On Saturday I reblogged last year’s ##SaturdaySongs post of Bonfire Night songs
As this little rhyme that we all learned in primary school reminds us, this is actually tonight:
The fifth of November:
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.
I won’t repeat the potted history lesson here but do take a look if you need to know more: there is also a link in that post to a very detailed Wikipedia article on the Gunpowder Plot. These events took place 413 years ago but there are, sadly, echoes in modern day life: religion as the basis for differences and even violence; a threat to democracy from those who want another form of government and are prepared to go to illegal and destructive ends to attain it. Sound familiar? We don’t learn as much from history as we might like to think, do we?
Democracy cannot be underestimated: there still exist too many tyrannies in the world: well, actually, one is too many. But the majority of those of you who read my ramblings are based in countries which are long used to enjoying democratic freedoms. The US, for example, fought to achieve its independence from a British king and government which treated them abominably, and created the free country that has since thrived. And, after a troubled first thousand years or so of the current calendar, during which it seemed to be open season for anyone wanting to invade us, we in the UK haven’t had any such invasion since 1066, despite the best efforts of the Spanish Armada and Hitler. We have gradually built our democracy since then.
The US midterm elections are tomorrow, and it is the great hope for the rest of the world that they might come to their senses and look back to what their founding fathers fought for and established. They might then realise their mistake in electing as President a man completely inexperienced in politics, who has spent the past two years pushing his agenda of lies, hypocrisy and hatred. But at least he was elected by public ballot, rather than by blowing up the seat of democracy. Well, almost, as he actually lost the public vote by nearly 3m votes, but that is apparently ‘fake news.’ In what is largely a two party system, how is it possible that the loser can actually win the election? That Electoral College system needs to be revisited, as it is way past its ‘best by’ date!
We get a lot of news coverage of Trump’s government here in the UK. Allowing for the filters for bias which may need to be applied, one inescapable fact emerges: Trump and his cowardly Republican Party have lost sight of the true meaning of democracy, and are governing in an autocratic manner. Democracy was worth fighting for, and it is to be hoped that enough people recognise this and exercise their democratic right at the ballot box tomorrow before it is too late. Am I scaremongering? I don’t think so: take a look at both Trump’s and John Bolton’s statements about the recent election in Brazil. They have both spoken in glowing terms of the new Brazilian President: how long before they take the US down the same path he is treading, a very undemocratic path indeed. If they hold onto control of the House and Senate tomorrow, having cheated their way to controlling the Supreme Court, autocracy may be closer than you might think. Add in the copious evidence of corruption and it ceases to be a true democracy, as a dubiously elected President exercises his powers to ignore the Constitution.
And we here in the UK know how well the public ballot can result in a terribly bad decision. It is becoming clearer every day that the Leave campaign broke a lot of rules in their campaign funding, which could well end up with prison sentences for some if the legal process is allowed to take its proper course without further political interference – and that’s even without the lies on which the vote was won. What is also abundantly clear is that there is no actual plan for how an organised withdrawal from the EU might be managed, amid growing public disquiet. A few weekends ago an estimated 750k marched in support of a ‘People’s Vote’ on the final terms of whatever deal is eventually cooked up. This is much more democratic than blowing up the Parliament buildings, though we could be forgiven for thinking that our government needs explosive help to shake them out of their collective torpor, indecision and ineptitude.
I wouldn’t mind betting that there will be quite a few ‘Guys’ tonight who will be wearing images of present day politicians. The Gunpowder Plot was far from being a democratic process, but after all this time it retains its place in our history as a reminder of how we as a country are able to celebrate our freedoms. Generally, we live in less violent times than Fawkes and his co-conspirators, and we have adapted our expressions of democracy since then. Tonight is a timely reminder that governments can be unpopular. The problem comes when the people become complicit in taking away their own democratic freedoms, by believing the lies and false promises of the self-interested. Do we really deserve our democracy if we misuse it? I wish I had an answer to that!