November 06, 2013
Guy Fawkes Day
Yesterday was "Guy Fawkes Day" (or, more precisely, for our friends across the Pond, last night was Bonfire Night).
When I was in first grade, my public school celebrated Guy Fawkes Day. It did not strike me as strange at the time, though it certainly does now. (Probably because of this guy, Henry Garnet, S.J., who was executed for not revealing the Gunpowder Plot, about which he is sometimes said to have learned in confession.) Should it? Would a public school's celebration of Guy Fawkes Day communicate to Justice O'Connor's famous "reasonable observer" that she was an outsider in the political community? Certainly, that was long the celebration's purpose. General Washington raised some eyebrows when he told his soldiers to refrain from burning the Pope in effigy as part of their celebration:
As the Commander in Chief has been apprized of a design form’d for the observance of that ridiculous and childish custom of burning the Effigy of the pope–He cannot help expressing his surprise that there should be Officers and Soldiers in this army so void of common sense, as not to see the impropriety of such a step at this Juncture; at a Time when we are solliciting, and have really obtain’d, the friendship and alliance of the people of Canada, whom we ought to consider as Brethren embarked in the same Cause. The defence of the general Liberty of America: At such a juncture, and in such Circumstances, to be insulting their Religion, is so monstrous, as not to be suffered or excused; indeed instead of offering the most remote insult, it is our duty to address public thanks to these our Brethren, as to them we are so much indebted for every late happy Success over the common Enemy in Canada.
In any event, instead of burning Fawkes, or waxing rhapsodic about how liberty, individualism, and all that is good were saved when the Plot was thwarted, maybe we should read a little Eamon Duffy, and think about what England once was.