On Guy Fawkes Day, Remember Democracy is Never a Spectator Sport

Mark de Solla Price. | Photo courtesy of de Solla Price

BY MARK de SOLLA PRICE | Every British school child knows the rhyme:

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,

The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,

I know of no reason

Why the Gunpowder Treason

Should ever be forgot. 


Well, I might not be fully British but I am not fully American either. Happily, Tea & Sympathy and A Salt & Battery provide frequent home delivery just like Aunt Joan used to make, just outside London when I was a kid.

For others who might be similarly “not fully British,” Wikipedia adds the historical background: “The conspirators’ aim was to blow up the House of Lords at the State Opening of Parliament on 5 November 1605, while the king and many other important members of the aristocracy and nobility were inside. The conspirator who became most closely associated with the plot in the popular imagination was Guy Fawkes, who had been assigned the task of lighting the fuse to the explosives.”

Is it just me, or does it seem STRANGE or ODD to celebrate a FAILED POLITICAL INSURRECTION attempt against the very seat of government?

Oh my, let’s not give what’s-his-name in Florida any ideas. Imagine learning that Making-America-Great-Again jingle, Please to Remember the Sixth of January?

And considering that I used to produce musical theater, hung out at Piano Bars with intellectual nerds, I was surprised to learn today that I didn’t know two-thirds of that British song. Yup, I have spent my whole life singing the introduction.

Apparently, this sort of thing happens all the time. I turned 61 this year and I am a lifelong learner, but I didn’t expect that The Star Spangled Banner, Uncle Sam’s National Anthem of the US—you know, the one written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key filled with “rocket’s red glare” reflecting onto “that star-spangled banner”—that simple waving would proving ours to be “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

But oddly it’s wasn’t until this year that I learned that once again, I have spent my whole life only singing the introduction. The third stanza promotes American Values:

No refuge could save the hireling and slave,

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.


Tuesday was the General Election Day, in an off-year where we don’t vote for a new President or other key positions—but my late mother, Ellen de Solla Price (1925-1995), would drill into family and radio listeners alike that “political activism and civic engagement are everyone’s responsibility. Each of us has a duty to be well informed and at very least, to ALWAYS SHOW UP AND VOTE. Those that do not study the passed are doomed to repeat it. Time is precious. The greatest humans of all time had the same 24-hour day we all do, they just did so much with then, and we can to. We are all going to die, but some of us can and will save the world. We have to. There is no Plan B.”

I wanted to end with a list of the mission-critical, life-or-death things we have to work on. But such a list is overwhelming, so instead, I turn to British TV Drama. My late husband and I loved to stream Call the Midwife, which we watched endlessly. In Season 3, Episode 6 (2012), they said what I needed to hear: “Sometimes there is nothing you can say, but there is always something you can do. You will feel better than this, bubblea, maybe not yet, but you will… You just keep living until you are alive again.”

Mark de Solla Price

is an

Activist, Author, Consultant 

HIV/AIDS Survivor 1983+

COVID-19 Survivor 2021



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