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New heroine for Icelandic saga

Snorri Sturluson, where are you when we need you? Iceland's great writer of ancient royal sagas could have a new democratic theme in the rise of Vigdis Finnbogadottir from tourist guide to president of that country.

Humanity may still be in the benighted condition which makes news of the fact that Mrs. Finnbogadottir is the world's first woman to become a popularly elected head of state (in contrast with such heads of government as Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi). But at least the realm for future feminine firsts is diminishing. There will be more seconds, thirds, and so on as the right and ability to fill the highest places in government or anywhere else are seen as not determined by gender. Mrs. Finnbogadottir thoughtfully described her victory as a milestone of "equal rights for men and women."

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A woman for president is one thing; a theater director, which Mrs. Finnbogadottir also is, is another. This is where we need Snorri's masterful pen again, to forge whatever links there may be between life on the stage and life in politics. He might appreciate the latter- day situation in Iceland where the theater is strongly supported by citizens concerned with preserving the national language which meant so much to him.

But Snorri would also need to weave in the new left-of-center President's history of protest against US and other NATO military forces in independent Iceland. In her last TV address before this week's election, she said she was simply "a peace-lover, against all arms." With more heads of state holding -- and acting on -- such an attitude, the saga of our time could have a happy ending after all.

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