US Vice President and no-homo bunny lover Mike Pence has confirmed his visit to Iceland on September 4th—the first stop on a European mini-tour that will also take him to the UK and Ireland on behalf of President Donald Trump.
Pence’s visit has stirred speculation that Iceland-US relations are entering a new phase. As the second high-ranking US official to visit Iceland this year ( US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Reykjavík in February), theories are circulating that the visits are connected to the US’s growing investment in Keflavík’s naval base. The US Department of Defense has committed 7.1 billion ISK for military construction in 2020.
According to a White House statement, Pence’s visit is to “highlight Iceland’s strategic importance in the Arctic, NATO’s efforts to counter Russian aggression in the region, and opportunities to expand mutual trade and investment.” Then, of course, are the strenuous negotiations of why anyone would ever want to meet with Mike Pence.
No Escaping Pence
Pence’s visit was initially meant to be hosted on September 3rd by Minister for Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir will be in Sweden then, attending the Council of Nordic Trade Unions and said she hasn’t “seen any reason to change that plan.” Pence shifted his itinerary back a day to meet Katrín on the 4th.
Had Katrín not met with Pence, the snub could have been interpreted as an expression of her attitude towards the Trump administration. Katrín’s party, the Left-Greens, once called for Iceland to leave NATO, conflicting with the stated purpose of Pence’s visit. Additionally, Pence arrives as Denmark, an ally of Iceland, is having a diplomatic dispute with the US. That spat arose after Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called Trump’s musings about the US buying Greenland “absurd,” prompting the president to cancel his upcoming state visit to the Nordic nation.
Katrín denied her planned absence on Sept. 3rd was a snub to Pence, but many party leaders in Parliament expressed surprise at what would have been a “missed opportunity” to discuss important issues. “This is unprecedented for an Icelandic prime minister,” Icelandic historian Þór Whitehead stated before Pence’s change of travel plans. “I doubt any other Western leader would decide to address a friendly conference abroad instead of welcoming a major foreign ally.”
“Welcoming” Pence, however, is nothing short of controversial. While POTUS’ rampage of erratic tweets and scandals have occupied the spotlight, Pence’s trainwreck of a political career is just as worthy of attention.
All Aboard the Pence Train: Who is he?
Before this devout Christian naturally found himself on the ballot with a pornstar enthusiast, he served as the 50th governor of Indiana and, later, as a member of the House of Representatives. In both these positions, as in the Trump Administration, Pence has spewed hateful rhetoric and pushed radical policies, most famously targeting the LGBTQ+ community.
An Empathetic Father
Pence’s anti-LGBTQ+ agenda is nearly as important to his political philosophy as Trump is to himself. For a decade, he worked to stop marriage equality in the United States, asserting heterosexual marriages are the safest framework in which to raise children. Child safety might not be something you’d consider to be one of Pence’s priorities, considering his role in an administration that has put migrant children in cages, his vote to allow guns on school property, and his budget cuts to Child Services during his time as governor that nearly doubled the Indiana death rate for abused and neglected children.
Regarding LGBTQ+ children, Pence has been widely connected to conversion therapy. This “therapy” attempts to “cure” children’s sexual and gender identities. It has been widely condemned by the international medical community as child abuse, yet it remains legal in most states. Children who undergo this “therapy” are five times more likely to attempt suicide. Pence’s stance for parents’ rights to choose their child’s care is widely recognised as an endorsement of conversion therapy He also advocated that funding be reallocated to conversion programs from HIV prevention programs that, per Pence, “celebrate and encourage the types of behaviours that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus.”
A Self-Appointed Doctor
Pence’s homophobic outlook on the HIV virus opposes medical expertise, evidence, and common sense. As Indiana’s governor he cut public health funding, triggering a shutdown of a Planned Parenthood, resulting in the state’s most devastating epidemic of HIV and AIDS. Pence responded to the crisis by fighting to maintain a ban on needle exchange programs that could’ve alleviated the outbreak before finally conceding a year later. Afterwards, Pence still voted to federally ban needle exchanges, and called for defunding Planned Parenthood because the clinics also provide abortions. Restricting abortions and calling condoms “too modern,” Pence’s solution to STDs is abstinence. Naturally, he suggested that the U.S. send sub-saharan Africa “values” rather than condoms to combat their AIDS crisis. He has also been a leading voice to repeal the Affordable Care Act, helping those with HIV and AIDS access lifesaving medications.
The Affordable Care Act also provided many LGBTQ+ people and their families previously denied health care. Seeing another opportunity to screw people over, Pence stepped up with his “license to discriminate.” Originally a failed Indiana bill that only triggered a nationwide boycott costing over $60 million USD, he re-introduced a federal variation into the Religious Freedom Bill, loopholing discrimination under religious beliefs.
A Trauma Survivor
Pence’s beliefs also led him to conclude LGBTQ+ people have no place in the armed forces. He supported “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” barring non-heterosexual members of the military from serving openly, and lobbied for transgender people to be banned entirely. Pence also stood against women in the military, revealing he had been “victimised” by the “liberal-propaganda” Disney movie ‘Mulan.’ As a victim himself, it’s a wonder why he repeatedly blocks hate crimes laws, believing them to “serve no practical purpose.” Then again, anyone who refers to their wife as “Mother” is an enigma.
Welcome? Not a Chance
Not nearly as mysterious is Pence’s unpopularity in Iceland. Þorbjörg Þorvaldsdóttir, head of Samtökin 78, the National Queer Organization, announced protests against Pence’s views on LGBTQ+ people, explaining that Pence has caused queer suffering for decades, explicitly referencing Trump’s notorious queer rights joke, “Don’t ask this guy [Pence]—he wants to hang them all!”
Angered by his visit to Iceland, Þorbjörg writes, “Now, the Government of Iceland intends to welcome Mike Pence, politely talk to him about business consultations and strengthen relations with the United States. All such measures are a pure disregard for the queer community in Iceland. We will not be silent on the fact that he is welcomed to this country. Not a chance.”
Overall the visit is expected to be a great victory for foreign relations, uniting Icelandic, British, and Irish people in their dislike of Mike Pence.
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