, inside and out, happy and healthy.

Which isn't to say we live a life of wine and roses. We are a pretty standard Canadian family with two kids and three cats living in a fairly standard 3-bedroom home in a standard subdivision in a standard municipality. If you take the opening theme song to Weeds (Little Boxes) and downgrade the neighbourhood by about 1/3, you'd have us.

I was thinking about married life in Canada because there is ongoing controversy in British Columbia about polygamous marriages where men have more than one wife and they all live together and raise kids. In our case, this is a fringe practice and the current court focus is on the community of Bountiful, B.C. where residents are a splinter group of the Mormons (Church of Latter Day Saints). Now, seeing as even the regular Mormons are committed to following the doctrine of Joseph Smith, a known shyster who received the word of God in a language only he, conveniently, understood, it's hard to say exactly how screwed up the Bountiful crew is. I lived in that area for two years in my early 20s and got to see them close up as they traveled the streets in long dresses, kerchiefed hair and running shoes but I couldn't even venture a guess as to how their worldview operates.

I think this is more like a commune with Bibles than anything else but it's not for me to decide the faith and beliefs of others as long as they extend me the same courtesy.

In thinking about marriage, I can't really come up with a good reason why a person shouldn't have more than one spouse as long as all involved are consenting adults. I doubt this is the case in Bountiful where children are indoctrinated from birth but I could make the same argument about traditional marriage - we are brought up to believe one spouse at a time. (Historically, it would even make sense to have multiple partners - men can impregnate numerous women at a time and women would have sought virile, strong men who offered food and protection.) There isn't really a concrete reason unless you want to cite Judeo-Christian values. As much as I agree with most of these values, it doesn't necessarily make them more valid.

The arguments against polygamy seem to be:

a) it flies in the face of our societal structure. Well, people said the same thing about gay marriage (which I totally support) which is now legal in Canada. So far, our society seems to have survived it pretty well.

b) it goes against scripture. I give that about as much weight as I do to Joseph Smith.

c) people involved in these marriages are forced or coerced. This could very well be true. But the remedy to that is to prosecute individuals for marrying those below the age of consent or who have had sexual relations with an individual under the age of consent.

d) it will open the door to more islamic creep in our society. I'm sure not crazy about that idea but that's our fault for letting islamists come here in the first place. In reality, one suspects, most of the concern in Bountiful is actually aimed at islam as it is the only other slice of Canadian society that would actively seek multiple marriages. We can solve this problem by tightening up our immigration laws.

e) it will be more expensive in terms of benefits and other entitlements. This might also be true but then we don't have an upper limit for how many people can be in a traditional family. If mom and dad are strict Catholics and have 12 kids, the impact is going to be the same as a family with three wives each having three kids.

Really, the most compelling reason I can think of not to be married to more than one woman, at least concurrently, is because women are complicated creatures. I have enough trouble remembering all the little things I need to do or not do to keep up my end of the marriage contract (somehow, in our vows, I think I ended up with "obey").

I have a feeling that polygamy will eventually be legal in Canada. Other than creating some more work for lawyers, I don't think there will be any drastic fallout.

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