Monday, November 5, 2012

Remember, Remember Today

On this day 407 years ago, Guy Fawkes attempted a plot against King James I and the English Parliament but was unsuccessful and paid for his actions with his life. Although this country barely bats an eye at the treasonous Gunpowder Plot, England treats the day as an unofficial holiday, replete with fireworks, revelry, and burning effigies of Mr. Fawkes. Even though the old rhyme admonishes listeners to "remember, remember, the 5th of November," I've had so much trouble remembering the date myself over the years -- I even forgot it when I was in England on the actual date -- that I made it a point this year to write about it.

In an attempt to learn more about the legal aspects of The Gunpowder Plot, I came across a post from Lawfare, a blog on national security issues, that describes the commemoration as “one of the few–if not the only–holidays that mark the failure of non-state actors to bring down the symbols of state regimes.” The Gunpowder Plot raises all sorts of issues relating to national security today, from terrorism to torture, and it’s no wonder that the incident formed left such a lasting impression on the British conscience. Even Shakespeare took notice!

Pressing further, I located two books relating to Guy Fawkes in the Gallagher collection. The first, Trial of Guy Fawkes and Others (The Gunpowder Plot), focuses exclusively on the infamous incident, while the other work, The Anatomy of Villainy, devotes merely a single chapter to Mr. Fawkes as only one in a series of historical ne’er-do-wells.
You may remember that Guy Fawkes received some attention on this side of the pond around this time last year, when Occupy Wall Street protesters used Guy Fawkes masks from V for Vendetta to symbolize resistance to oppression. Although Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated an ocean away, the incident remains relevant today and raises many questions for governments to consider with respect to the relationship between states and their citizens.

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