At first glance the comments Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson defended in his recently published book A More Perfect Union – that the Jews could’ve prevented the Holocaust if only they had guns – is just another bizarre, generically offensive statement that we have come to expect from these Republican presidential candidates.
It’s the sort of thing that produces short bursts of public outrage and makes for very easy satire. In the wake of his comments about the mass shooting at a college in Oregon earlier this month – that he, unlike the victims, wouldn’t just “stand there” and “let” himself be shot – it seems we should hardly be surprised.
Despite the absurdity, we mustn’t forget how dangerous this thinking actually is. It is important to remember that Carson is a Neurosurgeon, a Yale graduate, and apparently a very intelligent and influential man. It is easy to simply write off his comments as typical of ‘crazy’ Republican philosophy. Doing so however, would ignore that they also display a serious insight into antisemitism and Republican gun policy that extends beyond Carson himself.
What some people don’t realise is that this particular interpretation of the Holocaust plays into a long-lived myth in the US that the Jews somehow failed to resist the systematic mass murder committed by the Nazi State. While it is not worth going into much detail to dismantle this obviously broken logic, it is worth pointing out that not only is it completely historically inaccurate to say that there could have potentially been a self-armed Jewish overthrow of the Nazi Regime, but it is extremely offensive to imply that it was gun control – not ignorance, antisemitism, bigotry or hate – that murdered these six million innocent people.
Besides the antisemitism, Carson’s abuse of the Holocaust as a metaphor for liberty verses tyranny marks an attempt to conflate the concept of ‘liberty’ with ‘guns’ – promoting himself as defender of both. His logic, that Americans need guns to protect themselves against each other and their government, is a common Republican ideology and relies entirely on the construction of false history. His defence of the Second Amendment as a precaution against tyranny makes just as much sense in the twenty-first century as his comments about the Holocaust do. It is no secret that the American military today possesses extraordinary destructive power. Unless the US federal government is willing to supply all citizens with nuclear warheads, Carson’s reasoning is obsolete and can no more be applied to the United States than it can to Nazi Germany.
Following the recent mass shooting in Oregon, Carson is one of many pushing for more guns in schools as a method of protection. With an estimated 300 million guns already in the US and an average number of more than one mass shooting a day so far this year – it is almost sinister that Carson continues to use his platform to advocate yet more guns – especially when he does so at the expense of Holocaust victims and dead schoolchildren.
Ben Carson doesn’t have to become the next President in order for his words to be both important and damaging. Aside from being offensive, the desperate inaccuracy of his statement makes it more and more obvious that America’s pro-gun agenda has unanimously and silently decided that an occasional classroom of dead children is a price they’re willing to pay for their cause.
Oregon was the 994th mass shooting in the US since November 2012. A statement made by Carson in a Facebook Q&A four days later stated that he “never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking away the right to bear arms.” It seems that this twisted and inexplicably popular opinion is here to stay.