Why does Grover Norquist have a Guy Fawkes Mask on his Desk?

A few months ago, I saw this picture.

Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform, displays a copy of the pledge that he encourages politicians to sign. (Bill O’Leary – The Washington Post)

 My first question: “Why does Grover Norquist have a Guy Fawkes mask on his desk?”

Before you can understand why I asked this, there is a limited amount of set up.  Grover Norquist is the President of Americans for Tax Reform. Grover Norquist believes in limited government. He believes that the government shouldn’t raise taxes and he has elected officials sign a pledge saying they will never raise taxes.  He’s been quoted that he would like to shrink government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” He views the government as evil. Government spends too much. Government taxes too much. Government is too controlling.  Grover Norquist believes that the smaller the government, the better we would all be.

This is what Conservatives believe, and it has some merit.  If we have a capitalistic system, with the Free Market controlling the economy, any sort of interference hinders the ability of the Free Market.  Taxes. Regulations. Restrictions. Rules. The Free Market is hurt by these things.  Liberals believe that we have to have taxes so we can keep our society up.  We have to have regulations to protect people from the the damages that Free Market can inflict. We have to have restrictions so people aren’t taken advantage of.  Conservatives believe that the Free Market can regulate itself, and that freedom is worth the risk.  Liberals would rather error on the side of caution.

I personally believe that the government taxes unfairly. I also believe that we need taxes in order to have a safe society.  I’m a little of both ideologies.  I’m more Liberal than Conservative, but I’m a mix. Most people are.

What gets me, though, is the Guy Fawkes part.  Here’s some history. 

One of the ironies of Fawkes’ legacy is that he was a late addition to the infamous “Gunpowder Plot.” Born a Protestant in 1570, Fawkes enlisted in the Spanish army in the Netherlands around 1593, shortly after converting to Catholicism. Co-conspirators Robert Catesby, Thomas Winter, Thomas Percy and John Wright enlisted Fawkes as a ringer, reasoning that his military skills — he had participated in the 1595 capture of Calais, France — and his anonymity as a foreign soldier made him an ideal candidate to help execute their plan.

Fawkes’ henchmen were zealous Catholics who believed that by beheading the government, they might usher in a new era of Catholicism in Protestant England. Led by Catesby, they hatched a plan to explode gunpowder under Parliament during a state opening, when King James I, his queen, and other family members and government leaders were inside. The plot was set for Nov. 5, 1605, and in the preceding days, the conspirators rented a cellar underneath the building, where Fawkes stashed at least 20 barrels of gunpowder.

Things didn’t go according to plan. The plotters sought wider support, and, as the story goes, one of the individuals to whom they reached out alerted his brother-in-law, a lord, not to attend Parliament on Nov. 5. The building was searched, and Fawkes was apprehended along with his stockpile of gunpowder. Tortured on the rack, he revealed the names of his co-conspirators. Some of them were killed while resisting arrest; others, including Fawkes, pled not guilty and went to trial, where they were convicted of high treason. In January, 1606, the remaining conspirators were hanged, drawn and quartered. Parliament immediately established Nov. 5 as a day of celebration.

Guy Fawkes did what he did for religious reasons. Maybe. We don’t know. He’s dead.  We do know that he tried to blow up the government.  He tried to do this because, I suspect, he didn’t like it too much.

Now, let’s bring in Occupy Wallstreet.

Occupy Wallstreet is/was about holding the richest, most powerful accountable for their action.  “We are the 99%” is/was their slogan.  Those in power abused us, betrayed us, took advantage of us and now we are fighting back!  Or something like that.

Occupy isn’t around much any more, sadly. It was big, it had it’s day, it’s fading.  At its height, though, Occupy protestors regular wore, yep, Guy Fawkes masks.  They probably knew a little bit about Guy Fawkes’ history. More likely, they read “V for Vendetta” and they watched the movie.

“V for Vendetta” the comic and the movie is about a man who was experimented on and abused by the government.  He has his revenge on the people who did this to him and encourages the people of London to actively rebel against the obsessive regime.  The stand out quote is “People should not be afraid of their Government.  The Government should be afraid of it’s people.”  Alan Moore, the writer of “V for Vendetta” helps make the connection between the Occupy Movement and Guy Fawkes even clearer.

It would seem that the various tectonic collapses deep in the structure of our economic and political systems have triggered waves of kinetic energy which are rolling through human populations rather than through their usual medium of seawater. It also seems that our character’s charismatic grin has provided a ready-made identity for these highly motivated protesters, one embodying resonances of anarchy, romance, and theatre that are clearly well-suited to contemporary activism, from Madrid’s Indignados to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Our present financial ethos no longer even resembles conventional capitalism, which at least implies a brutal Darwinian free-for-all, however one-sided and unfair. Instead, we have a situation where the banks seem to be an untouchable monarchy beyond the reach of governmental restraint, much like the profligate court of Charles I. As for the ideas tentatively proposed in that dystopian fantasy thirty years ago, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that whatever usefulness they afford modern radicalism is very satisfying. In terms of a wildly uninformed guess at our political future, it feels something like V for validation.

Guy Fawkes believed he was doing the right thing. Occupy Wallstreet believed they were doing the right thing.

Grover Norquist believes he’s doing the right thing.

It bothers me that Grover Norquist has a Guy Fawkes mask on his desk.  At first, I thought it was a joke. He had it on his desk to make fun of the Occupy movement. But, that’s a stupid joke and no one would get it.  The caption of the picture states the mask was given to him as a gift. Grover Norquist displays it.  I would think he does it proudly.  My theory, and I have very little to base my theory on, but whatever, is that Grover Norquist thinks he’s a hero.  He thinks that, by stopping Republican elected officials raising taxes, he is doing good on this Earth.

Liberals think that we have to pay taxes.  If we pay taxes, we can use that money to make our society better.  Raise taxes and we can have green energy projects.  Raise taxes and we can have better schools. Raise taxes and we can have mass transit.  Raise taxes and we can work on reducing the causes of  Climate Change.

Grover Norquist doesn’t think that.  And, because Grover Norquist disagrees with a fundamental Liberal ideal, Liberals vilify him.

But, Liberals also believe in the ideal of “We are the 99%” and Liberals have always embraced Guy Fawkes.  Guy Fawkes has always been a hero of the Left, not the right.  When “V for Vendetta” came out, there were obvious reflections of George W. Bush’s presidency. 

Many film critics, political commentators and other members of the media have also noted the numerous references in the film to events surrounding the then-current George W. Bush administration in the United States. These include the “black bags” worn by the prisoners in Larkhill that have been seen as a reference to the black bags worn by prisoners at Abu Ghraibin Iraq and in U.S.-administered Guantánamo Bay in Cuba.

George W. Bush is a villain. “V for Vendetta” depicted him as a villain. “V for Vendetta” is OUR comic and it is OUR movie and it is OUR mask to wear when we go to OUR protests!  How can Grover Norquist have any interest in Guy Fawkes? Hackers use the mask as an image! How can Grover Norquist have anything in common with hackers?

Why does Grover Norquist have Guy Fawkes mask on his desk?

The reason I wanted to write about this is that it comes back to the fundamental problems of opposing ideologies.  Grover Norquist believes that the system is against us and we need to fight against it.  Just like everyone who views the Guy Fawkes mask as a symbol of rebellion.  How are we ever going to find common ground if we can’t even agree on Guy Fawkes?  Grover Norquist probably views the Occupy movement as a bunch of lazy, nasty hippies, even though they aren’t. And the Occupy Movement probably looks at Grover Norquist as some 1% slave trying to give all the money and the resources to the rich, which isn’t true. There is a grey area, and that grey area is the Guy Fawkes mask.  It is the thread between both Conservatives and Liberal ideologies.  The Guy Fawkes mask is about fighting against a tyrant.  We can all agree on that. I doubt, however, that we’ll ever agree on exactly who the tyrant is.