Monday, October 31, 2016

On Taking Countries Back

This year the U.S. presidential election day falls in the same week of England's national holiday Guy Fawkes Day, also known as Bonfire Night (November 5th). In fact, it always falls then, and 2016 isn't the first time in our 240-year history that an election has called forth the kind of rebellious energies that inspired the Gunpowder Plotters. Those were the would-be terrorists whose capture the English holiday commemorates: a cabal of frustrated Catholics who thought the shortest way to restore their country to spiritual health was to blow up half the government. A major difference between them and Donald Trump is, they knew the change they were working for was illegal. That's why they worked in secret, and why they knew the game was up when they got busted. What's bizarre -- well, one thing that's bizarre --
about our Republican presidential candidate is that he, in contrast, loudly airs his criminal thoughts. Claims that he will violate the Constitution are a part of his campaign platform. When he pledged to make religion a bar to citizenship, when he threatened to defy the election result if it were not in his favor, he made it clear that he did not feel bound by that document -- and, I am guessing, that he wasn't too familiar with it.

Now, there's a difference between saying you're going to break the law and actually breaking the law, so Trump doesn't belong in jail yet. (At least, not for his campaign comments.) What he would do, or attempt to do, as president, or as an angry former candidate on November 9th, is another story that we'll watch unfold. It could be he's just full of hot air. I am not disappointed in Donald Trump -- in fact, like many Americans, I find him entertaining -- because I never thought he was a well educated or patriotic person. But I am disappointed in the strength of his following. I had no idea there were so many Americans who disliked democracy.

At this point in the blog post I'm supposed to say something about Shakespeare, so I will. Shakespeare was not one of the Gunpowder Plotters. Or was he?

The Gunpowder Plotters did not believe in democracy. In 1605, not many folks did, or ever had, and even the Ancient Greeks owned slaves and didn't let women vote (which we should note sounds like white America in 1776). Anyway, in 1605, the Gunpowder Plotters believed not in democracy, but in monarchy. Their view was that if they had the right king or queen, all things would be good (except, perhaps, for those whom they would blow up on November 5th). The right king or queen would be a Catholic one, because a Catholic one wouldn't be excommunicate, like Queen Elizabeth and her successor, James I, and her or his subjects wouldn't be deprived of the ability (they thought not of the right, but of the ability) to engage in spiritual practices that would lead them to eternal salvation.These plotters weren't revolutionaries in the modern sense of the word. They didn't believe in religious freedom. They had the press, but they didn't care about freedom of the press.They were not interested in electing a head of state. They wanted to install one. They were a strange kind of hybrid: a group of modern reactionaries, attempting to use existing mass-destruction technology (thirty-six barrels of gunpowder under the House of Lords) to restore their nation to its medieval spiritual condition. I don't use the word "medieval" as an insult, by the way. I use it to describe a particular time period, prior to the Reformation, when England was as overtly Catholic as any nation in Europe. I guess the Gunpowder Plotters might have said they wanted to make England pious again, whether its mostly Protestant citizens still craved that specific kind of piety or not.

Trump's followers are not terrorists, I believe and hope. But they remind me of the Gunpowder Plotters in that many of them don't think the desires of the majority matter if they conflict with the desires of the few who are Right. I'm not talking about all of the pro-Trump faction. I'm talking about the ones who cheer their leader when he threatens not to accept the result of the election unless the result of the election is President Trump. I'm talking about the ones who are excited about his suggestions that immigration officials eliminate people from citizenship consideration on religious grounds, or that law enforcement officials practice random document checks on citizens even though these would be about as constitutional as the Stamp Act. Which was legal, by the way, because it was instituted under a monarchy rather than a democracy.

That's my point.

Now it's time to say something else about Shakespeare. Shakespeare really did write all his plays, and Christopher Marlowe's, too.

See you next month. And may the force of democracy be with you.

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