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A gauche, burly man once approached my friend and me as we were straining to gain access into a rapidly filling auditorium.

“Lemme talk to you boys a minute.”

We had been arguing with others all day, and perhaps we did not have any resistance left within us. Besides, the fear of what this large stranger might do to us if we did not let him talk moved us in such a way that anything relating to the auditorium appeared trivial.

“I know what you kids are up to; you ain't gonna fool me. Them African countries y'all are talkin' about – Sierra Leone, Liberia – what do they all have in common? I'll tell you – diamonds. You're just wantin' to infiltrate them peon countries with ex-navy SEALs, so they can dig for all of them diamonds,” he rasped. The ridiculous accent he put on the words “Sierra Leone,” coupled with the twitch in his left eye and his accusatory finger gave us the sense that he genuinely believed that the government was using two high school boys to execute a top-secret mission of seizing African countries for its own exploits. Because we didn't know quite how to handle a disgruntled conspiracy theorist, we simply nodded politely.

The man grinned in a demented, sinister kind of way. “Peon countries. Peon countries.” He spoke these last words with a quiet intensity, all the while tapping the side of his nose and backing away. In a moment he had disappeared into the crowd. My partner and I, though phased, entered the auditorium.

The above incident recounts a genuine, bona-fide high school debate story. While such a situation would make some uncomfortable, or even sick, it never ceases to fascinate me. At a debate tournament, while an ordinary onlooker scratches his head in bewilderment, debate nerds like me find everything just right.

Why do I find everything just right? Because at a debate tournament, I am always right. No matter how many arguments the opponent hurls at me, my argument is somehow superior to his. The trick is finding out how to convince a third party of this seemingly obvious situation. That the opponent thinks he is right too is, to put it mildly, problematic. Policy debate resolves this by pitting two teams of two against each other. They argue over a formerly-framed resolution, such as ocean policy. First, an affirmative team representative reads a proposed policy to better some situation. Then, argument. The negative team's job is to prove that the affirmative team has a fallacious case using counter-speeches delivered to a judge. Therefore, debate becomes more than just talking; rather, it becomes acting.

Of course, theatrics constitute merely the vehicle or figurative glass of debate. It only becomes a beverage when that glass is filled up with a fine wine. This wine is made from the fruit of evidence, fermented with logic, aged with reason, and bottled in analysis. Without the glass, there would be no way to appreciate the wine, for it would never be consumed. Without the wine, the glass accomplishes nothing.

This beverage can hardly be enjoyed in any other forum. At a debate tournament, people care to use logic. These people are the aficionados, to carry the analogy further. The elements involved in debate are not appreciated on the street, in the home, or even in most schools. Debate is appreciated in these arenas to the same degree that wine is appreciated by Carry Nation.

Neither are jokes fraught with computer jargon funny to my grandparents. My debate clique has its own flavor of humor, setting us apart from the ordinary. Because of the immense amount of time spent together, we often know more about our debate partners than their parents. It is not uncommon to experience something akin to mind reading while in the heat of a round. My partner will come down from a heated cross-x, and he just knows what the next line of action is going to be; furthermore, he knows that, somehow, I know too. Somehow being involved with my debate team makes me feel like I am part of a secret society of wizards, exploring the magic behind rhetoric and argument.

This is not to say that debate is not practical for other stations of life. In fact, during my years of debate, I have learned things few others have learned. It might be assumed that I am referring to matters of political philosophy or world affairs. I am actually talking of more practical matters. Like the man in the story above, I have encountered many colorful characters while debating, most of them adults. Once a woman explained to both teams before the round started that she was going to be “testing” us in various ways during the debate to see how we responded. In the middle of the opponent's rebuttal, she arose from her judging table, walked to the opponent's table, and started digging through their evidence box, seemingly oblivious to the speech that was being directed toward her. After the round had ended, she insisted that we fill out an evaluation for her, apparently to help her with her judging responsibilities. This experience has furthered my social capabilities to a greater extent than interacting with normal people would.

It must be said at this point, that debate does not come without its dangers. Indeed, many debaters are often perceived to be just as strange as those they encounter. In one scene of my senior class documentary, several debaters, including myself, are feeding House Resolution #4980 to a hungry puppet made out of a flow pad. Indeed, on one occasion, as my team was organizing our boxes full of negative evidence, a debater suddenly exclaimed, “What is this Body Cavity Search brief doing in Korematsu v. United States?” We were still laughing about it 20 minutes later. I cherish these friendships as I cherish my own life. Indeed, my debate coach transcended her obligatory office of teacher and became a counselor, a mother, and a friend. For what she has done for me I can never pay her back.

Thus, this dynamic activity – nay, this dynamic lifestyle – reveals God. Debate allows me to express myself. Debate enables me to argue for what I feel is true. Debate initiates me into a unique community. Debate prepares me to tackle the ordinary and deal with the bizarre. This is all beautifully orchestrated in the tournament, and all of these elements are played like a beautiful overture. As the overture fades, I anticipate the ballet.
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