Remember, remember the Fifth of November,

The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I can think of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli’ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England’s overthrow;
By God’s providence he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

today is, of course, November 5th. and i think it would behoove us in the United States to reflect on Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot, not as they have been popularized for modern audiences in the graphic novel and film V for Vendetta, but in a more traditional sense.

the Plot was an attempt by Catholic terrorists to assassinate James VI and I, King of England, France and Ireland, King of Scots, etc. James had not been the ruler of England for long at the time of the Plot, which came less than three years into his reign. it is highly likely that James would have had a rather contentious rule in any event, given his personal political theories as espoused in Basilikon Doron; not least, his belief in the absolute nature of kingship would obviously put him at loggerheads with Parliament.

yet the Plot actually resulted in increased friction and enmity between king and government (though far from immediately). relief at the royal family’s survival allowed Sir Robert Cecil, Lord Salisbury, to winkle more funds for the Court from Parliament than would have been otherwise available. this seeming “generosity” at the start of his reign lead James to expect it later. from this came the increasing tension that, coupled with the arrogance Charles I inherited from his father, eventually lead to civil war and the Cromwellian Interregnum.

but Guy Fawkes Day, as November 5th came to be known, became a day of thanks for the preservation and stability of the English government.

so what makes this important now?

with the election of Barack Obama, we are in a somewhat similar situation to England in 1603. while our government is far more stable and fixed in form by law, we now have a leader who is in many ways “foreign” to a small portion of our society. that portion, like the members of the Gunpowder Plot, have both an unreasoned expectation of harm and a propensity for violence (though they spring from far different roots).

anyone who feels that there is no possibility of physical threat to our new President should pay more attention to the news; there have been multiple threats reported (and, thankfully, foiled) even before the election. American law enforcement agencies are always alert to threats against the government, which makes it highly unlikely that any conspiracy to harm President Obama would make it as far as the Plot did – but that doesn’t rule out attempts by “lone gunmen” like a Booth, Zangara or Hinckley. yet i’m not even seriously worried that a solo lunatic would have any success – there have been many attempts on our Presidents’ lives over the last 180 years or so, and only four have been successful.

the true danger comes from the reaction to any such attempt, successful or otherwise; for example, Barack Obama seems to have a strong pro-civil liberties stance. any failed attempt on the life of our President (whether before or after January 20, 2009), given the current state of national security (and those apparata charged with preserving it), would probably result in further erosion of civil liberties. in the unthinkable case of a successful attempt upon President Obama, the likely unrest would probably dwarf the riots of 1968.

whether you consider the possible actions of government or the populace, the aftermath of an assassination attempt is not pleasant to ponder.

so what should we do?

first, we should follow Senator McCain’s instructions to us in his concession speech:

I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.

Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.

and second, we should all be thankful that we live in a country where we have the right and duty to choose our leaders – rather than angry that those we might have preferred didn’t win election. Barack Obama is a brilliant man, with the capacity to be a great leader. it’s my belief that he has the potential to be another Ronald Reagan – not in his personal politics, of course – but as a unifier who can rebuild our national pride.

if we as citizens accept our roles (including those of loyal opposition), we can help President Obama to once again bring “morning again in America.” part of that acceptance must be a lack of tolerance for those who would threaten to do our country and her leaders harm – if someone you know (even jokingly) espouses criminal threat to our government, speak out. let them know that it’s not acceptable – and explain to them why. if necessary, do not hesitate to contact law enforcement. all of us want our country to be a better place, whether we are liberal, conservative, or centrist. and this is a time for us to put aside those differences and rejoice in our liberties. so today, remember the Gunpowder Plot and give thanks – and also remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words of August, 1968: “We can not walk alone.”

quote of the day:

“Today, Mr. President, we’re all Republicans.” – Dr. Joseph Giordano, as quoted by Ronald Reagan in An American Life

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2 Responses to “Remember, remember the Fifth of November,”

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