Why does Governor Kristi Noem want Senator John Wiik (R-4/Big Stone City) to lead the South Dakota Republican Party? It’s not for Wiik’s profound rhetorical skills.
Over the Thanksgiving break, Wiik tweeted “shall not be infringed” in response to President Joe Biden’s statement that “The idea we still allow semi-automatic weapons to be purchased is sick.” Author Doug Murano took the good Senator up on his Second Amendment literalism:
Molon Labe? I actually hadn’t heard that line before. I had to go Googling to find that Wiik is invoking a favorite Greek line of gun nuts and anti-government extremists. It’s Greek, meaning “Come take”—as in, come and take my weapons. Plutarch attributed the phrase to Spartan King Leonidas in response to invading Persian King Xerxes’s demand that the Spartans put down their weapons and surrender. And in multiple ways, it’s a dumb response to critiques of the Second Amendment.
First, note that neither Murano nor President Biden is saying, “Let’s take away Senator Wiik’s guns.” President Biden has consistently called for outlawing the sale and manufacture but not the confiscation of assault weapons. (If Wiik were really concerned about absolute protection of Constitutional rights, he’d be going ballistic over Donald Trump’s call for terminating every constitutional right, but Wiik has made no public statement on that genuine Constitutional menace.)
Second, note that when Murano, who appears to make a better living working with words than Wiik does, turns Wiik’s literalism against him by pointing out that the Founders’ 18th-century language wouldn’t have encompassed machine guns, Wiik drops his point and runs in another direction. When Murano pierces Wiik’s superficial prooftexting, Wiik resorts to what amounts to non-sequiturial chest-thumping, daring his winning interlocutor to an action that no one on the interlocutor’s side has any intention of taking, thus allowing Wiik to fantasize that his feckless bravado has warded off tyranny.
Third, as I have noted numerous times in blog discussions of the obsolescence of the Second Amendment, guns won’t ward off 21st-century tyrants. Modern tyrants will just erase Senator Wiik’s credit scores and bank accounts, then use his phone GPS to catch detain, or maybe just execute him via drone when he’s alone on Highway 12.
Fourth, my point about the fecklessness of the Second Amendment in 21st-century America is supported by Wiik’s invocation of fifth-century-B.C. Greece. When Leonidas (king of the least free state in ancient Greece) apocryphally shouted, “Molon labe!” Xerxes apocryphally shrugged and said, “O.K., can do” and did. Xerxes annihilated the Spartans and conquered all of Greece, making people who cry “Molon labe!” sound kind of dumb:
Leonidas’ disastrous defeat at Thermopylae in 480 B.C. was a speed bump under the wheels of the Persian war machine. After taking the Spartans’ weapons, Xerxes went on to burn Athens. The battle was an utter disaster for Greece, spun into a propaganda victory, most likely in an effort to keep a completely demoralized Greek coalition from surrendering to a triumphant Persia. Leonidas’ defiance is, in truth, a loser’s cry. No one reading Herodotus’ brutal description of the utter annihilation of the Spartans at Xerxes’ hands can think Molon Labe is a winning slogan for those seeking to warn the government off trying to disarm the populace [Myke Cole, “Come! Take!” Slate, 2021.09.07].