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Wow. So, Amy and I

March 31st, 2002 · No Comments

Wow. So, Amy and I just won the massive Princeton parli debate tournament for the second year running. And, as I only realized after the fact, we managed to do so arguing libertarian positions in every single round, even on opposition! We got to defend fun stuff like gun ownership, “natural” rights (I hate that term, though…), privatizing education, secession, and medical marijuana. This was a source of great hope for me, because it means that smart people at prestigious schools in the U.S. don’t currently consider our ideas SO beyond the pale that they can’t win a debate round. Which perhaps goes to show that college students aren’t so monochromatic or brainwashed by liberal cant as folks like David Horowitz seem to think.

In the final round, some sharp cats from Yale — the PM himself a philosophy major — hit us with “Liberal states have an obligation to promote the proliferation of liberal societies around the world.” Which meant I got to stir up my Rawlsian Libertarianism, the Rawlsian part to argue that liberalism is a “local” theory (Law of Peoples and the possibility of “well ordered hierarchical societies,” etc.) and the libertarian part to argue against the idea of a positive obligation to secure others their freedom. It is, incidentally, really cool of people to regularly run philosophy cases against us. First, because they’re fun — for me, if not the audience. But second, because that’s what Amy & I happen to be good at, whereas if people were just looking for an easy win, they could probably smack us around with some international relations case and walk off with the trophies. I guess chivalry is not yet dead.

I think Yale taped it, and I’m a bit curious to see what it all looks like. Oddly enough, I’ve never seen myself debate. And I’ve noticed that out-rounds have a strange dual effect on me. First, I become much more animated than normal, and second, I lose all memory of the round itself. Usually, debate rounds feel like they last a while, but with finals in particular, it’s almost like I black out and then BAM, I’m standing there shaking the other team’s hand. I just hope I don’t look like an idiot on stage.

In one sense, it wasn’t quite as totally shocking as the first time, if only because then we had never even seen a semifinals round before, let alone a final round, and we were going up against a team pretty widely considered the best on the circuit. In other words, it wasn’t a huge longshot with us as the mega-underdogs this time. On the other hand, it did have the effect of making me realize that last year wasn’t some sort of wild fluke. Y’see, perhaps in part because I haven’t debated a whole lot this past year, I still think of folks like Pete Guirguis, or Glen Whitman, or Chris Porcaro as examples of really great debaters. By contrast with them, or maybe my projection/memory of them, I had never really thought of myself as especially skilled at this stuff. But this two-in-a-row thing… I guess, as Amy says, we’re pretty good at this game. Or anyway, she’s really good, and I’m good enough not to get in her way. And it’s nice to feel like I’ve come away from four years of doing this stuff a better speaker than I started.

I’d be remiss in omitting, by the way, that the rest of the NYU Debate Team did pretty damn well too. Ryan and Emily clocked in at 7th team, Emily as 3rd speaker, Neil as 10th, and the young Christian Franco (no relation to the former dictator) snagged the 5th place novice speaker award. Insofar as I’ve developed an attachment to the NYU team as a combination institution/community, this too is extremely gratifying. When Pete Guirguis graduated, folks predicted the decline and fall of our little organization. Now, by all appearances, the team should continue to thrive and grow for years to come. If I ever feel misty or nostalgic about leaving this activity, and community that surrounds it — if not the increasingly powerful magnet for political bullshit it seems to have become — I’m certain I’ll be able to console myself with the thought that there are good people continuing to carry the torch. Man, I sound like a fucking communitarian; I’d better head out to the celebratory team dinner before I get my Liberal in Good Standing card revoked.

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