McCartney’s enthusiasm for Guy Fawkes Day creeps me out a bit

I say that on account of my being Catholic and all.

I reTweeted this from Paul McCartney yesterday, which included a picture of him that appears to be from his “Maybe I’m Amazed” period:

But this was a classic case of a reTweet not constituting an endorsement.

Now, y’all know that I’m an Anglophile from way back. I generally love English traditions, including some of those involving fire.

But I’m a bit squeamish about the one that involves burning in effigy a Catholic-rights activist who in reality was tortured by English authorities before being drawn, hung and quartered.

OK, granted, we’re not talking Pope Francis here: Guy Fawkes was a terrorist who intended to blow up the king and Parliament and had the explosives to do it.

But still. The English had already been oppressing Catholics for Fawkes’ entire life and then some, and they used the Gunpowder Plot as an excuse to step that persecution up and continue it for most of the next 400 years. The celebration, unless I mistake, was of a victory over the Pope and papists as much as over a terrorist cell.

Which I kind of resent, because, you know, we’re not all terrorists.

So excuse me if I’m not too thrilled about your bonfire there, Paul…


10 thoughts on “McCartney’s enthusiasm for Guy Fawkes Day creeps me out a bit

  1. Norm Ivey

    I read a book last month on the history of Halloween. The Guy Fawkes tradition contributed to the “trick” part of “Trick or Treat.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      And yes, yes, my relativistic, postmodernist friends, we have in our history the shame of oppressing black people and Indians.

      But we don’t have anything like the Fourth of July to celebrate it, do we? We celebrate the more seemly aspects of our history, the bits that affirm our highest ideals.

      Why isn’t the British version of the Fourth something about the Magna Carta or something, instead of such a messy, tainted episode?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        And boy don’t those people go on and on and on about the Martyrs in Oxford. At one point I almost broke in on a tour guide’s spiel to say, “Sorry about that, old boy. I assure you we won’t do it again. Could we move on now?…”

  2. Karen Pearson

    Because the Church had spent approximately 1200 years to that point persecuting anyone who didn’t agree with them, beginning around the council of Nicea and continuing from there? Because England was just getting over Queen Mary’s reign? Because churches on all sides of the Roman, Protestant, Orthodox divides kept on persecuting each other for several more centuries? Because it has been a traditional day of celebration in England for so long that the celebration has become ingrained in the culture? Our “Halloween” has its roots in dark tradition–well before the Christian Church “baptized” it by turning that fall celebration into the feast of All Saints. The Roman Church continues to canonize those who have treated other people unjustly (consider St. Junipero Serra whose canonization was protested by the local Indians who found his treatment of them to be less than saintly). For these reasons I find your concern slightly disingenuous.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, the church canonizes people that someone could object to, because it canonizes human beings.

      Junipero Serra was a creature of his times, as the church was for those 1,200 years you speak of. Surely you don’t think that Henry’s and Elizabeth’s Church of England would have been more enlightened and humane than Rome during those 12 centuries. I don’t think that for a minute.

      Whether you’re the Anglicans celebrating the brutal executions of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators or a Catholic remembering the execution of the Oxford Martyrs in 1555-56, by now you should have had second thoughts about making a party out of it.

      And yes, I realize Guy Fawkes et al. were more deserving of their fate than the Oxford Martyrs; I was just trying to think of an example from relatively close by…

      1. Karen Pearson

        At least you don’t celebrate any of Bloody Mary’s reign do you? And yes, you do consecrate some people who others don’t see as saints. Your excuse is the whole point: we are all human. BTW, why do you give out candy to kids dressed up as whatever? And if not, why not?

  3. Harry Harris

    Oftentimes we suffer from not letting the past be past. Religious folks can be among the worst perpetrators, despite the teachings of their founders. Let the dead bury their own dead.

    1. Karen Pearson

      That’s why it remains a popular holiday, Norm. We still celebrate Halloween, although I’ll bet at least 75% of the people in this country don’t associate Halloween with All Saints.

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