Molon Labe, the Code of Those Born Fighting

| January 30, 2013

If you are a reader of comments here at American Thinker then you have probably noticed an increasing use of the term molon labe. For those of you unfamiliar with the term and too busy (or too lazy) to look it up, I’ve done it for you. It is a Greek expression first attributed to King Leonidas of Sparta when the Persian invader Xerxes I, prior to the Battle of Thermopylae, demanded that the Spartans lay down their arms and submit to him. Its essential meaning was, “Up yours, pal: come do your worst.” In so many words, it is the Greek equivalent of the response of Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe* of the 101st Airborne Division, who when surrounded at Bastogne, Belgium during WWII, reportedly said, “Nuts!” to a German demand for surrender. Screaming Eagle lore has it that the defiant general’s actual response to the German general was in language unreportable in those more discreet days, “Eff you, Kraut!” Whatever, the unflinching meaning of both statements is abundantly clear:

“Come on, hoss; take your best shot.”

According to multiple web sources, molon labe now translates to an unwavering, “Come and take it,” as in Charleton Heston’s defiant challenge at the 2000 NRA convention, “From my cold dead hands.” Considering that the expression, in one form or another, has been quite forcefully and purposefully addressed to would-be tyrants by very strong and admirable men, from Leonidas to Heston, many of us find a sense of oneness with men of such resolve, embracing their defiance and applying it to our own determination to defend our constitutional right to keep and bear protective weaponry free from federal constraints.

As James Webb has documented in his seminal work, Born Fighting, How the Scots-Irish Shaped America, we Americans out here in fly-over country are not a people ever to be persuaded to surrender our arms. As descendants of those highlanders and frontier mountain settlers who kept weapons close to hand to ensure their survival, America’s largest ethnic group feels a deep ancestral imperative to do the same. No wannabee elitist, utopian pol attempting a socialist Sherman’s March through our national heritage is ever going to change that attitude in these millions of Americans. Many citizens of fly-over America may have no clue as to the meaning of the term molon labe, but the essence of the concept is inherently embodied, and embraced in every fiber of their beings. Dismissed by the liberal coastal elites as bitter clingers to their God and their guns, they are in fact that huge segment of America, both comfortable with and accustomed to, the everyday presence of firearms in their homes and their hands, and most importantly, confident in their ability to use them when threatened by criminals or tyrants. Tens of millions of contemporary Americans are descended from those Scots-Irish highlanders and Appalachian frontiersmen, a people renowned as born fighting. Molon labe may be Greek in its origins but it is thoroughly Scots-Irish in its present-day application.

Molon labe, Mr. President.

*General McAuliffe was himself of the Irish Clan McAuliffe

Crossposted at American Thinker

Category: Guns

Comments (22)

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  1. OWB says:

    Hear, hear!

    Might I add that taxing them, by any name, is also not an alternative?

  2. PintoNag says:

    Very nice, Poetrooper. Well said.

  3. 68W58 says:

    It never bothers me when I am called a “hillbilly”. Hillbillies have little to be ashamed of, we owned few slaves (compared to the lowland areas of the South) and profited less from the slavery based economy than many of the northern states. For that matter, much of the mountain South supported the Union during the war and raised units to fight for the Blue.

    Mainly, hillbillies were subsistence farmers who minded their own business and that value persists to this day. We cherish our independence and have always done our share (or more) in defense of our nation. To the extent that we have been less “well educated” than the rest of the nation, we have also not been corrupted by the latest fad to emerge from the “French” (or what have you) school and have held to many of the values that shaped early America (I realize that to the left this is not considered a virtue).

    It perplexes me how Webb can remain a Democrat given how so much of what that party stands for flies in the face of what Poetrooper is talking about here. I won’t say that the Republicans are anything more than slightly less horrible than the Dems, but given the Donks open disdain for so much of what Appalachian culture stands for, Webb’s position seems untenable.

  4. David says:

    Webb was a Republican for some time and served under Reagan as Secretary of the Navy – he laid down some unpopular policies like “fat Reservists need to lose weight and pass PT tests” and that David Robinson needed to actually serve his time after attending Annapolis instead of going straight to the NBA. He changed parties mainly out of disagreement with GWB’s policies, especially at home. Considering how invasive and anti-Constitutional some of them were, that is not beyond understanding. Since he decided not to run for re-election, I’m not sure which party he does or does not claim to represent, but his views do not seem to align with the current People’s Democratic Party.

  5. B Woodman says:

    I read this at AT this AM before work and it gave me a chill. I’d forgotten about my Scottish ancestry (Duncan clan), and was wondering where all this pent up and barely suppressed anger over today’s politics came from.
    Thanks for the wake-up call.

  6. Just Plain Jason says:

    Although the Battle of Gonzales wasn’t a whole lot the symbology of it is quite resounding. I have seen more and more images of the Gonzales flag flying around also. Much like what “Battling Drunk” Joe Biden said, “we cant enforce the laws…” I think they just intend on declaring it illegal and seeing what happens, but I think they are overreaching on this one. All the useful idiots at DU keep talking about starting a civil war over this…do they think it is worth a civil war? Some people do, if one group refuses to submit then maybe they have pushed a little too far.

  7. Ex-PH2 says:

    “Molon Labe” in Latin: “Futue Te Ipsum”

  8. James says:

    I think I heard somewhere that a couple of field grade german officers came back and asked for a clarification of “nuts”. The american officer at the check point is said to have replied “It means we are going to kill every m*ther f*cking german trying to enter this town”. The germans said THAT was understood and left.

  9. Common Sense says:

    “Make my day”
    “Get off my lawn”
    “Get off my spread” (John Wayne in Cowboys)

    The sentiment has been expressed by free people for generations.

    I’m very worried about all this. Marco Rubio has expressed support for universal background checks, i.e. a national database at the Federal level, which is unConstitutional, but I don’t feel as if we have many in Congress who stand by the Constitution these days. Maybe only Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz.

  10. Poetrooper says:

    @8 James: When I joined the 101st in 1959, just fourteen years had elapsed since the Battle of Bastogne and there were still veterans of the battle serving in the division, most as senior NCO’s with a few being senior officers. The conventional wisdom, supported by those veterans, was that McAuliffe said F*ck You! The reason that it was reported as “Nuts!” was due to the fact the press and radio wouldn’t go near that kind of language back in those days. Even the first novels coming out of that war substituted the term Frick for F*ck in G.I. conversation.

    I also recall hearing back then that the Army and the general officers’ corps perpetuated the “Nuts!” response because they thought it was unseemly of McAuliffe to use the crude language of enlisted soldiers when responding to a fellow officer and gentleman, even if he was a German. We must keep in mind that it was a far different time then and social discourse had not coarsened to the point it now has.

  11. Hondo says:

    The press indeed reported differently in those days, Poetrooper.

    In March 1945, lead elements of Patton’s 3rd Army crossed the Rhine River using a bridge they’d hastily erected a day before Montgomery’s forces crossed at Remagen. The 3rd Army crossing was south (upstream) of Remagen.

    When Patton crossed the Rhine River the following day, he was told that Montgomery’s forces were at the time crossing the Rhine downstream of 3rd Army. News accounts said that Patton stopped on the bridge and “spit” into the Rhine on hearing that Montgomery’s forces were crossing downstream.

    In reality, Patton did add a bit of liquid to the Rhine while crossing to “honor” his rival Montgomery’s crossing. But it wasn’t spit. (smile)

  12. MAJMike says:

    My understanding was that McAuliffe, after reading the German demand for surrender, said, “Aww, piss on ’em!” One of his aides said, “Sir, we’ve got the Press here with us, they can’t print that.” McAuliffe replies, “Nuts!” Another aide suggests, “Hey, sir, how about using that?” McAuliffe then okays the “Nuts” response and the rest is history.

    Seeing as McAuliffe was the 101st Artillery Commander, his first response seems to be much more authentic than the historica one. You can dress those cannoneers up and send them to charm school, but the basic artilleryman always wins out.

  13. MAJMike says:

    OH, yeah, I’m a Scot as well. My clan motto is “Vincer vel Mori!”– “To conquer or die!”

    Or as we say in Texas, “Come get some!”

  14. Anonymous says:

    When I was in the 101st the general consenses was that “nuts” was preceded by “lick my”.

  15. Twist says:

    #15 was me, bad spelling and all.

  16. Old Trooper says:

    I’m Prussian/German; does that count as being a born fighter?

  17. cannoncocker says:

    @MAJMike #12

    Damn straight!

  18. Virtual Insanity says:

    #15 Twist–as I understood it when assigned there, also.

  19. OldSoldier54 says:

    Truly, some days it looks like he really is trying to provoke some kind of large scale civil strife.

  20. Detn8r says:

    Scots/Irish here, born and raised in WV, and no I did not marry my sister! Molone Labe seems to be comming out of a lot of mouths around here, mine included (loudly), and the consensus is that a thousand laws can be passed, we will just ignore them, we’re pretty good at that(think Corn Liquor) and yes, we will fight to maintain the Constitution and I mean literally. there are too many West Virginia veterans with fight left in them to continue putting up with the SHIT this administration and the left is piling on us. Joe Manchin is among the problem idiot elite and has to go as soon as possible.

    Like #5, I could not put a finger on why I am SOO angry about the situation we are being put in. Then I remebered my blood origin.

    @17, Yes it does.

  21. Rik says:

    @20 – You’re right. This is an undeniably confrontational administration, dismissive of and overtly hostile to anyone who might maintain some notion of individual responsibility. The “bitterly clinging to their guns and bibles” comment out in San Fran wasn’t just political posturing – it was a sincere expression of the president’s disdain for us.

    The Revolution has been in full swing for 5 years now.