Chinese op-ed critical of gun rights "literalism"

Chinese op-ed critical of gun rights "literalism"
AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

I don’t expect anyone in China to really understand the United States and our appreciation for our rights. All of our rights.

After all, they don’t have much in the way of actual freedom. They can do things the government either approves of or doesn’t care about, but that’s not real freedom. That’s compliance. Freedom means being able to do things the people in power don’t like but generally can’t stop you from doing.

Like owning a gun.

And I’ve talked about a number of op-eds in Chinese publications, all uniformly anti-gun.

This one is only different in its arguments.

It starts with this as a subtitle:

  • Much like al-Qaeda and Isis, and their textual literalism that has been tied to a certain reading of the Koran, so gun rights and the violence that inevitably accompanies them have been the results of America’s founding constitutional documents

That’s right, according to a ChiCom mouthpiece, we’re just like al Queda and ISIS.

Moving on, though, we get to a bizarre claim.

Large segments of the American population increasingly reject liberal democracy in the name of freedom. They are inevitably branded as the far right, right-wing extremists and such like. But one of the two dominant political parties now openly represents them. Whether you are critical or sympathetic, it’s worth making an effort to understand them, because they may well represent the future of the United States, or Disunited States, perhaps even the Disunion.

Uh…no one is rejecting what most would call “liberal democracy” per se. We’re not a democracy, but a Republic based on some democratic ideals, namely the free election of those who make our laws. Absolutely no one is openly rejecting such a thing.

Yet the Constitution enumerates certain rights because our Founding Fathers figured that if they didn’t explicitly state some rights cannot be infringed upon, some jackwagon down the road would try to do just that. Since people are still trying to do just that despite the founders’ efforts, I’d say that was a valid concern.

This is important, though, because it means rights cannot be simply voted away by a majority, which is something I wouldn’t expect someone living under a communist thumb to understand.

And yet, much of the text actually seemed supportive of gun rights. It notes that folks like us are the ones on stronger constitutional ground.

Moving on, though, we get to the part that led to that subtitle.

Some Western critics have argued that the terrorism of such extremist groups as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (Isis) group directly relates to the literalism which their ideology advocates in their interpretations of the Koran and the Islamic tradition. Literalism or perversion? I am no expert in such controversies.

But they do seem to provide a light on the blind spot of many American liberals, especially intellectuals, who fail to see literalism in interpreting their republic’s founding documents can also provide a basis for domestic extremist ideologies and their related violence, including terrorism.

Jews, Muslims and Christians are People of the Book. That’s also why literalism and extremism have gone hand in hand in their history. Similarly, the American republic was founded on written texts, which are treated as politically sacred, if spiritually secular; and we should not deny or ignore the same deathly phenomenon that is happening in its contemporary society.

The distance between the textually faithful and the extremist may be much less than you think.

Now, the author seems to be using “liberal” to describe American gun rights supporters–which may arguably be a more correct usage, since the root of “liberal” is the same as “liberty”–but the point remains, that somehow adopting a literal reading of the Constitution breeds some degree of extremism.

The difference, however, is that the Constitution is devoid of allegory. It’s devoid of homilies and metaphors. As noted, it’s not a religious text at all. It’s an instruction manual as to how our government should be formed, what powers go to which body, and what those powers can and cannot be used to do.

To argue that literalism is a problem here is akin to griping because the instructions on your Ikea bookshelf are meant to be taken literally as well.

I could delve into the problems with interpretation, but I doubt anyone reading this will be unfamiliar with them. Suffice it to say that a Chinese journalist working for a communist party-run publication wouldn’t see them as bugs but as features.

Luckily, this is someone who doesn’t even get a vote in American elections, so he has even less say in the matter than our homegrown idiots.