Perspectives

Did you miss an essay from your favorite "Perspectives" writer? Want to hear it again? Scroll down to find a complete archive of our "Perspectives" essays. You'll find the most recent at the top.

To find out more about each writer, click on his or her name at the bottom of each entry.

If you would like to submit your own Perspective for consideration, compose a piece that will run about 90 seconds when read -- that's about 230 to 250 words, as counted by Microsoft Word -- and email it to NPR@niu.edu. Be sure to put "Perspectives" in the subject line.

Northern Public Radio invites you to comment on or respond to any Perspective in the comments section at the bottom of each article, in keeping with our Discussion Policy.

Why Conventional Summer is So Awesome

Aug 8, 2018

 

I was talking the other day with one of my teachers, who told me that she wished school were year round. That way, she explained, students would remember more and the beginning to the year would go a lot smoother, without students having to relearn everything they forgot over the summer. 

The Other Side Of The Blade

Aug 7, 2018

 

Aren’t wind turbines graceful, like gymnasts doing cartwheels? Don’t they make environmental sense, better than smoke stacks burning fossil fuels?  

 

Gerrymandering Ourselves

Aug 6, 2018

Recently the Supreme Court reviewed without rejecting the partisan practice of redistricting -- "Gerrymandering." Critics charged the Court with ignoring a national outrage. This criticism is both dangerous and misguided. 

Then Who Are The Good Guys?

Aug 3, 2018

Shouting in a storm is a waste of time. So much anger. So much hate. I usually don’t want to be part of that noise. But now I need to scream.

Because there’s blood on the newsroom floor.

I can see it clearly. I can smell it. I can feel the room aching from the pain. Because this time it’s real. And I’ve been in the room.

I say this time because threats often become a grenade of dark humor that newsrooms kick around between deadlines and headlines. We joke about craziness in the world. Gallows humor. But the mission is always serious. 

Alla Famiglia, Sometimes

Aug 2, 2018

 

I have just returned from the annual family reunion. Gathered from eight states, we played, laughed, told family stories to the youngest members of our tribe and yet something…. 

 

Your Home For Civil Discourse

Aug 1, 2018
Dreibelbis + Fairweather Photography

 

The Summer Sport Of Unlearning Helplessness

Jul 31, 2018

I’m taking solace on my front porch these long summer days. Basking in the semi-outdoors as I view the parade of neighbors led by their canine friends.

The problem though is most of my porch time is consumed by reading the New York Times – usually while listening to NPR (on WNIJ of course).

Digesting the news, I go from feeling aghast, irate, fed up and fearful into a numbing sense of helplessness. And then I get mad all over again when I realize I may be falling prey to “learned helplessness.”

Lessons From Little League

Jul 30, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

 

All Are Welcome

Jul 27, 2018

 

The dictionary definition of "ordain" is precise: "To invest officially (as by the laying on of hands) with ministerial or priestly authority." In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, that tradition continues to this day. 

 

A Warning From The Past Hits Home Today

Jul 26, 2018

In 1930, Olaf Stapledon wrote Last and First Men, a science fiction classic that is a history of Humanity’s future that takes place over billions of years. 

Written nearly 90 years ago, Stapledon closely imagines our present day reality:

 

Since 1949, America has dedicated one month per year to recognizing mental health, and presidential proclamations about it mostly talk about the same things: 

 

Vampire Fairies Of The North

Jul 24, 2018

My wife Breja and I were walking our black dog Shady down a gravel road near Low Lake, north of Ely, Minnesota. Deer flies swarmed our heads in their hundreds, and mosquitoes and black flies battled for any remaining bare flesh.

I wonder what I’ll write about for my next perspective, I told Breja.

How about mosquitoes? she said.

Mosquitoes? I said. I was thinking of writing about a bog. Something pretty. Lady slippers.

Being Quietly Loud In Today's Culture Battles

Jul 23, 2018

A few weeks ago in a local movie theater, my wife and I took in the documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, about a true American hero: Fred Rogers. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend that you do. But, I’ll warn you now, it is shattering in all the right ways.

There's A Lot To Learn From Old-School AI

Jul 20, 2018

Each day it seems we hear news of some remarkable innovation in artificial intelligence. Whether it be something mundane, like a better recommendation algorithm at Netflix or Amazon, or something dramatic, like Uber and Google’s self-driving vehicles that promise (or threaten) to replace human drivers.

But instead of looking forward and worrying about some science fiction future, we might learn a thing or two by looking backwards to our past. Whether we know it or not, we have been involved with a kind of artificial intelligence for quite some time…for well over 500 years.

As You Shop, So Shall You Reap

Jul 19, 2018

There are several biblical references concerning “we reap what we sow.” In Eastern religions, it’s the concept of receiving good karma or bad karma. Many communities of northern Illinois are now witnessing the devastating effects of online shopping. Retailers are leaving the area at an increasing rate. This leaves our area more and more of a retail wasteland. 

Who Loves The Little Children Of The World?

Jul 18, 2018

 

Summer is vacation Bible school season. Churches host children for crafts, games, and singing, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world….”  

 

 

Be A Guard Dog

Jul 17, 2018

Recently in our sheep pasture, we found a healthy lamb with its throat gouged out, the sad victim of a coyote strike.  Thankfully, no other lambs or mothers were harmed.  After blocking the hole dug under the pasture fence, we made sure our Great Pyrenees guard dog was out with the sheep to protect them each night.

In a Perspective broadcast a seeming lifetime ago - last year - I offered up a suggestion to the opposition party, which is eternally, almost comically awful at branding and self-promotion.

Remember First Grade? Me Neither.

Jul 13, 2018

When I was about five years old, a man named Grady French told me that I had once sleepwalked from my bedroom to downtown Mart, Texas. To be sure, this was only three blocks of soporific strolling, but it was still no mean feat.

I have no memory of ever having done this. And I’m not even sure that Mr. French told me I had. Maybe I just dreamt the whole thing.

Words Have Power

Jul 12, 2018

Hitler called the Jews subhuman disease-carrying rats.

Words like these have been used throughout history to dehumanize groups and to make it acceptable to treat them like animals  --  to eliminate them, to perform experiments on them, to kill them. Dehumanizing words are part of a demagogue’s tool chest. The goal is to convince the public it is OK to mistreat those other, lesser people.

It’s tempting to look at the enormity of the Nazi holocaust, with the huge scale of the killing, as a one-time madness that infected Germany and was cured.

The #MeToo Backlash: We Can Do Better

Jul 11, 2018

The #MeToo movement created a swarm of energy and dialogue around the topic of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.

The Power Of American Opportunity

Jul 10, 2018

Summer vacation allows kids this opportunity to live their own dreams for a short time.

Kids all around me are breaking down their classroom’s four walls to engage in a larger learning experience.  This month, I’ve seen kids taking classes, learning new instruments, practicing a foreign language, working a job, paddling the Boundary waters, exploring their minds, talents, and interests.  

 

These kids’ American Dreams of opportunity and learning inspire me.

Lost Children In A Lost Nation

Jul 9, 2018

“Dad when are you coming to get me?”

The father put the phone down, unable to speak. His sobs choked his voice.

He sat in his one room house deep in Mexico after being separated from his daughter at the border and deported.

We have all seen the photos by now. Children of all ages trying to sleep fully clothed in wire cages under aluminum foil. Some curled up in balls of terror. Others sobbing in the dark. Little ones crying out for their mother.

 

The United States, built upon principles of equality and pragmatism, champions identities based on what people do --- not upon where they were born. Until recently, in older civilizations, the career question “what are you going to be when you grow up?” sounded strange for its equation of occupation with Being. You already were what you were. 

Your Job Vs. Your Place In The World

Jul 5, 2018

Last month, an old friend reached out to discuss her fear that her husband was suffering from something she called, “Work Separation Anxiety.” Not only did he struggle with committing to take vacation days, he also had trouble taking time away for “life or death” absences such as loved ones’ funerals or his own hospital stay.

My Sister Got It Right

Jul 4, 2018

Five years ago, my sister Dori died suddenly from a stroke. She and I rarely agreed on anything — she was a Cubs fan, I am a Sox fan. In the presidential elections, we usually cancelled out each other’s votes.

However, she once confided in me that she had quit supporting George W. Bush after the Hurricane Katrina debacle. As a lawyer, my sister, when confronted with facts, could come up with some surprising turnabouts.

Sometimes, I wonder what my sister would think about the political scene nowadays. But I think I can make an educated guess, based on her legal career.

Dorothy's Gifts

Jul 3, 2018

It seemed like all my friends were getting married and I was always a bridesmaid. 

I was on my way to graduate school. A family friend, Dorothy Harro gave me two gifts. 

The first was a set of Pfaltzgraff dishes that I still use today. She didn’t want me to feel left out with all these weddings. She said she was proud of me and my independence.

The second was a day trip to go canoeing on Schroon Lake in the Adirondacks. We marveled at how mysterious a black line of rain looked. 

The Declaration That Still Binds Us

Jul 2, 2018

Independence Day approaches. We will celebrate not only our birth as a sovereign nation; we will renew also our commitment to the great social contract proclaimed in the Declaration. We define ourselves by our belief in equality, and our mutual pledge to respect the right to life, to liberty, and to pursue our own happiness.

Comforting The Caregiver

Jun 29, 2018

My friend Bill is a caregiver -- every day -- because he lives with and loves the person he cares for. Every choice he makes must involve and revolve around the person he cares for.

It’s important to understand that Bill also needs the person he monitors and nurtures. Love has tied a knot that binds them.

Bill recently shared on Facebook a meditation from “Daily Comforts for Caregivers” by Pat Samples. Please listen:

Goodbye To A Community Ally

Jun 28, 2018

Several years ago, a note came across my email: “Would you be interested?”

The message came from someone called Victor Yehling who said he was from WNIJ/NPR. Victor wanted to know if I would be interested in an idea he had. People from the community would write a short piece (250 words) and record the piece for a program he was starting called Perspectives. A few of us said yes and so it began.

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