viggo, iggy and me
We are a nation of immigrants, and we have made great strides toward inclusion, but there is still work to be done. Sorry–I thought I was running for office. My point is that, for too long, one group of Americans has been ignored despite its contributions, either marginalized or ignored. I’m referring, of course, to Danish-Americans.
A million and a half Americans have Danish ancestry, which amounts to over one half of one percent of the entire population. That means if you find yourself in a room with two hundred people, at least one of them has Danish roots. But where are the Danish pride parades? Why is there no Danish history month? I’ll tell you why—danskaphobia.
I blame the Swedes. And the Norwegians. And to a small extent the Finns, but mostly the Swedes, with their Swedish…meatballs, and their stupid gigantic stores filled with reasonably-priced furniture. Well let me tell you—Danish people make furniture too, and they don’t force you to assemble it yourself! Ever heard of ‘Danish Modern’? Ever bought an end table? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
I live in Minnesota, where Scandinavian roots run deep. Yet even here, when most people hear the word ‘Danish,’ what do they think of? A pastry. Well, I am here to say that I am not a pastry—I am a Danish-American, and I think it is time for Danish-Americans to recognized and, yes—celebrated.
Eighty-nine thousand people in Minnesota can claim Danish ancestry, but are state offices closed on June 5th for Grundlovsdag? No! Why are there no parades to celebrate the Great Northern War of 1700-1721, during which Denmark regained control over parts of Schleswig and Holstein? It’s obvious—anti-Danish policies.
Try to imagine a world without Danes. And I don’t mean a world without Claire Danes, as horrifying as that would be. A Dane carved Mount freaking Rushmore, fer chrissake! You can thank Gutzon Borglum for that. Without Mount Rushmore, South Dakota would be known for the fact that Citibank bases its credit card division in Sioux Falls.
I could go on and on about Danish contributions to our daily lives. And I will. Ever thought to your self “I like cream in my coffee, and I wonder whom I should credit with patenting the first centrifugal cream separator?” That’d be a Dane. Football fan? How ‘bout the all-time leading scorer in NFL history, Morten Hedegaard Anderson. Twenty-five hundred and forty-four points, bitches. Ever listen to…music? Then you’ve probably listened through Jensen speakers—and yeah, Jensen was Danish. Wondered why Two and a Half Men is still on the air? You can thank Arthur Nielsen, creator of the Nielsen ratings. Wait, that’s not a good thing.
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “So Danish-Americans have done some interesting random things, but have they had any impact on politics?” I’m glad you asked. Janet Reno, first female attorney-general, ring a bell? What about Lloyd Bentsen, one of the most famous unsuccessful vice-presidential candidates in U.S. history? That’s right—Danish.
You want celebrities? You like heavy metal? Metallica’s founder, Lars Ulrich? Big ol’ Dane. Scarlett Johansson, Viggo Mortensen, Iggy Pop…if you’re looking for someone to crawl through broken glass onstage, or someone to play a Russian gangster onscreen, or someone to be…insanely attractive–you’re gonna want a Dane.
I’m guessing some of you use a Bluetooth for all those important business calls. Well, the first king of Denmark, the son of Gorm the Old, a guy named Harold Bluetooth! When you were in college, did you ever spend Spring Break in the Virgin Islands? Guess who sold the Virgin Islands to the U.S.—yep, that would be Denmark.
It’s important for Danes to hang on to our traditions. Traditional foods, like liver paste and beet sandwiches. Yum! When we raise a toast and say ‘Skol!,’ we need to remember that the word ‘skol’ comes from the Viking tradition of drinking from the skulls of our enemies. How cool is that?
As Danish-Americans, we have much to be proud of. We have two national anthems—obviously, everyone knows Der Er Yndigt Land, but there’s also the much more hummable King Christian Stood By Lofty Mast. And don’t forget—we’re in charge of Greenland. So, the next time you sit down to enjoy some rød grød med fløde in a Royal Copenhagen bowl, think of how much Danish-Americans have done for this country. We will be ignored no longer—Danish pride! Det er et lille land, men i det mindste, vi har universel sundhedspleje (We are a tiny country, but at least we have universal health care.)