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Why do we Remember Remember the Fifth of November

by on November 5, 2019

The Fifth of November has been remembered as the “Gunpowder treason and plot” since Catholics Guy Fawkes, Robert Catesby, and others attempted to blow up the British Parliament with Protestant King James I and the lords of parliament inside.

Yasmeen Serhan in The Atlantic says that after the failed plot, the word guy developed to mean a grotesque person.  Londoners celebrated the survival of the king by lighting bonfires.  It has become an official day in Britain where people light bonfires and burn effigies (a ritual, Yasmeen says, that has expanded to effigies of Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, and Boris Johnson).

The reputation and portrayal of Guy Fawkes has changed over the centuries.  He became the basis for V for Vendetta and is now viewed as a popular underdog fighting the government.  The iconic mask worn by protesters around the world represents Guy Fawkes.

History, Yasmeen Serhan, says, has evolved from representing Guy Fawkes as a religious fanatic to a popular folk hero.

It’s not wrong to remember Guy Fawkes, even though his representation in history has completely changed.  But as far as I  can tell – from the popular Remember Remember the Fifth of November ditty – we’re supposed to remember the day because the establishment won and monarchy prevailed.  (I’m not saying that if Guy Fawkes and co. has succeeded monarchy would have ended).  Be careful of why you’re remembering Guy Fawkes and Robert Catesby – are you doing it because the establishment told you to?

One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on The Dole Blog.

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