November 5, 2008 – Otago Peninsula, New Zealand
John McCain is just conceding the U.S. presidency to Barack Obama as I write. This is an historic moment in American history, and I’m wishing I could be in the crowds of Obama supporters gathering tonight to celebrate the election of the first African-American president.
Obama’s victory is sweeping. It represents a groundswell of opposition to the conservative, militaristic, corporate agenda that has dominated American politics far too long.
What the new president will do with his win has yet to be seen, but he has the opportunity to unite the country and inspire ordinary Americans in a way no one since Kennedy has been able to do.
And there, of course, is the reason people around the world, and in the States, will be holding their collective breaths. America has suffered in the past when extremists have decided to violently assert their narrow worldview.
Tonight disenfranchised Americans have reason to hope this president will represent them. I will sleep with the knowledge that a wind of change has swept through the country that has, over the years, felt more and more unfamiliar and unwelcoming to me, though it is the land of my birth.
We’ve had a slow day today, with a late start. Wind has lashed us all day, and we’ve ventured out only to see huge birds flying at the Royal Albatross Centre and to make a run into Portobello to replenish our food stocks.
Seeing the two-metre wingspan of the albatross stretched fully to ride the gusty wind was thrilling. At one point we saw three at once, all gliding effortlessly on a wind that cut right through us. They were too far away for good photographs, but we didn’t mind. Just to see these birds, yet another endangered species, lifted our hearts.
On the rocky cliffs below the Centre, we saw the nesting site of the albatross, as well as seagulls and other sea birds. Below us we watched seals climb out of the sea to warm themselves on the rocks.
Food options in Portobello were limited. It’s a small village, with the usual challenge of high-priced, low-demand choices. Still, the soup we’ll have tonight, though packaged, is at least organic. So is the cheese we ate on the grilled sandwiches I burned in a too-thin pan. (We downed them anyway, along with grilled tomatoes, which fared better.)
This afternoon we’ve been catching up on the fiddly bits of life, while we watched the election returns come in. Though halfway around the world and more tied to Canada these days than to my homeland, I feel very American – and very proud – tonight.
I just wish my brother had lived to see this day.