Friday, November 6, 2009

Happy Guy Fawkes Day, Obama!

Yesterday was Guy Fawkes Day in the UK. In 1605, Fawkes and his co-conspirators planned to blow up Parliament to circumvent Protestant rule. They were arrested before the attack could take place. The anniversary of Guy Fawkes' gunpowder plot is celebrated in the UK with bonfires, fireworks, and Guy Fawkes burned in effigy.

To me, it's a fascinating aspect of British culture that the triumph of the government over the individual is celebrated. Very un-American. But maybe I'm being too literal about it. Either way, that's a whole other blog post.

If you remember, a little over a year ago, Obama had just been elected president and celebrated in Grant Park in Chicago (oh how sad I was to not be in my hometown that night!). Meanwhile, a few days later, I was taking a writing course at the University of Bristol. It was an evening class, coinciding with Guy Fawkes night, and while we sat at tables in silence, trying to concentrate on our writing, fireworks exploded around us. Our instructor asked us to write about something we were passionate about. I'll share with you a bit of what I wrote:

"I am passionate about Barack Obama... I was so excited to wake up this morning. It is as if the whole world has changed. Fireworks are going off and I know it’s for Guy Fawkes, but America is celebrating a rebellion of its own... For a day I feel like I’m enveloped in this movie, the music swells and I need someone to pinch me as the fireworks flash through the sky. How will I ever explain this to anyone?"

I'm still not sure I can explain the joy and the complete unreality I felt that whole week. And how proud I suddenly was to admit my nationality.

So while the Brits remembered Guy Fawkes' failed gunpowder plot last night, to me the fireworks are a celebration of my country and Obama's election.

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