Thursday, November 5, 2009

It's Guy Fawkes' Night

Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Ought ever be forgot

It's Guy Fawkes' Night. Four-hundred-four years ago today, a group of Catholics gathered together with the intent to blow up the Parliament building, and thereby assassinate King James I. Their plot was discovered because of a letter sent to a Catholic in Parliament; one of the conspirators didn't want him to be harmed.

All of the conspirators save one, Sir Everard Digby, plead "Not Guilty." In his defense, Sir Everard stated that the King of England had reneged on his promise of greater tolerance for Catholicism in his territories. The men were found guilty after a trial that was such a public spectacle, admission was paid at the door. Fawkes, along with some of his co-conspirators, was sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. As he dangled, near death, Fawkes made one last rebellious act: he leapt from the gallows, breaking his own neck and cheating his executioners.

The people rejoiced that the plot had been foiled. The lit bonfires to celebrate the capture of the "demonic" terrorists. Many Catholics were imprisoned, and the confessor to the conspiracy was executed. He had openly disagreed with the plot from its beginning, however, that did not save him. At its first full session after the plot, Parliament signed into law a bill marking November 5th with special sermons and public speeches. This law remained in effect for over 250 years.

Today, Guy Fawkes night is a celebration of life and thanksgiving celebrated around the world. Children build ugly little "Guys" (our source of the word) to beg for firework money. Effigies are burned, and the peasants rejoice. Fawkes' defeat was a matter of pride.

When literary genius Alan Moore penned the anarchist neo-classic, V for Vendetta, artist David Lloyd gave him a Guy Fawkes mask. Anonymous, a collective name given to various occurrences of leaderless internet subculture groups for various purposes, and many anarchists have taken up the Guy Fawkes mask as an identifier: Fawkes has come to be seen as a freedom fighter rather than a terrorist, a distinction that is made by the source of the story.

Do I advocate mass murder and violence? Absolutely not.

Do I advocate freedom? YES.

This world is in a strange state, where governments have shielded their peoples from freedom for the sake of a "better life", but chastised others for doing the same. Franklin said "those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither." I am inclined to agree.

If you would have the world be free, be the change you wish to see. Choose your weapon wisely: a sharp tongue, a quick wit, a fresh ink pen, or a podium. Take it out into the streets and start freeing people, one by one. The key to freedom is the mind: liberate that, and the rest will follow.

It's Guy Fawkes' Night. What have you done for freedom?