Saturday, November 05, 2011

The Face of a Movement

I could have waited to post this next week, but since today is November 5th, it is appropriate to post today. This article in MSNBC brought this to my attention. The mask of Guy Fawkes, brought to recent fame with the graphic novel and eventual movie, V for Vandetta, has become the symbol of the Occupy movement. Anonymous, smirking, almost mocking those he (or she) is protesting against, this is the face of the Everyman. Whether fed up with the profits on Wall Street, or some other en vogue cause, all one has to do is don this mask and join the throng of the opposed.
But I wonder if this symbol would be so embraced if people actually knew its origins?

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I can think of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
So who is Guy Fawkes, other than a popular Halloween mask and political symbol? These entries on wikipedia (Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot ) are worth reading. The poem above, and the celebration of Guy Fawkes Night, are celebrated by anarchists, were used symbolically in V opposing fascism in Britain, and continue to inspire anti-government sentiment.

The poem sounds inspiring, but it continues:

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
You see, the poem wasn’t celebrating his treason, but was celebrating his getting caught. And it continues further:

A penny loaf to feed the Pope
A farthing o' cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down.
A fagot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar.
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head.
Then we'll say ol' Pope is dead.
Hip hip hoorah!
Hip hip hoorah hoorah!
Why did he do it? His treason was in response to discrimination by the British Monarchy towards Catholics. That’s right, this treason was over religious freedom. Even more ironic was that the Monarchy was a borderline theocracy led by King James, the commissioner of that version of the Bible bearing his name.

So I wonder if the Occupiers recognize Guy Fawkes as not only a symbol against the government, but as a symbol of religious freedom. Somehow I doubt it. At the opposite end of the political spectrum, I wonder if proponents of a "Christian America" recognize the irony. I doubt that too.

So as you burn your “guy” in effigy, launch a firecracker, or light a bonfire tonight to celebrate some new world order, remember that it was for religious freedom that this country was settled, for freedom from tyranny this country was founded, and opposition to theocracy that inspired the Gunpowder Plot. Remember, remember the 5th of November.

1 comment:

Glynn said...

I think the Anonymous people focus on the idea of blowing up Parliament -- a symbol for blowing up the old order. Based on the various arrests, there does seem to be a common theme among the people who have been part of the Anonymous -- broken families, single parents on welfare, young people fascinated with the idea of control, using the internet to strike back at -- what? I doubt anyone knows of the religious freedom connection.