The attendee at my regular consultation with the International Finance and Foreign Exchange Attaché of the Embassy of Denmark on Friday was replaced with a last-minute substitute – Dr. Arnapalaaq Iteq Ikiaqutit, the Cultural, Legal and Political Affairs Deputy at the embassy’s Greenland Section. She was visibly upset as she situated herself on the chair directly to the right of my desk and leaned in.
“Mr. Collins,” she confided, “I don’t mind telling you I’m very, very concerned about your President Trump.”
“Well, don’t let that bother you,” I replied. “There are at least one hundred and fifty million Americans who feel precisely the same way.”
“Has he gone mad?” she implored.
“Gone mad?” I responded. “Why no, he hasn’t gone mad. According to thousands of American psychiatrists and psychologists, he has been manifesting obvious symptoms of clinical insanity for decades.”
“They noticed this,” she demanded, “and made their finding public, and you Americans still elected him president? What possible explanation could exist for such a situation?”
“The answer that particular question,” I warned, “is very complicated and to understand it requires an in-depth understanding of the essential American character.”
“And how,” she persisted with an frustrated huff, “does one obtain that, may I ask?”
“Are you familiar with the works of Alexis Charles Henri Clérel, Viscount de Tocqueville?”
“Who the hell is he?” she barked back at me, clearly irritated, “some pretentious post-modern French deconstructionist or something?”
“Actually,” I informed her, “he lived in the nineteenth century, and, among other things, traveled extensively in the United States of America in 1831, after which he wrote a book, On Democracy in America. Reading that book is very helpful – some might say essential – in order to understand how Americans could elect someone like Donald John Trump to the office of the presidency.”
“How long is it?” she inquired.
“About eleven hundred pages,” I said. At that, she sat back crossed her arms across her chest and stared up at the ceiling in exasperation.
“You have read it, I suppose?” she slowly enunciated.
“Twice,” I averred.
“Well then,” she pressed, returning her gaze back to me with an air of impatience, “to which passages would you refer me for this explanation you mentioned?”
“Paraphrasing to compensate for translation to English from Napoleonic French,” I noted, “the first which comes to mind is, ‘Egotism, which the Americans are pleased to call “individualism,” springs from blind instinct and invalid reasoning. It originates equally from defects of intelligence and depraved character flaws. As manifested in Americans, this egotism stunts the growth of every virtue and in the longer term it attacks and destroys each virtue, public and private, in turn.” This illustrates the central core pathology not only of Donald Trump, but of the vast majority of the people who voted for him.”
“So,” she nodded, “according to this Frenchman, Americans are selfish, greedy and stupid. Therefore, they elect selfish, greedy and stupid leaders.”
“It’s not quite that simple,” I cautioned. “What de Tocqueville meant was that, under conducive circumstances, the philosophy of American individualism can be readily manipulated by selfish, greedy and stupid demagogues like Donald Trump.”
“Hmph,” she grunted, throwing me skeptical look. “What else does this Frenchman’s book say about how come you people put that… monster…” she glanced over her shoulder at the White House, framed from her angle quite nicely in the picture window behind the couch, “… in there?”
“He observed,” I related, “that, ‘the American Republic will endure until its politicians realize they can successfully bribe the public with the money they have taken from them in taxes.’ He also pointed out that running for public office in America is so demeaning that the most qualified people usually refrain from doing so. Another relevant prediction of his was that when Americans’ desire and respect for physical gratification – what Thorstein Veblen called ‘conspicuous consumption’ – overcame their desire and respect for education and knowledge, they would lose both their moral compass and restraint, afterward be willing to sacrifice both their rights and their freedoms for material rewards. He also foresaw what today we call ‘gas-lighting,’ that is, creating a doubt in the mind of the typical citizen that they can believe what their own eyes and ears tell them, and substituting for those the repeated lies offered by the would-be dictator: ‘I am unaware of his intentions but I shall never stop believing him because I prefer to mistrust my own intellectual capacities rather than what he says,’ or words to that effect, as I recall. And, of course, de Tocqueville was astounded by the fact that Americans could, alternately, elect a great statesman and an incompetent scoundrel to the same high public office, and do so without seeming to notice the difference. And that was in 1831. Americans were vacillating back and forth between men like Barack Obama and men like Donald Trump one hundred and eighty-eight years ago, and there’s no sign they intend to stop.”
At that, Dr. Ikiaqutit uncrossed her arms, stood up from her chair and pounded her fist on my desk. “And so, you say the scribblings of some baroque French fop explain why your president thinks the United States of America can buy Greenland?”
“Well,” I allowed, “not entirely. But it’s a start. I would, however, bring your attention to the word ‘thinks’ in your question. Donald Trump does not think – he feels, he emotes and he believes, but he does not, in the generally accepted definition of the term, think.”
“Meaning what?” She challenged as she resumed her seat.
“Meaning,” I told her, “that Trump’s interest in buying Greenland springs from on his emotions, his feelings and his beliefs, not from anything resembling the processes of reason. As the Wall Street Journal put it, the idea of buying Greenland has ‘captured the former real estate developer’s imagination.’ That pretty much says it all – Trump imagines and believes various things about Greenland and doing so makes him feel excited.”
“It sounds,” she spat back at me contemptuously, “as if you are talking about a five year old child with arrested cognitive abilities.”
“A great deal of discussion concerning Donald Trump,” I affirmed, “could easily be mistaken for discussion of a five year old child with arrested cognitive abilities. Trump is what happens when the misguided father of a mentally disturbed kindergarten bully happens to have millions of dollars and gives them to the child. Trump’s emotional maturity and capacity for empathy never progressed beyond those of a spoiled six year old boy. And what interests Trump about Greenland is on the level of a six year old, just like most of the things what motivate him.”
“In that case, what interests him about Greenland?” she asked.
“It’s the biggest island on the planet,” I began, “and Trump, like a spoiled little boy, is fascinated with bigness. He is constantly referring to things associated with him as the largest, greatest or biggest in history or in the world. Trump is a coward, of course, as would be expected of a spoiled little boy, but, again, like a spoiled little boy, he is fascinated with military power. Basing his perception of the world not on facts and reason, but instead on beliefs, feelings and emotions, he conceives of Greenland as having strategic military importance and fantasizes about how possessing it would increase his power. Finally, being highly motivated by greed and having no interest in bothersome facts, such as that mining constitutes less than two percent of Greenland’s exports, or constraints on obtaining such treasures, such as the existence of less than fifty miles of paved road in the entire country, Trump has no problem convincing himself that Greenland possesses vast troves of easily obtained mineral wealth.”
“But nevertheless,” she objected, “members of his administration are taking him seriously!”
“That’s because,” I remarked, “for people in their positions, it is not a good idea to question the ravings of a dangerous, powerful lunatic.”
“So,” she speculated, “they are just humoring a crazy man?”
“For any member of the Trump administration,” I acknowledged, “being able to do that effectively is just part of the job description.”
“And consequently,” she hopefully implored, “nothing will come of it?”
“Oh, now, we shouldn’t assume that,” I warned. “Trump will be visiting Denmark next month, and don’t be surprised if he persists in his desire to acquire Greenland.”
“Greenland is not for sale!” she loudly proclaimed. “Being treated like second-class citizens by the Danes is bad enough! If the United States gets hold of us, we’ll end up worse than the Puerto Ricans!”
“Probably,” I conceded. “It’s not as if you folks have anything like salsa music, arroz con gandules or a popular American narrative like West Side Story going for you.”
“We’d just be another oppressed minority!” she whined.
“Yes,” I concurred, “and it’s hard to say which you would be mistaken for more often – Hispanics or Asians. Tell me – are Greenlanders good at math?”
“What we are good at,” she threatened, balling up both fists, “is beating the stuffing out of foreigners who mistake us for Chinamen and Mexicans!”
“Would you prefer to be mistaken for Native Americans or Canadian First Nations, then?” I inquired.
“We will never consent,” she seethed, “to being placed on reservations, regardless of whether or not we are allowed to operate casinos on them!”
“Well, you know,” I reminded her, “back during World War I, Denmark sold the United States the Virgin Islands. Therefore, I’d recommend you Greenlanders get your ducks in a row with the Danish before Trump shows up in Copenhagen so you can present a united front if he starts trying to get his way by bullying and threats.”
“Bullying and threats?” she gasped.
“Like a spoiled little boy,” I told her, “those are Trump’s favorite tactics. Other than displaying fawning admiration for other bullies like Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un and Rodrigo Duterte, of course.”
“What kind of threats,” she fretted with a visible shudder, “can we expect?”
“He’s been very fond of tariffs lately,” I noted. “He could threaten to raise import duties on Carlsberg beer, Ingeborg’s chocolates, DAK canned hams and Legos…”
“Not Legos!” she shouted. “If Trump put a large enough tariff on Legos, the Danes might very well sell us down the river to the US!”
“Exactly my point,” I assured her. “I can see them now – the Folketing MP’s… Mette Frederiksen, the Prime Minister… Queen Margrethe… all saying, ‘På den ene side Grønland, på den anden side Legos… hmmm… hvad skal vi gøre?’ Which way do you think they…”
“You and I both know,” she loudly interrupted, “what they would decide! And I can’t let that happen! Sure, Greenland would technically be an independent nation if the Danes abandoned us, but how could fifty-seven thousand of us stand up to three hundred and fifty million Americans? How could a place like Greenland possibly stand up to Trump bullying us with tariffs and God knows what else? Tell me, please, what can we do to stop him?”
“Start a rumor,” I advised, “about the aroma of Greenland ladies’ nether parts.”
“What!” she screamed, jumping up once more from her chair and assuming a boxer’s stance. “Explain yourself, Tom Collins, before I punch your teeth down your throat!”
“Fortunately for you Greenlanders,” I calmly stated, “In addition to being a cowardly bully, a pathological liar, a condescending crypto-racist and an avaricious, dishonest crook, Donald Trump is also a sexual predator. Key to his motivation for buying Greenland is the fantasy that after the acquisition, he will visit there as the great white victorious hero and enjoy the pleasures of the flesh with some native women, whom he will personally select for the highest level of physical beauty and bust size. But if he hears that, due to the local diet of walrus, sea birds and pilot whale meat, the lady parts of Greenland women smell like five-year old Alaskan stink-fish, his desire to possess them… and Greenland… shall… in a manner of speaking… soften and wilt… as it were.”
At that, Dr. Ikiaqutit turned the loveliest shade of purple and began clenching and unclenching her fists, seething with rage. “Greenlanders don’t eat walruses, sea birds and pilot whales!”
“Don’t worry about that,” I advised. “Trump doesn’t know doodly-squat about what Greenlanders eat. If somebody told him they subsist on a diet of lichens, reindeer, bramble-berries and akvavit, he’d believe that, too. Just make sure the rumor says that due to regular consumption of some strange combination of weird Arctic foodstuffs, the lady parts of Greenlander women have an odor that would knock a polar bear off a Hudson Bay garbage dump.”
“But… but… that’s… that’s outrageously demeaning!” she barked.
“Maybe so,” I agreed, “but rest assured: it… will… definitely… work!”
Dr. Ikiaqutit just stood there, fuming, clenching and unclenching her fists, obviously torn between serious consideration of my recommendation and choking the living daylights out of me, for about three minutes.
“Okay,” she softly panted, “it would be like telling some creep who comes on to you in a bar, then follows you out into the parking lot and tries to rape you, that you have an incurable case of the clap. It’s disgusting to have to say it, but it’s going to soft-boil his hard-on for sure.”
“Absolutely,” I said. “Just like that.”
“Well,” she sighed as she slumped back into her chair, “I guess if that’s what we gotta do, then that’s what we gotta do. I’ll get started on the rumor-mongering right away. There’s certainly going to be no problem getting the Danes to believe it, that’s for sure.”
“A small price to pay,” I consoled, “for freedom from the clutches of Donald Trump.”
“And small,” she declared as she rose and made for the door, “is what rumor has it Donald Trump’s clutches are all about.”