Why I liked my editor-in-chief immediately
Back home from my first full day at the radio station. All of my new colleagues seem very friendly, especially Paul, my fellow intern, a Congolese guy who studies in France. They all have fond memories of Muzungu Luc, and Eugène, and especially Emilie with her bubbly charisma and 100-watt smile.
The editorial meetings are a bit anarchic, with crisscrossing side conversations and people running in and out, but the biggest problem for me is that they are conducted in that linguistic pudding of Kirundi-Kinyarwanda, Swahili and French which people use to communicate in Bujumbura (and in much of the sub-region, the sole variant being that in Kigali more English is added). Jean-Charles, with his loud, grating voice and decades of experience, and francophile Damien, had the authority to impose French as the language of editorial meetings at the paper. But as an intern on my second day, I don’t have that power. I finally waited until the end of the meeting when the senior reporter who ran it gave me a sort of bullet-note synthesis in French.
On a first day, there’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait and a lot of looking over shoulders as you get into the rhythm. During one of the “wait” moments I grabbed a weekly French-language newspaper which was laying around– not, thank heavens, the one I used to work for. There at least five which come out regularly, all of which the radio station subscribes to for our weekly press review broadcast. I came upon the following piece of typo-ridden rhetorical rubbish, hastily translated (without typos, but with the original capitals, quotes and archaisms) by yours truly:
Ten good arguments against gay marriage
Being gay is not natural. As a true Christian, a man owes it to himself to reject all that is not natural, such as eyeglasses, polyester and air conditioning.
Gay marriage encourages people to become gay, just like being around grown people encourages you to grow up.
If we start by authorizing gay marriage,we open the door to all possible excesses. People are also going to want to marry their dogs.
Marriage is an INSTITUTION. We can’t change the rules. And that’s also why women remain the property of men, Moors cannot marry Whites, and divorce is illegal.
This risks undermining the “respectable status” of marriage. Gay marriages are not fertile. How can we authorize a marriage if it doesn’t produce children? This is also why in certain countries infertile people and elderly people are refused marriage.
Children who have lived with gay parents will in turn become gay, as all the children of heterosexual parents in turn become heterosexual.
Gay marriage is forbidden by the Bible. According to the Bible, God created Man and Woman so that they would live together and carry on Creation.
A child needs to be raised by a mom and a dad. That’s why in certain countries, single mothers and fathers are not allowed to keep their children.
Gay marriage can change the foundations of our society, and mankind cannot adapt to changing social norms.
Now, my readers know that independently of any other characteristics I may possess, I’m a laissez-faire, politically correct atheist who wonders why exactly the decision of two adults to marry each other is anyone else’s concern– although like any self-respecting journalist I understand the concept of respectful difference of opinion. If you have factually supported arguments against gay marriage, let’s hear them. But in this case, even setting aside my moral indignation, I could punch holes in this column until there was no column left.
Burundians come in all religious and ideological colours; the majority of people here are extremely devout Catholics and Protestants, although there are Muslims, Rastafarians, Greek Orthodox, Bahais and animists who are no less adamant about their convictions. This guy’s beliefs sound like they come from a small Pentecostal sect, not mainstream at all, I’ve never heard anyone (including Emilie, who attends a hardline Pentecostal church) express religious objections to glasses or air conditioning . Although there’s some mistrust between the different communities, I’ve never seen open disrespect, except toward atheists (who do exist). The general consensus is that one has to believe in something, and if you don’t, something’s not quite right. But I have totally digressed. Getting back to my original point. I show the piece to my editor– a restless guy in his late thirties with two constantly ringing phones, really amiable when he’s not under pressure. The objections he sees to the piece are not so much moral as rhetorical. “C’est du n’importe quoi,” he says. “That’s rubbish. I’m going to call the guy.”
“Right, Gaston, Robert here [NAMES CHANGED AS USUAL, and translation from the Pudding as best it can be], who may I ask is Edmond Niyonkuru?”
“I have your edition from last week here on my desk and on the back page there’s this piece, ‘Ten good arguments against gay marriage,’ and it’s rubbish.”
“I quote, men are the property of women, Moors cannot marry Whites, and divorce is illegal. where does the law say that? Divorce is not illegal! People are going to want to marry their dogs, where is the evidence? Certain countries refuse to marry elderly people, what countries? Gay marriage is forbidden by the Bible, quote me a verse!”
“People of course have the right to express their opinions, but you can’t just publish any old rubbish.”
“You can forget about your paper being included in our press review if you keep sending me this rubbish, Gaston.”
I might just like working under this guy.