Tomorrow is the 5th of November. On 5 November 1605, a religious terrorist named Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the English Parliament – which was a little too Protestant for his liking, being an extremist Catholic.
Years later, two idiots named Alan Moore and David Lloyd thought it would be swell for their “hero” character in the graphic novel/comic book series V For Vendetta to wear a mask bearing the likeness of Guy Fawkes. In the words of David Lloyd: “Why don’t we portray him as a resurrected Guy Fawkes, complete with one of those papier-mâché masks, in a cape and a conical hat? He’d look really bizarre and it would give Guy Fawkes the image he’s deserved all these years. We shouldn’t burn the chap every Nov. 5th but celebrate his attempt to blow up Parliament!”
Well, I can think of two reasons: 1) Guy Fawkes was a religious terrorist; and 2) Blowing up Parliament would kill a lot of innocent people.
But hey, no matter. The comic books were a hit, they made a movie and it had Natalie Portman in it and everything…and it’s just a story, right?
In 2009, British protesters dressed up in the mask and “exploded a barrel of fake gunpowder” in front of the UK’s Parliament, to protest, of all things, the use of MP expense accounts. Oddly, this was not considered an implicit threat on the lives of 650 sitting MPs. Ha ha ha, those darn protesters!
After the Occupy movement started in 2011, however, the Fawkes mask was a meme on steroids. Now every demonstration had to have them. Never mind who Guy Fawkes was and how it is generally bad to blow up a Parliament full of human beings. Don’t be such a square, it’s now hip to be purposively ignorant of history! It’s more important to hate government than it is to care for what happens to anyone!
We have modern day Guy Fawkes characters, of course. Guy Fawkes and Osama bin Laden had the same perceptions of the importance of religious orthodoxy and the lack of worth of the lives of those who did not share it with them. Guy Fawkes and Timothy McVeigh or Anders Behring Breivik would have been on the same page as far as being willing to obliterate people just for having walked into a government building that day.
Anyway, I plan to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day tomorrow, but in an unconventional way. I consider it the day, every year, when we should celebrate by rejecting anti-government extremism as the extremism it is. We should reject it when it appears on the so-called “Left” as an endorsement of heedless violence against the make-believe enemy called “the state”, and when it appears on the so-called “Right” as a defense of sacrificing welfare protections people need to minimally get by so that some rich person can get a third car.
In my celebration, the pennies are not raised to “burn the Guy”, because that’s playing his game. In my celebration, pennies would be raised to defeat the Guy by making government accountable instead of allowing people like him to attack it.
Penny for the Guy? This year, let’s get the celebration right.