As I write this, I’m headed into my 58th hour of election coverage. Not that I’ve watched or listened to all 58 hours of it….maybe just 56 or 57.
No, I’m kidding. I’ve slept in the last few days, so 15-16 hours over the last couple of days I’ve been in bed dreaming strange dreams of being lost. I’ve also fixed a few meals, washed & dried the dishes. I’ve sat quietly and read my email each day & responded (most interestingly, a message from a friend in Australia who seems to know every detail about our election.) I’ve driven once to the curbside pickup location of the library and gotten several books by Lynda Barry and several films by Alfred Hitchcock.
I’ve showered twice. I’ve washed a couple of loads of clothes. I’ve had a few Zooms with my writing friends in Seattle and my writing friends in Canada, Vermont and Oregon. God bless them one and all for the conversations, and for the laughter which has kept me sane. I’ve watched and re-watched a wonderful loop of short-short videos called Election Distractor which was put together by the New York Times — thank you for the link, Julie Paschkis, that was delightful!
But the fact is that at least part of my heart and mind were on the election news during each one of those other activities. I’m a news addict, especially when it comes to history-making news. The addiction probably began when I was 11 and watched the Nixon-Kennedy debates, continued when I was 14 and John Kennedy was assassinated – my family and I listened to Walter Cronkite report that for four days straight.
I’ve always watched Presidential election coverage, from 1960 through the one I’ve been watching now….maybe a dozen national elections?….no, sixteen!
Add in the coverage of rocket launches, John Glenn circling the earth, Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, the Watergate testimony – a whole summer of that kept me riveted. The coverage of Timothy McVeigh’s bombing in Oklahoma City. The O.J. Simpson trial – I felt guilty about being so addicted to that trial coverage, though guilt didn’t keep me from being glued to it, fascinated by the characters as if it were a novel. The terrorist attack on 9/11 – exhausting to watch the videos – over and over again – of those planes flying into the World Trade Center buildings, but there I was, watching it, one day, two days, it became a blur. There was (and continues to be) heartbreaking and nerve-wracking coverage of riots and/or protests all around the country, through the decades.
Many of these were chilling events. Some were confusing. I watched some of the coverage with friends or family. I watched some of it alone. A few history-making moments were thrilling. All fourteen of the elections were mysterious and compelling, with candidates whose body language I studied, whose words I analyzed. I include the journalists and commentators and pundits – who are these people? What pulls them into this drama?
Friends have told me they were emotionally so drained by both the long months of the pandemic and long months of nasty politics that they couldn’t watch the 2020 debates, much less hours of the actual election night(s) coverage. I have to say that several days of it is now wearing me out. But as I type, Steve Kornacki is over at the Big Board on MSNBC explaining results in Pennsylvania – sounds like he’s going to put up numbers soon which will signify the election of Joe Biden. I’d like to stay up long enough to see the look on his face when he does that. The narrative of these events is all about character – McVeigh, Simpson, Biden, Trump, Nixon, Kennedy, Cronkite, Kornacki. Maybe what I’m trying to say is that History is Character.
The books I read over and over again as a child were biographies – Genevieve Foster’s George Washington’s World, Abraham Lincoln’s World, even Augustus Caesar’s World. I wanted to know who these people were, the clothes they wore, the food they ate. I read historical fiction – Blue Willow by Doris Gates, Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. Read everything I get my hands on that involved children in the Holocaust. I wanted to see people in their everyday lives, hear their stories. I now collect, in the same spirit, mid-20th century photographs of people I don’t know. People at picnics, people sitting on big boulders, people next to their old cars, people waving from parade floats, people hanging up their laundry. Who are they? I want the details! I want the history.
There are children out there as hungry for history as I’ve always been. I’d die happy (well, I will anyway, but….) if I could write a historical novel for kids. How wonderful it would be to have the 2020 version of my ten-year-old self walk into the library and pull my book off the shelf….you know, that sounds a little surreal – a time-traveling doppleganger who reads a book I haven’t yet written……?
Whoa. I’m getting a little ditzy waiting for election returns from Pennsylvania. It’s now 3:00 a.m. and Thursday night is well on its way to Friday morning. Time to say goodnight to Steve Kornacki who has been on mute in the background as I write. Time for me to get to bed and dream another dream about being lost. I’ll get up tomorrow morning and see history happening. History keeps doing that.
Oh Julie — what a wonderful synopsis of the big news stories of our lives. I am a news junkie, too. Growing up with a newspaper editor dad, we five kids were drenched in news, It was a thrill each afternoon when the press started rolling. I loved its rhythms and its smells. as I counted out papers for the waiting delivery people. I still crave thorough, timely coverage. Fast and accurate, as we learned in journalism school at MIzzou. Still something to yearn for.
Just this morning, I heard a soundtrack for our present news overload: Georgia on my Mind. : )
I wanted at one time to be a journalist like your dad, Laura. How wonderful for you to have those memories of the press running! (BTW: Yes, I’ve got Ray Charles singing the soundtrack of this drama!)
Excellent summary of the news addictions of our lives! I think I got started a little earlier, with the McCarthy hearings, but got hooked as you did to all the stories after. I think I spent a Wednesday in summer glued to the March on Washington. But this last week has been terrible! I have even fallen asleep to Kornacki and woken up to him. Does HE sleep? Lasi night I fell asleep after Georgia gave Joe the lead and woke up to find Pennsylvania had given him the lead. Only VOX has declared his victory so far.
Poor Kornacki – he’s had a few ditzy moments himself. But his head can hold so much information at once, and he can retrieve that information at the drop of a hat; he can analyze statistics clearly; he has a sense of humor. I worry about him getting some sleep and maybe a change of clothes….?
News junkie here, too. Add to your list of the country united behind an event and watching the news for days–the Challenger explosion. Julie, I wish you would write an historical novel for kids. I wonder what era/event/character you’d choose?
I fantasize about that novel, too. I even started it once (WWII Italy.) Miserable effort. My brain works in short bursts – poetry suits me better, and I love words, love metaphor, love fragments. Love characters, yes, but movement, flow, pacing, actually making something happen? Ack! 😊 Bravo to everyone who can write beginnings, middles, and ends!
Ah, none of us are sleeping over here, either. And I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m writing a historical fiction middle grade novel right now during NaNoWriMo. I’ll let you know how it goes……Now get some sleep!
Brave soul, writing a NaNoWriMo project! Do keep me in the loop, Jilanne.
Being here in Pennsylvania I was full of anxiety. We are such a large state with a range from urban to rural…but with so much American history at our doorsteps. As much as it was overwhelming to keep watching/listening, I also tried to remain grateful that we still have as much open media as we have. Perhaps some bias but in the aggregate I remain hopeful that we get enough true information to stay informed.
Looks like there remain some anxious moments in the courts, Beth. Like you, I’m placing my trust in our ability to get good, truthful information through a free press.