the Fifth of November,
the Gunpowder Treason and Plot.
I know of no reason
why the Gunpowder Treason
should ever be forgot.
If you didn't see V is for Vendetta (2005), then you probably did not recognize this poem, written in the Spanish sestet style, which is spoken at the opening of the movie. Even if you did see it, you might not remember the words at the beginning (but if you did then kudos to you!).
The Gunpowder Treason was an actual event in the early 1600's which occurred when a man named Guy Fawkes was arrested and sentenced to death for attempting to blow up a British government building. It's his face supposedly represented on the famous mask that V uses in the movie. V is for Vendetta was one of my favorite movies in college but I'll admit it was basically for the same reasons that kids my age would hang Che posters on their dorm room walls; because revolutionary ideals are exciting in theory and generally make for good TV but are completely irrelevant to the lives of 99.9% of that demographic. I've continued to watch the movie every year (usually on the Fifth of November, because, come on, the movie specifically asks you to) and while the action scenes are still fun (see embedded video below), the plot really is nothing more than a rendition of George Orwell's novel 1984 with some fun special effects and a satisfying ending.
Yet I continue to watch it year after year and this year before even watching it, I had the disturbing thought that the fear-based dictatorship portrayed in the movie really isn't as far off and distant as most of us would like to think. *SPOILER. Don't read the rest of the paragraph is you haven't seen the movie but want to at some point.* The crux of the movie is that an extremist politician develops a potent biological weapon and then instead of using it on his nation's enemies, uses it on his own country in order to control them through fear.
Afterward, the politician who has now assumed the role as leader of the monarchy manipulates the media, police and other figures within his country to gain complete power. He uses fear as a weapon and constantly reinforces that fear with terrifying stories through the media outlets. As people are too afraid to stand up to him, constantly reminded of the horrifying disease they've overcome, they allow more and more of their personal freedoms to be taken away so they can be "protected."
I'm not going to pretend that the U.S.A. in 2013 is just a couple crazy laws away from the dictatorship imagined here, but let's be honest, there are scary similarities:
- Local news shows crashes, disasters and crime while ignoring stories of good that occur in the community and TV shows show unrealistic amounts of violence. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying violence is bad and it'll encourage kids to shoot up schools or whatever... that's a tired argument that Baby Boomers who long for the days of Leave it to Beaver need to stop using. However, seeing that amount of violence on TV can have the effect of scaring the population in the same way shown in V.
- The Department of Homeland Security can basically listen on conversations being made by any citizen anywhere in the country under the guise of protecting against terrorism. A quiet few argued when these laws were enacted, but the general public was quick to condone that loss as they were constantly reminded of the horrifying 9/11 attacks that they'd overcome
- During the recent government shutdown, national parks were "closed," even though most of them by definition belong to the American public, which elects the government. I was actually in Washington D.C. during the shutdown and at one point I was walking by a tiny strip of grass that was designated as a park. Because of the shutdown, the park was "closed" and a sign said anyone who stepped on the grass would be prosecuted. I doubt anything really would have happened but the same can't be said for groups of senior citizens who were put under armed guard for "recreating" or taking pictures at Yellowstone Park on a trip they had paid a lot of money for.
We need to be careful, because I don't want my children or my grandchildren to wake up one day in this terrifying society. Our founding fathers died for freedoms that are slowly eroding. But the saddest thing is that we're allowing it to happen. I don't think extremist changes are needed. There's no need to go bomb the CIA headquarters but I do think we need to begin reforming things from the top and if the leadership currently in place refuses to do so, then we need to pick people who will fight the power for the people.
I hope that people will read this and realize that they need to demand that the government not restrict our freedom.
The people should control the government not vice versa.