I was in the Arctic Circle, in Greenland, for some R&R and to learn about polar explorations. Having fallen in love with a pair of child's sealskin slippers, I was poised to buy them.
"You are from the United States, no?" the woman behind the counter asked in her nicest tour-guide voice. "It is one country you cannot bring in the skin of the seal."
Seeing my confused look, she explained, "It is, how you say, a populist law, only made in U.S." She paused to make sure there was no offense. "It is not fair law. We use every part of the seal and throw nothing away."
I remembered seeing foot-long strips of seal meat drying as they hung from porches on tiny colorful family homes for Greenlandic winter consumption and for their husky sled dogs laying around lazily in the summer sun. I recalled the stench wafting from the seal tanning factories on the harbors of tiny settlements, where warm outerwear was produced. It left me with little appetite.
"It is the baby seals that the U.S. tries to protect," said a fellow tourist, a Dane, chiming in on the conversation. I immediately remembered learning about the baby seals in a PBS documentary.
The tour guide responded gently with a question: "But in America you can take the knife to the Inuit not born, no?" As she caressed her midriff behind the kiosk, I saw that she was pregnant.
Inuit. At a lecture I attended about and by Arctic people, I learned that Inuit is another word for human being. I wondered if Greenland is like other European countries, struggling to maintain replacement levels of population. One tiny settlement of 150 that we visited boasted that they had 27 elementary children, whom they claimed as a cherished resource.
Her obvious reference to abortion rights left me dumbfounded. …