Monday, 5 November 2012

Blowing up parliament, occupying the White House

407 years ago today, Guy Fawkes was arrested as he prepared to blow up the British Parliament during its official opening by the King.

The flower of the Kingdom would have been wiped out, if by ‘flower’ we understand a bunch of characters who owed their position to (a) descent from characters who had proved themselves quite good at killing other people and not being killed themselves, (b) had made sure they’d curried favour with a fairly unpleasant king, or (c) had made a lot of money from something holy like helping convert heathens by forcibly transporting them to lives of slavery in the New World.

Fortunately, Fawkes was stopped and London was saved from a major act of terrorism. He was also tortured and eventually burned, giving rise to the gentle tradition by which in Britain we all, and especially families with young children, foregather every 5 November to watch a bonfire blaze with a ‘guy’ – a human effigy of Fawkes – on top, all enriched by a glorious firework display.

‘Remember, remember, the fifth of november,’ we like to say, ‘gunpowder, treason and plot.’

Well, today the wheel has turned. The face of Guy Fawkes, or a face purporting to represent him, has become the symbol of the ‘Occupy’ movement, today’s challengers of the wastrels who inherited the privileges of James I’s courtiers and with it the power to dictate and undermine all our destinies.
Guy relives

Besides, this year the fifth of November falls on the eve of the US elections. An election in which one of the more egregious representatives of privilege and power unconstrained by morality (a man who likes to be able to fire the people who serve him) is trying to seize the White House from an incumbent who, for all his failings, has at least attempted to do something to lighten the burden that privilege lays on the most vulnerable.

A more interesting Guy Fawkes night than many, then.

‘Remember, remember,’ I’m inclined to say to my American cousins, ‘the sixth of November: a good day to help stop the rot.’

Postscript: The 5th is also the member of one of my charming daughters-out-law. Happy birthday Nicola, and still more success in the coming year with your great purses, cushion covers and other pieces of great embroidery at Cover Stories.

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