A Penny for the Guy

Yesterday was Guy Fawkes Day, a day to celebrate the defeat of the Gunpowder Plot, when Fawkes and some Catholic confederates attempted to blow up Parliament in 1605, two years into the reign of the Protestant King James. This attempted act of terrorism was motivated by pure sectarianism, and the recent casting of Fawkes as some sort of anarchist freedom fighter (under the influence of the movie V for Vendetta) is one of the stranger transformations I’ve ever witnessed.

People wearing Guy Fawkes masks. From Wikipedia.

This is not to defend Guy Fawkes Day – or rather, I suppose there’s nothing wrong with setting off firecrackers and making bonfires, but the anti-Catholicism that has historically attended this celebration is embarrassing. Fortunately, if this celebration ever crossed the Atlantic, it ceased to be observed following the American Revolution. We didn’t even celebrate it in Canada (despite our Anglophilia).

I find it amusing that TimeWarner gets royalties from the sale of the Guy Fawkes mask. Reminds me of a quotation from Robertson Davies’s Fifth Business:

A few cranky politicians of the most radical party tried to estimate [the businessman Boy Staunton’s wealth] in order to show that, in some way, the very existence of Boy was intolerable in a country where people were in want. But, like so many idealists, they did not understand money, and after a meeting where they had lambasted Boy and others like him and threatened to confiscate their wealth at the first opportunity, they would adjourn to cheap restaurants, where they drank his sugar, and ate his sugar, and smoked cigarettes which, had they known it, benefited some other monster they sought to destroy.