After its second consecutive display of judicial activism on the matter, the Supreme Court has reiterated that individual’s have a Constitutional Right to bear arms. In popular lore – as accepted by the Court’s conservative majority – individuals have a right to protect themselves against an oppressive government. As I have written before, deep in the American historical consciousness, there is this romantic notion of the Founding Fathers as revolutionaries. If in fact that is the basis on which the Second Amendment stands, then under today’s standard wouldn’t our “revolutionaries” who were insurgents and fought by guerrilla warfare, be considered today analogous to terrorists? And how different is a Jihadist than an insurgent whose reason for fighting is to defend one’s nation?
(As an aside, the term “jihad”, roughly meaning “struggle”, outside of the spiritual context was historically used to refer to an obligation to defend one’s nation against foreign attack. In modern Arabic, the term is also a common first name amongst Arab Christians).
Isn’t there something incredibly Jihadist in the psyche of the American who truly believes that the Second Amendment grants an individual the right to armed insurgency? The whole idea of “Second Amendment Remedies” is a fairly standard Republican talking point spewed from the likes of Newt Gingrich to Sharron Angle. According to Ms. Angle,
You know, our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. And in fact Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I’ll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.
As is usually the case, though, we don’t always appreciate that each of our American values be spread around the world. Also times change. For example, contrary to British protests, our closest allies, the Israelis, unashamedly commemorate the Israeli terrorist bombing that killed British and Arab citizens in 1946. And even though idealist American writers such as Hemingway and Langston Hughes, took up arms against the Franco regime during the Spanish Civil War, under the current political climate, fighting an oppressive regime is tantamount to an act of terrorism against the U.S., even when the U.S. is not a party to that conflict (as is the case of Somali Americans traveling to take up arms in Somalia). During the war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, then Senators Dole and Lieberman had proposed a bill to lift the arms embargo, so as to give the Bosnians a fair chance. Can you imagine our Second Amendment guardians in favor of exporting an American style right to bear arms to the Afghanis, Iraqis or even the Palestinians?
So for all those who believe in this radical Jihadist reading of the Second Amendment as a fundamental pillar of American democracy, should the U.S. be pushing a similar right to bear arms when promoting democracy around the world?