Thursday, November 5, 2009

"...cast vicariously as both victim and villain... "

    Remember, remember the fifth of November,
    The gunpowder treason and plot,
    I know of no reason
    Why the gunpowder treason
    Should ever be forgot.

Today, of course, is the Night of Bonfires in Britain.

Maybe those in the UK understand it more, but I think that most Americans have culled their knowledge of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot from the comic and later movie "V for Vendetta". It strikes me that for most people, at least outside of the UK and Ireland, the ongoing battle between Protestants and Catholics doesn't get much spin time in the front part of the mind.

The reason Guy Fawkes day is so romanticized, I suspect, is the same as for Bastille Day in France and the commemoration of the Boston Tea Party (and, of course, Independence Day) in the states: the religious connotation is secondary--if even that--to the idea of throwing off ones oppressors, aggregating as a people and sticking it to the overlords. It's the reason people show up to Presidential town hall meetings with Colt .45s strapped to their legs, why hordes of anonymous protesters can coordinate via the internet with no clear leadership structure and show up en masse to call attention to some perceived (or real) injustice, and, in a more groupthink but subtle manner, the reason why every other (or third) election cycle brings in the opposition party--we're sick of "their" shit and want to give the underdogs a chance (we tend to forget that once someone is elected, they automatically and without exception become "them").

So, even though it has nothing to do with my country, per se, and that I couldn't possibly be any more against justifying violence in the name of religion, tonight I will raise a glass of some kind of viscous alcoholic beverage in salute to our friends across the Atlantic, and to those across the globe and within our borders who continually remind us that an unchecked government is a corrupt government.

Here's to the Night of Bonfires.


Cate Gardner said...

Fireworks, bonfires, and toffee apples... Oh my!

Aaron Polson said...

Power to the people. One class is starting Macbeth today...a perfect chance to talk about the Gunpowder Plot (Shakespeare wrote the play directly after the failed attempt).

katey said...

Well said! I like the idea of Guy Fawkes, and how ambiguous a figure he is. The only thing certain is that it is, like you say, a reminder of what's important. I'll drink to that!

(I mean, John Hancock was a pirate and smuggler, effectively. We can get it.)