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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Michiana Chronicles: Glutton For Punishment

Elaine Thompson
AP File Photo

“Jeanette, you’re just a glutton for punishment,” my Mother would say to me when I had doggedly persisted in what she perceived as self-destructive behavior. That pronouncement came back to me as I, possibly once again in self-destructive mode, watched all eight nights of the political conventions in August. Not only were the “festivities” long, but I was compelled to stay up for the post-game commentary as well. Sometimes, like when you pass an accident on the highway, there’s no looking away. And, since these bug-eyed binges were cocktail fueled, my sleep-deprivation was compounded. No matter though, night after night I plowed forward, goaded by my fascination with the stories. Sure, there was Mayor Pete and the political ramifications, and the fate of the nation, but the real draw was all of those people and their stories. What a spectacle! It was, to use a word that I don’t often get to use, truly a panoply.

I’m a sucker for stories. If people don’t tell me their stories, and these people did, at least the parts that they wanted me to know, I’ll make them up to fit what I think the circumstances dictate. However, no imagination was required on those nights. I just passively watched the parade of life. (Well, maybe not always so passively.) One of the draws was the variety of the stories. There were stories of sadness, stories of successes, stories of what you might think were embarrassments, and stories to wrench your heart. As they say, “I laughed; I cried.”

Due to the coronavirus, this was an oddity: a non-convening convention with lots more than the usual suspects approaching the podium. Creativity reigned! Sure, some of the expected old politicos were there, but then there were all of those unexpected folks making appearances and telling their stories that were “ripped from the headlines.” to quote that phrase from “Law and Order.” Those eight nights were the embodiment of Andy Warhol’s predictor-idea of everybody having “fifteen minutes of fame.” Although nobody, well almost nobody, got to hog the podium for the whole fifteen minutes, their moments in that spotlight enhanced their previous exploits. And, if you watched, you immediately can think of some of the culprits. A curious punishment that brings a gluttonous smile in retrospect. Not quite, “Bring on the dancing girls!” but the variety of “acts,” clearly moved in that direction.

Did you watch? Are you too a glutton for punishment? Or is that just civic engagement? Whichever, I honestly think that there was something there for everyone no matter your outlook on our national situation and your hope for its direction. That depends on people, the generator of stories.
At this point, I must digress and speak of the storyteller, Julia Reed, who I lauded in my just-past Michiana Chronicle. Sadly, in late August, Julia “done upped and died” as they say in the South. She was only 59 and she told stories that will be missed. No punishment-ticket to be punched when reading/hearing her stories, just a not-to-be-fulfilled gluttonous desire for more. 

The takeaway from the political convention’s, glutton-for-punishment extravaganza: my encouragement for everyone to vote. In Indiana many, sadly not all, still can request an absentee ballot, or you can engage in early voting or you can vote on election day, Tuesday, November 3. Probably most of us won’t die from the latter. Especially if you find and follow the lists of suggestions that have been formulated for doing what you can to make your foray into democracy a safe outing.  One that I found particularly brilliant was, if voting in person, take and use your own pen. The important thing is to participate, to write part of the story. Remember the old saying, “If you don’t vote, then you can’t complain.” What fun would that be? So, select a method and do vote. Meld your story into the anthology of this election year.

Music: "Stars and Stripes Forever" by John Phillip Sousa