Yes, that title reference is to a Cole Porter song (one I happen to have played, usually pretty badly, on the piano). “It’s De-lovely” tells a delightful story that progresses quickly from a couple’s romantic walk, to a decision to marry, to the wedding, to the quick flight to a Niagara Falls honeymoon, to the slow, hesitating question in the last verse:
We settle down as man and wife
To solve the riddle called married life
It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s de-lovely
I’m sure that Cole Porter himself would applaud this generation for taking the case for gay marriage all the way to the Supreme Court, and winning, as do I. Cole, in his day, had to marry a woman to be accepted as a public figure with a great gift of musical and poetic talent – in his day careers were lost for less. So this decision to allow to any pair of consenting adults the privileges and duties that have coalesced in our legal system around the originally religious institution of marriage is a decision that will alleviate some suffering in this all-too-suffering world. That institution has bored itself deep into the collective cultural memory of every human society, though each civilization treats the matter somewhat differently, due to different religions, primarily. It is tempting for a person like myself, one with no religious affiliation, to scoff and say that I’ve got it figured out better than you, that the church and the state have no business imposing their restrictions and expectations on your love life. When I feel that temptation, though, I just remind myself that everyone is born into a culture, even me, and we all must battle with determining what must be accepted as true, or rejected as useless myth.
You probably think that I’m heading for a somewhat cynical interpretation anyway, but I like to distinguish my attitudes as more skeptical than cynical. I don’t wallow in the negative aspects of finding that a culturally induced attitude is useless, or even becoming destructive to me or my society; I hope to be satisfied merely to have uncovered a fact or interpretation that may shed some light in a dark corner of the human soul. Sounds a little over-dramatic, I suppose, but consider this use being made of marriage in another culture, admittedly a new and extreme one currently being developed by some of the worst bullies and cowards on earth, ISIL:
“Girls are literally being stripped naked and examined in slave bazaars,” Bangura said, from where they are “categorized and shipped off to Dohuk or Mosul or other locations to be distributed among ISIL leadership and fighters.”
One of the girls she interviewed was temporarily married 20 times, and forced to undergo surgery to “repair” her virginity after each marriage. Stories like these, Bangura stressed, illustrate how sexual violence is being used by the group systematically as a weapon of war.
According to this article on SputnikNews.com, the Islamic State fighters are using sexual slavery of captured girls for their personal serial-marriage needs. You may object that these criminals don’t think of marriage as we do, and you’re right – Muslim marriage is more like a legal contract than the Western romance-inspired version, and the theocratic tendency implicit in many Muslim societies is explicit with this group. All it takes for an extreme view to become a cultural norm, though, is success – I’m sure not wishing these guys any success in establishing their Islamic State, but we have to admit that this is how such views become institutionalized.
So make the most of your new-found freedoms in America, everyone; I wish you the best success at solving this riddle!