Dabbling in the irrelevant

Thisanjali Gangoda

President Barack Obama has smoked weed, former President Bill Clinton had an affair, former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey’s gay and Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell has “dabbled in witchcraft.” Clearly these individuals are unfit to be part of our government, what with their inexplicable tendency to be human.

When it comes to political leaders in the media, especially female political leaders, we love to take their politics and history to a level of celebrity. We take pleasure in scrutinizing every detail of their relationships, opinions and actions. Instead of worrying about their actual political stances, however, we Americans have grown accustomed to judging a politician’s ability to represent and serve our needs based on whether or not they’re in touch with their sexual identity, and then some.

The most recent example of the “then some” has been the “scandal” of tapes that have resurfaced from 1999, in which the newly minted Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell says, “I dabbled into witchcraft. I never joined a coven.” She continues to describe a pagan date she went on in high school, where she and the witch had a midnight picnic on a satanic altar. When news of this broke out, the conservative Christian activist O’Donnell, the darling of the Tea Party movement, was instantly throttled into negative limelight. Republicans left and right began to withdraw their public support for the candidate, and O’Donnell ended up canceling appearances on FOX News and CBS. Though her campaign denies this as the reason for her absence on these shows, they have yet to provide another explanation.

Personally, I think the whole witchcraft story is rather amusing. It adds some depth to her typical character of the wholesome, conservative female politician, a woman who is going to bring back the “real” America. As a society, we love it when our political leaders and celebrity figures divulge all their dirty little secrets in effort to make them more relatable to the public. But when the secret is something we don’t want to hear, something that is quite possibly too relatable, we throw it right back in their faces with distrust and anger. We let it overshadow the important issues such as their actual politics and voting records. Instead of being shocked and outraged about her teenage experiences, I’m more concerned about her beliefs that evolution is a theory, her pro-gun and anti-abortion stances, and her saying that wearing a condom doesn’t prevent AIDS.

The witchcraft row with O’Donnell is completely irrelevant to what she is capable of doing as a politician. Her fundamentalist and anti-intellectual views on domestic and global issues are more than enough of a scandal. If anything, her experience with pagan rituals is less alarming than her regressive beliefs on how a woman should be. What is alarming is how Americans seem ready to embrace Sarah Palin: Part II with open and willing arms. Does no one remember the ridiculousness of the 2008 elections? Apparently that’s also part of human nature; we never learn from our mistakes.

Contact Thisanjali Gangoda [email protected].