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Trump’s Greenland Comments Follow Tradition of Violent Colonialism

This is no accident — Arctic ice melt has made Greenland’s freshwater and mineral resources more exploitable.

President Trump stops to talk to reporters from the South Lawn at the White House on August 7, 2019, in Washington, D.C.

Buying Greenland? I come back from a splendid vacation at a honky-tonk beach with a boardwalk made of fried food and discarded flip-flops, and fa-chrissakes buying Greenland is the windshield I smack into like a bug on the highway?

I really thought I had it firewalled once the initial astonishment faded. “Nope” became my immediate watchword, my solemn oath, my creed. I made myself a repository of Nope, the First Nope National Bank, the East Coast distributor of all things Nope. I was not going to get sucked into a go-round with yet another batch of unrefined Trumpian nonsense, wasn’t going to write about it, wasn’t even going to amusingly post about it on social media. Nope Nope Nope.

And then, as Wednesday morning vomited its cold and merciless light upon the land, I learned that Donald Trump’s unerring ability to foul up the recipe for bathwater had transformed his strange scheme to purchase Greenland into a full-fledged diplomatic crisis. The flaming bag of doggy-doo was at my door, again.

“The astonishment in Denmark over President Trump’s apparent desire to buy Greenland turned to bewilderment and anger on Wednesday after the American leader abruptly scrapped a state visit because the Danes have no desire to sell,” reports The New York Times. “A headline in Berlingske, a conservative daily, read ‘The U.S. and Denmark’s relationship has never been this ice-cold. It will have wide-ranging consequences.’ A headline on the website of the state broadcaster read, ‘Trump sends Denmark and the U.S.’s relationship to the freezing point.’”

I don’t deserve this, and neither do you, but most of all, Greenland — an autonomous, majority-Inuit country that has already borne centuries of colonization and disproportionate impacts of human-caused climate change — deserves this not even in the tiniest measure.

Greenland’s history of European colonization dates back to Erik the Red. More recently, colonization by Denmark caused immense harm to Greenland’s Inuit people, with policies including the separation of children from their parents (an all-too-familiar tactic that involved involuntarily shipping kids back to Denmark for schooling), the physical displacement of families, and a marked wage gap between Inuit and non-Inuit workers.

The impacts of colonization are lasting: Greenland currently has the highest suicide rate in the world. Though it is now autonomous, the country still resides beneath the governmental umbra of the same kingdom of Denmark that caused its residents so much suffering over many long years.

Now another colonizer is threatening to bang down Greenland’s door. That is the reason why I am writing about something other than the global environmental fire alarm that went off when much of Greenland’s massive ice sheet melted virtually overnight a few weeks back. The ocean is measurably higher now because that happened, but most of the world is not talking about that today when the topic of Greenland surfaces. Instead, people are talking about Trump’s abrupt desire to acquire that country, and about how he has pissed Denmark off over this grab-bag of absurdity, because Denmark is an ally, one of the very few the U.S. has left.

Trump, being Trump, kicked this mess up an extra gear later in the day by attacking Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen for offering the opinion that his “absurd” fuzzball buying Greenland idea is a witless waste of everyone’s valuable time. “I thought it was not a nice statement, the way she blew me off,” he puled. “She shouldn’t treat the United States that way. She said ‘absurd.’ That’s not the right word to use.”

Absurd (noun): “Ridiculously unreasonable, unsound, or incongruous; extremely silly or ridiculous; having no rational or orderly relationship to human life” — Merriam-Webster

Sounds pretty on the nose to me.

Thus, the power of Nope is thwarted once again. Back in February of 2016, when this grinding nightmare remained innocently theoretical, then-presidential candidate Ted Cruz said, “We’re liable to wake up one morning and Donald, if he were president, would have nuked Denmark.” When Ted Cruz comes off sounding like a damn prophet, we are floating untethered through exceedingly strange space.

One gets the definite sense that ol’ Donny hasn’t quite thought this one through (perish the thought, I know). The cost alone would be prohibitive for such a fiscally responsible administration (cough). Beyond the price tag for what Trump called “a large real estate deal,” there is the more than $700 million in aid Denmark provides to Greenland on an annual basis. Most importantly, Greenland is its own country, with its own people. It is not on the market for anyone, least of all a failed casino magnate like Trump.

Moreover, Greenland’s top two political parties are essentially socialist in nature. Personally, if Greenland’s people wanted U.S. statehood, I’d love to see that happen, just so they could drop two senators in Mitch McConnell’s lap, but that wondrous moment does not seem to be anywhere on the horizon.

That’s not for lack of trying, mind you. This wasn’t just some yuk-it-up armpit fart of an idea in the White House; there have actually been serious discussions about “buying Greenland,” because there is no one left in the administration with the integrity or courage to tell Trump when it’s time for his nappy-noo.

Of course, there are also no accidents in politics. “As the Arctic ice continues to melt due to global warming,” the Brookings Institution reported back in 2014 when there was way more ice on the planet, “Greenland’s mineral and energy resources – including iron ore, lead, zinc, diamonds, gold, rare earth elements, uranium and oil – are becoming more accessible.” In the same vein, Greenland enjoys enormous freshwater resources. Soon enough, this warming world will value freshwater more than petroleum.

Trump denies human-caused climate disruption at every opportunity, and yet suddenly he’s very interested in the price of freshwater in Nuuk. It puts one in mind of the walls he wanted built around his golf course in Scotland to keep the rising seas at bay. Don’t bother looking, there is no bottom to this particular barrel.

Greenland’s melted ice sheet was bad enough. The people of Greenland will likely weep no bitter tears at the prospect of not coming under the governance of Donald Trump, who has, once again, made himself into a punch line for the world.

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