WNIJ Perspectives

Perspective: The Real Cold War

Jan 22, 2021
Jacqueline Macou / Pixabay

Years ago, I was shoveling snow next to my neighbor, who never spoke to me. Suddenly the snowplow came by, just as we had finished our driveway jobs, and ploughed us in with thick, crusty snow. My neighbor said, "Who do they think they are? Darth Vader?" He was furious. He never spoke to me again.

Perspective: Big Problems? Big Plans!

Jan 21, 2021

For the 81 million people who voted for change on November 3, yesterday’s inauguration of President Joe Biden was deeply satisfying. The challenges are immense and the fissures dividing people wide, but we know that this man cares deeply for the people of this country and will do his best. He’s been preparing for this for a long time and has spent recent months recruiting an impressive team of professionals to find ways to address the multiple crises we face.

Perspective: In Defense Of The Electoral College

Jan 20, 2021
Clay Banks / Unsplash

Recently the radio show 1A had a segment on the Electoral College. I was fortunate enough to have my input included during the discussion.

In summary my input was pro Electoral College, stating removal of it would divide our nation more than it is already between rural and urban -- between blue and red. The Electoral College forces presidential candidates to pay attention to both rural and urban issues, not just focusing on high population density areas.

Perspective: A Fresh Start, America?

Jan 19, 2021
Federico Respini / Unsplash

Tomorrow we witness the passing of presidential power from one man to another. I am hopeful it will be peaceful and that our nation will maintain its bonds of unity. I’m banking on it.

I look to Lincoln’s first inaugural address to ensure my wishful thinking isn’t just that. Lincoln tells America:

Perspective: What Would Dr. King Say?

Jan 18, 2021
Minnesota Historical Society / cc-by-sa-2.0

Over the past four years, and past four months, with each new disturbing piece of reality connected to this outgoing administration and each new assault on democracy, I find myself asking, what would Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. say?

So, I turned to his writing.

In our time of division and bitterness he says: “The one thing about bitterness is its blindness. Bitterness has not the capacity to make the distinction between some and all.”

Perspective: The Gatekeepers Let The Wolf In

Jan 15, 2021
PIxabay, Unsplash

Since Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, people have been blaming others. A recent example:

Perspective: Community Engagement Brings (Meit)healing

Jan 14, 2021
NeOnBrand / Unsplash

Though my own heritage is a wee bit more Scottish than Irish, I feel a deep connection to all things Celtic and I recently watched a new movie set in Ireland. Not wanting to give too much away, the story involved a ragtag group of folks coming together as a community to help the lead character get back on her feet.

Perspective: The Day I Wept

Jan 13, 2021
public domain / U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Rep. Andy Kim could simply not bear the rotunda looking like an abandoned parking lot, so he donned gloves, grabbed a broom and waste bag and began to clean up. The insurrectionists had wreaked havoc and desecrated The People’s House, a place Kim loved. Rep. Kim is a child of immigrants who loved the United States and its ideals, in the aftermath, before the vote, he was the lone person cleaning up after the carnage.

Perspective: How I Listened When I Prayed

Jan 12, 2021

Even though we're done with Christmas, I'm stuck back on the story when Gabriel told Mary she was favored of God. He said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you. She was greatly troubled at this saying and tried to discern what sort of greeting that might be" (Luke 1: 28 – 29, ESV).

Perspective: Another Concern For The List

Jan 11, 2021

Naturally enough, our domestic problems consume almost completely our attention; but life does not permit us to compartmentalize. We must address both external and internal threats simultaneously. Some external threats are so grave that they create internal threats. A partial "laundry list" must suffice here.

Perspective: Winners, Losers, Pea-Shooters

Jan 8, 2021

Politics is a game. It seems that way because there are winners and losers -- and rules.

At least that's what I thought in 1972. I was a young reporter working for the Rockford daily paper ... covering county government and lots of politics.

Political parties clashed, fought for turf and media attention. It was spirited between the R's and the D’s ... but seemed civilized. Because there were limits. Rules.

Chris Fink

If you like to traipse in the woods, or if you have a child or a dog that sometimes bounds off the trail, you too have been plagued by a pox known as beggar’s lice. You might know this nuisance plant by an alias:  sticktight, or stickseed. My wife Breja, who hails from Iowa, calls them simply weed seeds. She is the only one in my family who knows how to rid clothing of them.

Perspective: Don't Just Reset. Do Something!

Jan 6, 2021
Jose Antonio Gallego Vazquez / Unsplash

As 2020 closed, millions of Americans rejoiced in the conclusion of what could arguably be one of the worst years in recent history. The nation navigated its way through controversies, challenges, and corruptions -- real and perceived.

Depending on who you are, we either dealt with a pandemic of historic proportions that caused over 300,000 deaths and total disruption to our norms. Or we dealt with the biggest, most complex hoax ever perpetrated on the public.

Perspective: The Power To Pardon Needs Reigning In

Jan 5, 2021
public domain

Since Trump lost the election, I’ve been more or less successful in quelling the ire and disgust he provokes. I can feel how unhealthy it is and want to re-enter the field of positive energy in 2021. But his parade of pardons, although expected, is making it difficult.



Perspective: Epiphany For A New Year

Jan 4, 2021
Bill Ingalls / NASA

We came seeking the star.

Just a few of us showing up on the open prairie, our silhouettes backlit by a ruby-rimmed horizon and the deepening hues of a lavender twilight.

This was our last chance to see the Christmas Star, so named because this great conjuncture of Saturn and Jupiter might have been similar to what astronomers say the wisemen witnessed over 2,000 years ago.

Perspective: What's Your Goal For 2021?

Jan 1, 2021
Jim Kline

The ecologist Aldo Leopold once said that the months from January to June are a progression of distractions. The start of 2020 was the beginning of a deadly, pervasive distraction which took the lives of 300,000 Americans.   

So I look forward, in hope, to the new year we begin today. The promise of widespread vaccination should, by summer, put the pandemic behind us.

Perspective: A Stimulus Package For Live Music

Dec 31, 2020
Edwin Andrade / Unsplash

2020 was a year of loss. But as we look back on the year that was, we can also use this moment as an opportunity to identify what is valuable and what we will need to do to ensure its future. We obviously do not have the time to provide a full inventory, so let me focus on one thing that might escape attention—music.

Annie Spratt / Unsplash

Every holiday season, there is usually the dreaded tradition of political debates. Even with this year’s holidays being different because of COVID, one still might be afraid of political talk over a family ZOOM.

However, I believe that these are valuable conversations and debates during the holidays -- or any family gathering -- as long as it is done politely and done in a way where it is a discussion where everyone can have input.

Perspective: Let's Talk About Giving

Dec 29, 2020
Gerd Altman / Pixabay

Since her divorce from the richest man in the world, MacKenzie Scott has done something unusual. She pledged to give “the majority of her fortune back to the society that helped generate it.” She promised to get started soon, then delivered more than 6 BILLION DOLLARS in the past year.

She gave to causes related to the pandemic and longer-term issues of race and gender-based inequities, poverty, food insecurity and climate change; strengthening democracy, colleges that welcomed low income students, and much, much more. 

Perspective: Being A Neighbor

Dec 28, 2020
Pixabay + Pixlr

While my religious beliefs are deeply, deeply suspect to anyone who is a devout practitioner of any one of the world’s religions, there is a profound biblical lesson that should inform the civic behavior for everyone in these fractured United States of America. That lesson comes from the concept of “being a neighbor” from the “Parable of the Good Samaritan.”

Germs and viruses will infect you regardless of your political or religious affiliation. Be a neighbor and wear your mask.

Perspective: Light And New Life

Dec 24, 2020
James McGill / Unsplash

Christmas is here -- and how we need it!  If you’re like me -- and most human beings on this planet -- we’re longing and waiting for our lives to brighten! When can we crawl out from under the heavy weight of darkness of unrelenting bad news?  


In the pandemic arena, we see a light up ahead beginning to pierce the dark tunnel and are grateful for the promise that healing is on the way.  In the political arena, many of us are also eager for new leadership in our nation that will nurture hope, stability, and justice for all. 

Patrick Sommer / Pixabay

I’ll be honest, I didn’t pay attention much in high school government class. I did enough to pass the class and eventually graduate. I did start paying attention when I got my first real job and noticed how much less my net or take home pay was compared to gross pay. From that point on I researched, read, and educated myself on the federal government, specifically the when, where, and how of taxes.

Perspective: The Resilience Of One Little Church

Dec 22, 2020

Not long ago, I attended a Zoom meeting with my state senator and twenty-some faith leaders, on COVID-19 and mitigation impacts on faith communities. My colleagues grieved limits to pastoral care, and how damaging isolation is to the vulnerable and struggling. One pastor finally admitted his doubts about mask effectiveness and explained that those who wish to wear masks through worship are seated separately in the sanctuary, while everyone else removes their masks.

Perspective: A Joyful Day

Dec 21, 2020
David Burwell

Last Christmas, my wife gave me a bluebird nesting box as a present. I attached the box to the trunk of a a tree, out on our prairie, in late April of this year. And it was now time to see if we had a nesting pair of bluebirds.

It was May 19th, and as I hid in the tall grass, about 100 feet away, I reminded myself of the doctor’s appointment I had to leave for in about an hour. Fading from the impressionism of my surroundings into the realism of the environment, it took only a few minutes before I saw a pointillist dot of blue flick out of the nest box. I needed to move closer.

Perspective: Repressed By The Watchbird

Dec 17, 2020
Munro Leaf

When I was nine years old, my parents signed me up for a little child’s magazine called The Weekly Reader, which included a weekly cartoon with three frames.

In frame one was a caption that said, “This is a Pig Pen,” with a drawing of a filthy, unkempt kid. Frame Two: “This is the Watchbird watching the Pig Pen.” This was a drawing of an owl-like fowl with huge glasses on, looking down in frowning disapprobation at the Pig Pen Kid. Frame Three: “This is the Watchbird watching you. Are you a Pig Pen?”

Perspective: The Quiet Crisis In Your Neighborhood

Dec 17, 2020
Susan Stephens / WNIJ

A quiet drama unfolds on Thursday afternoons at Huntley Middle School in DeKalb. One after another, cars turn off Fourth Street to line up in the parking lot. Well before Barb Food Mart’s 4:30 start time, the cars are snaking around the lot. And they just keep coming. The Depression era breadlines are back.

A few years ago, my ten-year old neighbor was excited about a recent accomplishment. "Now, Susan," her mother admonished, "Don't brag." My comeback was swift: "It's not bragging if you did it."

By now the Wall Street Journal Op-Ed from last Friday, criticizing Jill Biden for using the title Dr., has been justifiably condemned. That someone with no earned graduate degree would refer to the future first lady as “kiddo” and question the validity of her three advanced degrees is astoundingly sexist. I wonder if I am living in the nineteenth century.

Perspective: Rule #5

Dec 15, 2020
Rafael Garcin / Unsplash

Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs has his own set of rules in which to live on the long-lasting TV show “NCIS.” Each rule was created to either prevent a problem or to get out of a problem.

Some are rather basic, like #45: I left a mess, I gotta clean it up. Some can be questionable, like #6: Never say you’re sorry. And some can strengthen the foundation of any group like #15: Always work as a team. However, for our current times, I think rule #5 might be the most important: You don’t waste good.


Today the Electoral College meets. Another failsafe in the long process to the transition of presidential power. This year it is more significant given the rabbit-hole our country was drug into 6 weeks ago.

Robert Kennedy said, “the work of our hands, matched to reason and principle, will determine destiny.”

What happens when those in power no longer operate with principle or reason? 

Perspective: Loaf Meat

Dec 10, 2020
Pixabay + Pixlr

Proust had his madeleines; I have loaf meat.

I made a whopping big pile of meat loaf, or loaf meat as my Polish grandmother would say, last weekend. It was exquisite. It had just the right balance of flavors and got better with age. It made me remember weekends when I was little.