Michael Perry

Perspective: What Can We Do?

Aug 14, 2020
Alexas Fotos / Pixabay

In June, I wrote a letter to Rockford University students wherein I said: “Our mission is to educate our student body to be better prepared to make change and seek to fix the cause, not react to the symptoms, of systemic racism that carries with it a 300-year legacy of racial inequality that began before our nation even started.” 

Perspective: Proceed With Grace

Mar 26, 2020
Aaron Thomas / Unsplash

As I contemplated what to write for this edition of perspectives, my mind kept returning to the recent day when my son returned from his freshman year of college several months early. I came home from work that evening and there he was in the kitchen. Cooking dinner! Lemon pepper baked fish.

Now this is a big deal. Unlike my 15-year-old son who readily fries himself bacon in the middle of the night, and cooks hamburgers on the frying pan for a snack, my eldest does not necessarily find himself comfortable in the kitchen.

Perspective: Wisdom In The Strangest Places

Feb 20, 2020

I found wisdom this winter in the strangest of places, as one often does. It was in the dark, sitting next to my daughter, who is four years old.

Before us on the screen: A young woman, believing her sister had died, found herself faced with the unimaginable. What does she do?

She doesn’t let go. She owns it. And moves forward with five simple, profound, and freeing words: “Do the next right thing.”

Perspective: The Force Is Strong With This One

Dec 5, 2019
mnm.all / Unsplash

I am a 46-year-old Star Wars fan. I have read all the new books and watched all the animated series. I preordered Disney+ several months early just so I could watch The Mandalorian on day one. And I own the new video game where I get to be a Jedi who escaped the purge. 


Perspective: Unsupervised!

Oct 3, 2019
Sasin Tipchai / Pixabay

Pull the ball and it would land in the neighbor’s backyard. During street football, the braver ones among us would take to the small strip of grass between sidewalk and street where for a brief moment, tackle, not touch, was the rule. In fact, we made our own rules.

Get knocked down by your friend’s older brother? Fall into the snowbank going for a layup, only to have your face nudged further into the snow? Whatever the issue, the last thing we would ever think to do would be to tell our parents. That would be an invasion of our privacy. This was our world. Our time.

Perspective: To Rule The World

Jun 13, 2019
via Pixabay

“The world is a mess and I just need to rule it.”  


Perspective: Faith, Fury, And Doubting

May 9, 2019
Joshua Earle / Unsplash

Midway through Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers asks Nick Fury how he is doing. He responds, and I am paraphrasing: “Before today I would have said there’s no such thing as life on other planets, but I just sat through an alien autopsy. I can’t un-see that.”  


Perspective: Time And Space

Apr 4, 2019

I started and stopped three different perspectives this week, each time asking the question: what matters my perspective? Whether I discuss politics, the state of higher education, baseball, or religion in America, what matters my perspective?

So each time, I deleted what I wrote and started over. Then I thought about my students. One of the things I love to talk about most is perspective. And not in the way that may first come to mind.

Perspective: Spring. Now More Than Ever.

Feb 28, 2019
Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Despite the wickedness brought by the winter’s weather, I am already beginning to sense the inevitability of spring. The beginning of a thaw. It always happens when I hear four simple words: pitchers and catchers report.

But this year it is more than just baseball and excitement about my Cardinals having the best first baseman in baseball once again.

The difference this year is that I don’t simply want spring to come, I need it. And not solely because we have dealt with heavy snow, polar vortexes, thermal whiplash, and IceRain.

Perspective: Jesus And Superman

Jan 16, 2019
Susan Stephens, remixed from Pixabay


Studying the book of Mark in my adult Sunday school class recently got me thinking about a question I have always liked to ponder: at what point did Mary approach her son and tell him the big news?  

A Modest Post-Election Proposal

Nov 8, 2018


The midterm elections are over. Blame and praise and excuses abound. And the 2020 election has begun. Lord help us. Considering that as goes Ohio so goes the election, maybe we ought to limit all spending, all campaigning, to that single state.  


A Purple Party Majority

Oct 4, 2018


We are once again in the midst of a partisan battle over a Supreme Court nominee. If we are to believe in the two party system, it appears as though there are only two types of nominees available: conservative or liberal; red or blue. 


Getting Grounded Through A Cardinal Connection

Aug 30, 2018


Driving home from Florida in mid-August we pulled over for gas in Normal, IL. As I pulled up to the gas station I noticed a gentlemen watering flowers in planters by each of the pumps. I stepped out of my truck, stretched, and proceeded to fill my tank.  


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:

It Shouldn't Always Take A Law

Jun 21, 2018

Gun control and pro-life advocates look toward legislation for solutions. Ironically, on the other side of both: Gun rights and pro-choice advocates argue that the state should mind its own business and respect individual rights.

But what is left out is the potential for common ground and hard work.

I imagine we all would like a world where fewer people were killed by gun violence as well as a world with little to no unwanted pregnancies. These are worthy, complicated, and ambitious goals.

Baseball As Metaphor For Life

Apr 5, 2018

The Saint Louis Cardinals will soon begin the 2018 baseball season. I will be right there with them, listening to games, watching when I can, and always reading the recaps.

Baseball, for me, in so many ways, represents life.

The regular season lasts an impossible 162 games. As Whitey Herzog once wrote: you will win 54 and lose 54; it is what you do with that other 54 that counts. So baseball is about patience, perspective, and perseverance.

Filling The Nothingness Of Evil

Mar 1, 2018

Matt Rawle, in What Makes a Hero?, defines Evil as nothingness. Evil exists, but only as a shadow – something defined only by a lack of light.

Consider the profound nothingness within and surrounding the 19-year-old who shot up the high school in Florida, or the 16-year-old boy who jacks cars in Chicago because he will not face a felony, or the politician in a position of great power who is blind to his own misogyny and insecurities, or the 14-year-old middle-school girl who ostracizes a fellow classmate by spreading rumors and lies.

How To Beat Election Intrusion

Jan 25, 2018

It turns out that Russia invaded Facebook – the Red Army scored a blow against the Blue social media site, and the American election system was shown to be vulnerable.

As a child of the 80s, I grew up with Russia as the Big Bad. I read nearly all of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels, so I fancy myself somewhat of an expert. However, something about this recent Red Scare bothers me.

... And You're Entitled To Yours, Too

Dec 21, 2017

I have opinions. I think it is downright crazy to be a vegan. I think ear gauges are simply gross. I think it is dangerous and irresponsible to own a Pitbull or a Rottweiler. And I think homeschooling children is insane.

Now, before I offend friends and family and listeners, let me add this caveat and quote The Dude: “Hey, that’s just like my opinion man.”

Think Of Them As Unique

Nov 16, 2017

Light, from 93 million miles away, warms my face past trees and through glass. Three blades of grass grow from a tiny crack in the stone that holds back my garden. I cut, pull, and even spray, but they return.

Life: persistent and miraculous and, yes, stubborn.

Lately, racism and sexism pop up like stubborn grass. Even if we try to shade ourselves, memes, scandals, studies, and protests permeate like light from our closest star.

Don't Reject Prayers As Useless

Oct 12, 2017

I’m disturbed by recent memes and social media posts mocking prayers sent to those dealing with tragedy. Granted, words alone are not enough, and calculated photo opportunities of groups of politicians praying seem contrived at best.

There are, however, two important ways in which I disagree vehemently with such sentiment:

First, sending prayers does not equate to sending words and sentiment. A prayer is not simply a word of encouragement or support – nor is it a concrete question asking for a specific result. And it is certainly not a wish.

They Should Get More Of A Role

Sep 7, 2017

With more than a dozen people on couch and floor – a decimated collection of snacks left alone on the table – it begins: two modern-day gladiators beating the crap out of each other on live television after months of orchestrated “smack-talk.”

The fight did not disappoint. The pre-fight videos (MacGregor all bravado and style, and Mayweather doing it all for his Grandma) made for highly scripted melodramatic TV.

To Focus Or Not To Focus ...

Jun 29, 2017

I jump from a WWII novel, to the best American short stories, to a biography of a poet, to a novel telling the story of the battle of Jakku.

I immerse myself in The Last of Us; I am a man stricken with grief who bonds with a girl who holds the key to saving the world. Or, I am signed by the Royals farm team and, now at six-five with a huge red Afro, begin my journey to the majors.

The Peculiarities Of Policy

May 25, 2017

I have been thinking about “Policy” as of late -- in particular, about the question I hear increasingly asked: “Do we have a policy for that?”

More concretely, I am thinking about common sense; in particular, at what point in our development as a nation did we decide the need to legislate common sense in the workplace?

I am increasingly bothered by the preponderance of and desire for “policy” documents that simply spell out that which the majority of common-sense observing employees already follow.

Finding What Will Suffice

Apr 20, 2017

Wallace Stevens begins his poem “Of Modern Poetry” like this:

The poem of the mind in the act of finding
What will suffice.

He meditates on the nature of poetry and concludes:

It must
Be the finding of a satisfaction, and may
Be of a man skating, a woman dancing, a woman
Combing. The poem of the act of the mind.

I enjoy spending time with words carefully chosen -- words that seek to find “what will suffice.” It is an implicit recognition that language can only approach and never fully arrive at its destination.

A Better President Starts With You

Mar 23, 2017

We moved to Rockford in the summer of 2008; I was hired at Rockford University the same time as our then new president, Robert Head. Shortly thereafter, Barack Obama was elected president. My two boys, both black, had the incredibly unique experience of growing up in a world where both the president of their dad’s University and the president of the United States looked “like them.”

What's Wrong With 'Some People'

Feb 23, 2017

I have discovered the problem with “some people.”

And, once I realized it, I couldn’t help but think that it was so obvious all along. So here it is: The problem with “some people” is the very identifier itself -- “some people.”

The moment an observation begins, “well, some people believe …” or “some people do not like …,” the person hearing such an observation ought to be skeptical.

It is similar, in my mind, to how the phrase that begins “I’m not being sexist, but …” is always followed by a sexist comment. Note I said similar, not the same.

A Brother's Advice On Anger

Jan 26, 2017

James, the brother of Jesus, proclaims in Chapter 1, verse 19 of his Biblical epistle:  “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” 

Later, in Chapter  3, verses 3-5, he refers to the idea that horses are led by bits put into mouths, and that the largest of ships are steered by the smallest of rudders – both of which he connects to a tongue that makes “great boasts” while reminding us that a “great forest is set on fire by a small spark.”

This Is One Of Those Personal Things

Dec 29, 2016

Let’s play connect the dots:

  • Dot one: Every year around this time we are flooded with “top ten” lists.
  • Dot two: As an English professor, I am often asked: what are your favorite books?
  • Dot three: I’m nearing my mid-forties.

My reading suggestions might hold some weight; as I tell my students, my title provides a built-in Ethos. So maybe I ought to adopt my nasally academic voice and produce a list of books you all “should” read to make you better and smarter people.

Face To Face Tops Facebook

Dec 1, 2016

I enjoy Facebook – especially the silly stuff: the perfect BLT, the six-year-old’s wisdom shared by a parent, the photo of a photo circa 1979, and the Sports and Television play by play.

I don’t watch The Walking Dead, but I don’t have to: I follow the live feed from my friends.

I don’t enjoy the rant – the righteous, well-meaning, at-times angry and indignant rant – often coinciding with a helpful link to an article that may or may not be valid -- and is often without context.