"He's given us all hope"
Those were the words spoken to me at 7am Wednesday morning, November fifth, 2008, by a Muslim lad in Liverpool who sold me two British newspapers. He saw that I'd been crying and he asked me if I was ok. I grinned and pointed to the front-page photos of President-elect Obama. That's all I had to do. He grinned back at me - by now he had tears in his eyes too - and said, "He's given us all hope." Amen, brother. All?hu Akbar. Amen.
But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.
What a difference a year makes, eh? This time last year, I was reeling from the betrayal of my long-term sero-different partner (to borrow a phrase from my esteemed colleague, Matt the Newt) on the eve of my 45th birthday.
This year, Foxtrot Charlie (keep up!) and I both had hiv clinic appointments in Liverpool on my birthday. It also happened to be Election Day in the US. (The last time my birthday and election day coincided, I got Ronald Regan for my 18th. ~shudder~) We travel from the Rock to Liverpool for our appointments, so we decided to use the clinic/birthday/election day coincidence as an excuse have a 36 hour break and booked a hotel room in Liverpool City Centre.
We attended our appointments, thankfully with no nasty surprises for either of us. The Fox collected his meds and we were on our way. We did some shopping and dumped our bags at the hotel as soon as the three pm check-in was available. After a short nap and a freshen up, we went out to sample some of Liverpool's pubs and eateries. We laughed at the local wildlife, did some crosswords (we're both cryptic fanatics), and had kebabs on our way back to the hotel.
First thing I did on arrival was turn on the telly - I knew the early results would be coming through. To my utter dismay, McFailin was in the lead. Arrrgghh!!! By the time we were both ready for bed, Obama had pulled into the lead - but only just. We were too tired to watch anymore (we'd both been up for close to twenty hours at this point) so we switched the telly off and went to sleep.
I awoke at 6:30am. Immediately, I wanted to know where the election was at. I daren't turn the telly on - Charlie has fatigue issues and needs his sleep - and I wanted a ciggy in a non-smoking building so the only thing for it was to get dressed and go downstairs.
I exited the elevator and was immediately drawn to the flat-screen in reception. I thought I was alone, but a voice behind me announced, "Obama won in a landslide!" I could have kissed the man!
I went outside, lit a ciggy, and started walking. Now, you've got to understand a bit of Liverpool history here. The place was built on money from the slave trade during the Victorian era. I was surrounded with beautiful buildings built on the backs of men and women just like Barack and Michelle Obama. And on this glorious morning, two people, one who was most certainly descended from slaves (Michelle), were the President and First-Lady elect of the most powerful nation in the world.
How far we have come.
I sat down on a bench in St John's Garden behind St George's Hall and cried happy tears. I can't find the words to adequately describe my feelings. Here I was, in a city far away from the land of my birth, a place inextricably intertwined with the darkest days of my homeland's history, celebrating the election of Barack Obama. Unbefuckinglievable.
It's one of those moments that will live with me forever, like the day the death of John Lennon was announced, like the day my daughter was born, like the day I was diagnosed with hiv, like the day I got back together with Charlie. All powerful emotional landmarks, all turning points in their own ways.
Is this finally the dawning of the Age of Aquarius that we've all been promised? I certainly hope so.
Please, let this be the dawn of acceptance and understanding and the end of hate for the sake of hate. Please, let this be the dawn of the day when there's no room for the Palins of this world.
It feels so good to be proud of America again.