8 - Dispatch From Guy Fawkes Day

How ironic to be in another former English colony today - this first Tuesday in November. It is a day that many people of such backgrounds take time for a bit of fun with fireworks and bonfires in celebration of a political event that nearly happened many hundreds of years ago. Why Americans don't, I don't know.

On this day, when our US Constitution bids we Yanks to choose our new government, an old guy named Guy Fawkes tried to do what many a frustrated American has dreamed of doing - blowing all the politicians to hell and starting over again. King James (also a Stewart) and Parliament escaped the plot and poor old Guy met a grisly fate. And so the children of the British Empire keep burning him up every November 5th.

Jean and I have been away through the last several weeks of the American campaign ritual and so avoided both Halloween extortion from the tiny tots (which has not caught on here) and the election's shrill TV anchors and the dinnertime robo calls. What a nicely timed bonus on this short visit to Tonga and now New Zealand.

We delve into learning more about the Maoris. We take a long walk and talk with Vern, a guide at the place where the Chiefs and the Brits first signed a pact that led to the country as it is today. Most interesting to see today, the results of some mutual respect, trust, and responsibility, as 2 strong but very different cultures, agreed to share the land they both had come to possess for their own. I have to ponder the results in America, both North and South, had the European and native peoples done likewise at the outset.

Everyone here is following the US election. We avoid the discussions as much as politeness allows. I could tell them that we already voted - but because California is pure Blue State, our vote has no effect. But that could lead to having to explain the electoral college system, or congressional districting, the filibuster or even to how our candidates could raise and eat up a billion dollars. Some things are better left un-explained … even if I could.

New Zealand is having her own election, just 3 days after ours. Their TV debates and media coverage are every bit as full of nastiness and empty of specifics - maybe more so. But they happily take a break from all that for something more important - a horse race. The whole nation, and neighboring Australia, drops everything for the Melbourne Cup. Jean even patches together a fancy hat to enter the pub's contest. Sadly, our horse, as well as her hat, are out of the running - but the beer, bar snacks and laughing Kiwis fill up the void.

Tomorrow we set off for home, another great trip. But tonight I lie awaken by firecrackers while Jean sleeps on. Kiwis on the street are not celebrating our new President Elect, but another Guy Fawkes Day. I like it. Perhaps, in the interest of international understanding, they would send us a Fawkeing starter kit home with me, in exchange for some Trick-or-Treat instructions. Why not? The more fireworks and holidays the better.

- Sparklers Stew