Thursday, January 29, 2009

Lesbian Head of Government! ...Eh, So Vhat?

Iceland is set to become the first nation with a lesbian head of government. Johanna Sigurðardottir is the current Social Affairs Minister, but with Iceland in economic and political turmoil, she is expected to become prime minister.

The best part about this is that in her country, Sigurðardottir's sexual orientation is a non-issue. As Icelandic journalist Iris Erlingsdottir writes:

"I guess I still have the attitude of most Icelanders when it comes to matters of sexual issues, because I failed to pick up on the newsworthiness of Sigurdardottir's sexual orientation....Even after living in America all these years, where hounding politicians into surrealistic hell about their private lives is the norm, it didn't really ring bells for me. 'I don't see what her sexual orientation has to do with anything,' my mother told me yesterday. 'It's no one's business but her own.'

My usually taciturn father agreed strongly. 'She is the most trusted and respected politician in the country,' he said, 'and she is simply the best person available for the job. Ja, that is just pervert thinking,' he replied when I told him that her sexual orientation would probably be more newsworthy in America than anything else surrounding her appointment."

Although we have been patting ourselves on our backs for a couple months now for finally electing an African-American man to our nation's highest office, I wonder if we have forgotten about all those other "trait barriers" that exist with respect to the presidency. Only one year ago, after all, a Gallup poll found that 53% of Americans would be unwilling to vote for a "generally well-qualified person who happened to be an atheist," 43% would not vote for a well-qualified "homosexual," and 24% would not vote for a well-qualified Mormon. 11% of Americans still would not vote for a woman.

And, if we're talking about religion, although the poll didn't survey the following traits, I wonder how many Americans would be willing to vote for a well-qualified Jewish or Muslim person?

Most politicians in office profess to be religious in some manner. Yet, when so many politicians, conservative and liberal alike, turn out to be slimeballs and hypocrites I wonder why we are still so willing as a people to accept candidates who claim to be religious and reject those who do not. In our "culture war"-afflicted nation, I am not surprised that so many would reject a candidate for his or her sex life or "deviant" sexual orientation. But I think Icelanders have it right in realizing how irrelevant sexual orientation is and not letting their culture war blinders prevent them from accepting the best person for a very important job. Besides, we have seen far too many men fall from their perches of moral superiority to allow us to continue believing the lie that religiosity is a guarantee of "moral" behavior. Further, many of us know far too many non-Christians who are genuinely good people to continue believing the lie that Christians and religious folk hold a monopoly on morality.

Who else longs for a more nuanced, thoughtful America? One in which Americans no longer assume that a candidate's homosexuality, femaleness, or non-whiteness is an automatic degradation of character and in which a person's status as a Christian is no longer an automatic character upgrade.

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