Yesterday I had he day off, but like every workaholic worth his salt, I still decided to pop in to work, to make sure that all is well at work. Because I didn’t want to bother with public transportation, I hopped in a cab. I love taking cabs in Chicago because every cabdriver in the city seems to listen to NPR.
On my ride, the cab driver and I were listening to the story about the escaped convicts from New York state. The story is pretty incredible – almost like a movie, really. A guard gets seduced by a convict and is convinced to help him and his buddy escape. I’m thinking Lifetime needs to get on this story quick (oh, and I think the part of the guard would be ably played by Meredith Baxter).
The cab driver was fascinated by the story, particularly because the prisoners were convicted murderers. Suddenly, he became very philosophical as he thought about murderers.
“You know, to kill a human being, something must be really wrong with you.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. “Like mentally wrong?”
“Yes, exactly. A chemical imbalance. I think if you can kill a person, then that’s something inherent in you – it’s biological.” He then added, “That is why I’m opposed to capital punishment, because the murderers, they are killing people, but they cannot help themselves. It’s a sickness.”
I mentioned the work of a psychologist who studied serial killers – John Wayne Gacy, in particular. The psychologist theorized that serial killers do seem to have some abnormalities in their brains, that could account for the impulse to kill.
“You see,” he said, with a sweeping hand motion, “They are born that way,” he said, quoting Lady Gaga’s gay right anthem.
My thought about Lady Gaga wasn’t inappropriate, because he then added, “Just like gays and lesbians…we say gays and lesbians are ‘born that way,’ and so we shouldn’t criticize them for being gay or lesbian.”
I’m always careful in cabs whenever my cab driver gets interested in discussing homosexuality. I’m in the guy’s car, so I don’t know if my ass would be handed to me if I got all LGBT activist. But before I could say anything further, he asked, “did you hear about the Supreme Court?”
“You mean gay marriage being legal? Yeah, I did.”
As we drove down Clark street, he beamed over his shoulder, “I think that’s a good thing. I think what the Supreme Court is saying is that here in the United States, everyone is treated fairly and everyone is equal…And I think that’s a good thing.”
“I agree,” I said cautiously, “I think it’s great that if gays want to get married in this country, they can.”
“It is…I’m from Nigeria,” He said, which explained his accent. “And in my country we don’t like homosexuality. We see it as an abnormality, or an anomaly, a deviance, you know. We know that there are gays and lesbians in Nigeria, but we want them to be hidden away so that we don’t have to see them.”
He then sighed, “And you know, that’s not good. We shouldn’t criticize them for being gay and lesbian, because it’s just who they are. You know, I think Nigeria’s a bit backward when it comes to homosexuality, and we should be more like the United States.”
Touched by his candid assessment of his homeland, I felt the need to step in: “Well, I wouldn’t say that a country is backward just because it doesn’t have gay rights. For us, here, in the United States, gay rights works. In other countries, people have to decide their own way.”
He agreed with me. “Of course, but still, I think that there should be more…sympathy for gays and lesbians. Although, I will tell you something, I don’t have a problem with homosexuals, but,” here we go, “I do have a problem when it’s thrust in my face.
“Sometimes, in my cab, I’m driving gays or lesbians and they are kissing in my cab, and I think, ‘what you do at home is your business, but there is decency, too.’ But then the homosexuals will think that I’m criticizing them, and their lifestyle. But I don’t like heterosexuals kissing in my cab.
“You see, I feel as if when they are acting that way, they are trying to provoke a response of some kind – a reaction, like daring me. But I find the act repulsive, I see two lesbians kissing, and I feel repulsed, it’s offensive.
“Still,” he said as he pulled up to my office building, “I believe that they should be allowed to get married and have the equal rights.” As my credit card was being charged, he continued, “I traveled all over the world, and I see gays and lesbians everywhere – England, Denmark, Belgium. They’re everywhere. So they should have the same rights as everyone.”