I just posted my rendition of the famous rhyme on Facebook:
That 'V for Vendetta' (http://bit.ly/sVMFvG)
And the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 (http://bit.ly/tMvLa7)
Are radically different,
Before making assertions
About the 5th of November. (Okay, it's not as catchy as the original)” –Me, 2:02pm CDT, 11/5/2011
I just have a small problem with the modern treatment of this day. I understand the desire to have a powerful symbol, all the better if it is historical, to rally your cause around.
However, one should probably do a little light reading before deciding.
The main issue I have is with the use of the rhyme and the date. The remembrance of the day, historically, is a remembrance of treason. And not the ‘good’ kind of treason (i.e., freedom fighting).
Anyone remember why Guy Fawkes was hanging out in a basement on the morning of November 5th, 1605?
Well, he was there to light the gunpowder stored in the undercroft the conspirators rented, conveniently located directly below the House of Lords. Why did he (and his conspirators) want to blow up the House of Lords while it sat in a session of Parliament?
Largely because the king, King James I, was a protestant, and the conspirators were going to simultaneously kidnap his (9-year-old) daughter, Princess Elizabeth, and install her as a Catholic queen (and presumably their puppet).
The anonymous letter sent to a member of Parliament (4th Baron Monteagle) warning the Catholics to stay away that day, which was dutifully shown to the King, led to the arrest of Guy Fawkes in the basement. (Did you know we call men ‘guys’ because of Guy Fawkes, and that until the term came to America with the colonials it was a derogatory term for sloppily-dressed men?)
Now, as I said, the movie ‘V for Vendetta’ is what we are actually referencing in modern terms, like when Anonymous wears the Guy Fawkes masks made famous by … the movie. Guy Fawkes (the historical person) was distinctly not wearing a mask. He had no reason to. One of his few admirable traits was that, upon arrest, he basically said, “Yeah, I was gonna blow you a**holes up!” So at least he was proud until he jumped off the gallows to avoid more torture.
My point is that is is odd to me to use the symbols without properly referencing the movie. Obviously, the masks are a blatant movie reference, but then the masks themselves reference Guy Fawkes, and then people get all teary-eyed about how he was executed in his attempt to overthrow tyranny even though that is the furthest from the truth.
As someone who, to the everlasting annoyance of my friends, actually cites works when making assertions in conversation, I find the disregard for history unsettling. Use the symbol, reinvent it, but at least understand what you are doing.
The closest comparison I can think of is “Beware the Ides of March,” which is not remembered as ‘overthrow tyranny via assassination,’ but rather, beware treachery.
Which is exactly the message of the old English rhyme.
Personally, I find the anonymous letter writer more heroic, for preventing senseless violence and death.