By Dean Argiris
As Greeks we all know the story. My maternal papou was a proud Spartan and so the story of King Leonidas and his 300 personal guards was akin to a bedtime story for me.
It got to the point where I could recite the poem by Simonides by memory when I was 8 years old. “Go tell the Lacedaemonians, stranger passing by, that obedient to the laws, here we lie.”
It is a heroic tale, an epic tale, a romantic tale. Democracy threatened by a foreign power of insurmountable odds and a small handful of warriors who fought to the death to preserve their homeland.
The story is so engrained in our history that, while I was a part of the R.O.T.C. program we had to read the story of the 300 Spartans.
The story is also allegedly told to new recruits of the United States Marine Corps (according to a former Marine Corps. friend of mine). In many ways the spirit of the 300 Spartans has come to embody the American spirit as well.
Molon Labe bastardized
However, it also has been bastardized by the gun lobby. We all know Leonida’s defiant response to the Persian demand to turn over their weapons. “Molon Labe!” which translated to “Come and take them!”
It was kind of like Charlton Heston holding up a firearm and crying “from my cold dead hands!” But then again, not really.
Now Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA. 14), who is known for her outlandish QAnon Conspiracy Theories including the theory that school shooting survivor David Hogg is a George Soros funded crisis actor, has brandished a facemask that features those sacred words. In the immediate wake of the January 6th insurrection on Capitol Hill.
This is how both QAnon and the NRA have bastardized and therefore diminished “Molon Labe.” It’s become a cry of rebellion. Of insurrection. It has become a rallying call of utter defiance to anything they disagree with (which they equate to actions of tyranny).
Molon Labe’s real meaning
“Molon Labe” was about freedom from a foreign power and, if necessary, giving up your life to protect the sovereignty of your nation. It was a rallying cry of dedication to the laws of your land.
A cursory review of American history will show that the 2nd Amendment has never been interpreted in such a way as to allow carte blanch use of firearms. “Gun free zones” existed at the founding and even in the “wild west.”
This view of American history was even reaffirmed by a rather conservative Supreme Court in their D.C. v. Heller decision, which extended the right to possess a firearm outside of the “well regulated militia” clause of the 2nd Amendment.
To quote the late Justice Scalia, in that opinion. “Like most rights, the second amendment is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
It’s time for Molon Labe to return back to its proper use and stop being used as a banner for the willfully ignorant and those who are oppositional defiant of anything and everything that doesn’t mesh their own world view or personal opinions.
Dean Argiris has been a political operative and consultant for more than a decade. He has served as Regional Field Director in Southeastern Pennsylvania under President Obama’s “Organizing for America” and has consulted for campaigns ranging from U.S. Congressional races to municipal races.