I have always disliked this time of year, particularly November 5th as I have a confession to make, with the exception of the fireworks I saw at Disneyworld – I hate fireworks. I hate them even more as a dog owner. But my personal feelings aside there is a great modern message to be learnt from our long tradition.
Of course there is a notion that Guy Fawlkes night is anti Catholic, well if we were to step back in time to the night in question, the eve before the opening of parliament that would have seen most of the aristocratic and royal family blown to smithereens if the plot had been successful, that makes it an anti terrorism and anti fundamentalist message in my book.
It is true that later on in the reign of Charles II when religion and politics were closely intertwined and the people and the politicians feared the succession of Catholic James II, the anti catholic angle was manipulated and used by fractions fighting to promote Charles illegitimate son, the Protestant Duke of Monmouth as an alternative heir to the Catholic James II. November was also the anniversary of when Elizabeth I ascended the throne, she was of course the good sister that turned England Anglican after the reign the catholic reign of her sister Bloody Mary feelings were manipulated and used for propaganda. In processions through London the Guy would often be replaced by the Pope. That was then, this is now, we live in a secular multi faith society, many know of the story of Guy Fawkes but do they know or care about his religious fundamentalism?
By burning a Guy we are burning an effigy of a terrorist, just as we see effigies of leaders and flags burned in less open societies on the news- it is a way of speaking out in less democratic societies than our own. However it always grieves me that this violent form of freedom of speech is very desperate act and nearly always followed by violence in other parts of the world, we are luck we are celebrating.
So as much as I dislike this time of year there is a part of me who is proud of this tradition for it is a message to all fundamentalist and terrorists intending harm – we do not tolerate you in our society you may want to use violence to get your way or harm our spirit, but ultimately you will not win. So is Guy Fawkes Night anti catholic, no its anti fundamentalist and terrorist and should be celebrated by all.
Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason, why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, guy, t’was his intent
To blow up king and parliament.
Three score barrels were laid below
To prove old England’s overthrow.
By God’s mercy he was catch’d
With a darkened lantern and burning match.
So, holler boys, holler boys, Let the bells ring.
Holler boys, holler boys, God save the king.
And what shall we do with him?