Sweaty palms, stomach hunched tight, hunger evades me as I sit down on the crisp wooden chair. Across, two girls stare back, our eyes meeting with equal parts curiosity and defiance. The room is silent except for the sound of typing. I can’t believe I’m doing this. I had vowed never to become one of those people after money and power, whose real opinions were hidden behind points to gain popularity. Fake, that was what they were, those politicians on TV who did and said anything to climb.
In the search for truth, debate seemed the furthest from it. A white page filled with links and copy-pasted texts in quotations lies in front of me. On another, a blank page ready to be filled with whatever my opponent has to say. Adrenaline, more potent than any caffeine, makes every single detail in the room crisp and clear. Four kids in khakis and blazers two facing two, the judge in the middle, and tension all around. The girls look good; their eyes exude a mean calmness.
I flip through my notes one last time, hoping that the hours of research and empty stomachs was worth it. One of the girls stand up. “Judge ready? Opponents ready? Partner ready?” It has begun. But see, what I failed to understand back then, was this exhilaration. As she goes through her points, a frenzy takes over. The topic is mass surveillance, and she was saying all the predictable points to support it. Click, scroll, copy paste, the blank page quickly fills with rebuttals and contradicting evidence, click, scroll, repeat until-
No. Mass surveillance stopped Osama bin Laden? Surprise and dread fills me; this was not what we had expected. My partner shifts; he’s suddenly alert as well, although we try not to show that they have a point that just might go through. My hands shake slightly before assuming a strained, seemingly calm position. Halfway through the round, the girls realize what we have been avoiding, and zero in. “Do you think mass surveillance is ineffective, if it has saved over 10,000 lives as with the case of Osama bin Laden?” My partner and I still, exchanging uncertain glances, an expression of people cornered. “Do you have any evidence for that?” He responds. Our opponent flips through her stray pieces of paper, stops, and glances a little closer. “Um…I can’t seem to..”
Before debate, what I failed to understand was how quickly dread and relief can take hold .I let out a breath. As I stand for the final speech, I am steady and just a little more composed. “With contention one, my opponent clearly has not given any evidence on her Osama bin Laden case, which was the only solid example they gave in which mass surveillance is effective.” And thus the speech begins, all of their contentions striked out, and the round ends. We shake hands, dropping our serious demeanors for smiles and introductions, just kids once more.
Debate is a game, a game where words are weapons and logic is key, where the person who can convince regardless of position carries the round. Debate is humbling as it is exhilarating, with matches where you can’t seem to get any points through and those in which you completely destroy the other’s case….Sweet and bitter, dread and delight, nothing can beat the feeling of having a response and evidence to every one of the opponent’s points.
Even though I have only tried debate for two weeks, I am addicted.
Through sleepless nights, hollowed stomachs, and swaying emotions, I am completely and utterly, addicted.