fb-pixel Skip to main content
Opinion | Michael A. Cohen

Greenland — to buy or not to buy

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen of Denmark
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen of DenmarkAFP/GETTY IMAGES

A week and a half ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that President Trump has privately floated to close aides the idea of buying the island of Greenland from Denmark.

The news was met, understandably, with near universal ridicule. There is no “for sale” sign on the front lawn of Greenland — and the era of territorial acquisition has long since passed.

When reached for comment, the understandably bewildered Danish prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, noted that Greenland is not on the market. She called the idea “absurd.” Apparently because she is blissfully unaware of the day-to-day preposterousness of America, circa 2019, she said, “I strongly hope that this is not meant seriously.”


How adorable!

Little did the prime minister know that what should have been a one- or two-day story about the president’s most recent flight of fancy would take on a life of its own. Buying Greenland is quickly becoming a cause celebre for the president and his band of Republican enablers intent on legitimizing Trump’s delusional rantings.

Indeed, it took only five days for the Greenland story to go from presidential musing to upending US-Danish relations. Trump announced on Twitter (of course) that he is “postponing” a long-planned trip to Denmark, scheduled for early September, because of Frederiksen’s rejection of his Greenland entreaties.

According to the president, it wasn’t that Frederiksen said no to the ridiculous idea that she should sell part of her territory to the United States, it’s that she termed it “absurd,” which our always even-tempered and gracious president called “nasty” and “inappropriate.”

Then the real fun started.

By Thursday the National Republican Campaign Committee was selling T-shirts picturing a map of the United States, emblazoned with a US flag and including, in the upper right corner, Greenland. (Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, the latter a US territory actually purchased from Denmark, were left off).


“Support President Trump and his efforts to help America grow!” said the committee, which pledged to send the shirt to those who donated $25 or more.

In Nevada, the local Republican Party gave its supporters the opportunity to display their cultish support for the president by offering shirts that read “Greenland! This land is your land, this land is our land.”

In a move surely intended to impress Trump supporters, Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, publicly took credit for the idea by claiming he first mentioned it to the president. Greenland’s “economic potential is untold” and the island is “vital to our national security,” said Cotton, who also claimed that “anyone who can’t see that is blinded by Trump derangement.”

In related news, Cotton thinks the emperor’s clothes are the finest in the land and anyone who cannot see them is blinded by hatred for the emperor.

I think we all know where this is headed — a new Cold War with Denmark.

We’re probably only weeks away from leaks to major news outlets that plans are being drawn up in the Pentagon to invade and occupy Greenland.

Republicans will propose renaming breakfast Danish “Freedom pastries.”

Public burnings in red state metropolises of Hans Christian Andersen books will come close behind. Videos will proliferate on YouTube of Trump supporters pouring out bottles of Carlsberg and Tuborg as Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” blares in the background.


Blue states will organize film festivals featuring the movies of Lars von Trier, Viggo Mortensen, and that guy who played a Bond villain and had a bleeding eye (he’s Danish!). Ordering Havarti cheese in a restaurant or wearing clogs will be seen as public acts of resistance. Sales of mid-century modern furniture will skyrocket.

I know this all seems farcical, but ask yourself: How confident are you that the rallying cry from the president’s reelection bid won’t be “Greenland Will Be the 51st State, and Denmark Will Pay For It!”

In an era when Republicans will rationalize and excuse any presidential outrage — no matter how offensive or insane — making the purchase of Greenland the centerpiece of American foreign policy seems not likely, but inevitable.

So stock up on those Legos now — winter is coming.

Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.