Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, ’twas 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 mercy he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Hulloa boys, Hulloa boys, let the bells ring.
Hulloa boys, hulloa boys, God save the King!
–Traditional English nursery rhyme
Tomorrow, November 5, is Guy Fawkes Day. While it doesn’t get a lot of press on this side of the Atlantic, it really should. It’s the day that the English remember one of their most notorious villains or one of their most celebrated heroes, depending on their mood or ideological leaning.
In the early hours of November 5, 1605, Fawkes was found hiding under the House of Lords with a cache of explosives large enough to level the entire building. It was his plan to take out the entire government — king, ministers, parliament and all — during the State Opening of Parliament. Now that’s one way to cut government spending!
Fawkes tortured and executed, of course. But he is remembered, in typically dry English humor, as the last man to enter parliament with honest intentions.
Today, the English celebrate Guy Fawkes Night with fireworks displays and by burning effigies of Fawkes or other contemporary political figures… but it’s always a little ambiguous as to whether they’re celebrating the foiling of the gunpowder plot or the spirit of rebellion behind it. But more than anything, it’s an excuse to get blind drunk and light things on fire… something that every red-blooded American should appreciate.
In just a few days, we’ll have a new president elect. I don’t know who will win, but I can say with absolute confidence that they will take office as the least popular president in history. Hillary Clinton set an all-time record this year for “strongly unfavorable” ratings from voters… only to have her record broken by Donald Trump.
This means that our two candidates are quite literally the two most hated political figures in modern history… and that even a large number of the people voting for Trump or Clinton are doing so despite hating them. Few Americans are actually voting for a person they like… they’re voting for someone they despise marginally less.
As tempting as it might be, I’m not going to recommend that you follow Guy Fawkes’ lead by putting barrels of gunpowder under Washington DC and then lighting them on fire. That’s the sort of thing that will get you locked up in Guantanamo for the rest of your life.
But I do encourage you to take a step back and keep it in perspective. Whoever wins on November 8, we’re still going to have to go to work the next day, and we’re still going to have portfolios to manage. And while I can’t stand either candidate, most of their policy points are actually fairly harmless. For all the hysterics, neither is a budding dictator, and the more extreme policy proposals will never survive negotiations with Congress.
So, let’s do this. Tomorrow night, light up your fire pit if you have one, and pour yourself a drink. In English style, make an effigy of whichever candidate you hate more and throw them on the fire. But be happy that, whichever truly despicable person gets elected in a few days, you still live in a free country, and that’s not going to change.
And on Wednesday, the day after this awful election, we’ll get back to the business of making money.
A very happy Guy Fawkes Day to all of the libertarians, anarchists and other assorted good-hearted ne’er-do-wells out there. Don’t get in too much trouble.