Guns to Protect us from Sharia
Silly things members of Congress say (plus musings on authoritarianism).
Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX): “We’ve got some people who think Sharia Law should be the law of the land, forget the Constitution. But the guns are there… to make sure all of the rest of the Amendments are followed” (source).
Even if we set aside the formulation that an armed population is a Sharia-less population, these kinds of statements frustrate me for one simple reason: the basic premise is flawed beyond all measure. Such assertions start from the premise that it is possible that some miniscule minority could somehow have the power to nearly take over segments of the government against near unanimity and that the only way to stop them would be via an armed insurrection.
Call me crazy, but I am pretty sure that we can block any attempt whatsoever to impose Sharia law (or any other bogeyman one can conjure) via application of the rights in the First Amendment combined with, you know, not voting for people who want to impose Sharia law on all of us (or whatever else may be the case).
Indeed, the ability of a miniscule minority to impose an utterly foreign ideology on a population is extremely hard to do. As I have attempted to explain before in similar posts, authoritarian governments require some substantial amount of popular support to be successful. This is not to say they have to have majority support, but they do need support of key sectors (e.g., portions of the military, the wealthy, the clerical class, labor, etc.). There is no historical example where some tiny, scary segment of the population just takes over everything—especially not in the context of healthy, functioning political order.*
As such, all of these bizarre fantasies about armed patriots repelling some surprise tyranny are utter nonsense.**
As a side note for consideration, I would note that if one looks at the actions of government in the United State that have authoritarian elements, they have substantial public support (often a super-majority). Moreover, that support comes often from the types of patriots that Gohmert thinks will protect us from Sharia. For example: the immigration laws in Arizona and Alabama, as originally written, allowed police to ask for residency papers and to retain persons based not on crimes committed, but most for being, if I may deploy some colloquial language: being kinda of foreigny.*** Indeed, support for a variety of policies over the last decade-plus, including the arrest and detention of American citizens without trial (for example), warrantless wiretaps, “enhanced interrogations,” the usage of drones against America citizens suspected of being terrorists,**** and so forth have been sufficiently high to allow to take place (not to mention the way we treat prisoners). These are all more serious threats to civil liberties, and therefore to the foundations of democratic government, than is some phantom Sharia law imposition. Even things that we gripe about, but perhaps do not “support” (such as the way TSA agents treat us at airports) are more of a material threat to our liberties than is Sharia law.
*And regardless of whatever one might like to say about political dysfunction in Washington, DC at the moment, the US remains a functional, institutionalized, and developed country.
Also, repeat after me: Weimer Germany was not a functional, institutionalized, and developed country (let alone a healthy democracy—elections alone do not a healthy democracy make). And, for that matter, the presence of pro-Nazi sentiment in Weimar Germany was rather substantially higher than support for Sharia law in the US—waaaaay higher.
- Alabama Police Arrest Mercedes Executive for not Having Proper ID
- Alabama Arrests Another Foreign Auto Executive
- More Effects of Alabama’s Immigration Law
- The Extremeness of Immigration Politics in Alabama
And before someone says it: I am not saying that enforcing immigration laws means equates to being authoritarian. I am saying that passing laws that empower state functionaries (e.g, police, school officials) to start harassing persons for reasons unconnected to evidence of illegality (in this case mostly skin color, accents, or spelling of last names).
****From the linked story: “In that same poll, respondents were asked whether they supported using drones to target American citizens who are suspected terrorists, the question that stands at the heart of the recent flare-up in Congress over the practice. Two thirds of people in the survey said they approved of doing so.”