When I was a kid, I always thought tonight's date was about celebrating someone who was brave and daring enough to get rid of a load of greedy MPs, presumably for some noble, selfless cause. We learned the bare bones of it at school, but nothing about the reason behind it.
I came home and asked my mum what "torture" meant. I was about 5.
Then I found out that the celebration marked his failure, not his daring. I thought this a bit of a let-down: why celebrate something failing?
Well, perhaps because the alternative was even worse than what England had going on at the time (famine, witch-hunts, etc). Meh. By this time I found this out, I was about 12.
Later we moved to Glasgow, where nobody likes to talk about it all because it's so divisive. We didn't go to bonfire nights for those four years: things tended to get ugly outdoors on 5th November. Fireworks were better saved for the New Year.
And there my attitude stayed, until a visit, last year, to York Dungeon.
According to the display there, Guy Fawkes was on the rack for ten days and in all that time gave away NOTHING AT ALL. And the only reason they found him in the cellar in the first place was that someone had written a letter to a friend, warning them. No threats, no coercion.
Now at last I can think of bonfire night as having something useful and uplifting to say.
For over 400 years it has served us as a not-so-quiet reminder:
Torture doesn't work.