WNIJ Perspectives

Perspective: This Is A Sucker?

Sep 14, 2020
U.S. National Archives

Milt Giese still couldn’t talk about it. I worked with him at an asphalt paving company in the summer 1984. One afternoon I asked him about his experiences in the Army at the end of World War II in Europe. He talked for bit, but then stopped when he got to the part of helping recently liberated concentration camp victims. He teared up and was still unable to speak about that experience almost 40 years later. At 21, I only vaguely understood why. 

Perspective: COVID-19 Is For The Dogs

Sep 11, 2020
David Gunkel

Of all the coronavirus conspiracy theories circulating on social media, my favorite has got to be one that says the virus was developed and deployed by dogs. Like all conspiracy theories, it is patently false, but it does contain an insight into our current situation that is incredibly accurate and true.

Perspective: Families Shape Leaders

Sep 10, 2020

There’s a guy who publicly calls people names, like “Stupid Joe,” or “Nasty Nancy,” or “Pocahontas Elizabeth.” If you or I talk to a friend and say unkind things about someone who rubs us the wrong way, that signals a need to figure out what’s behind those feelings. But I’m talking about a guy who goes public with name calling and appears to relish it.

Perspective: Old Friend, Lost To The Political Divide

Sep 9, 2020
Debby Hudson / Unsplash

Dear Friend,

Fifteen years ago, you and I could sit over coffee and discuss weighty things.  No longer.  You now limit yourself to a world view espoused by a few TV and radio commentators and unknown sources on social media.  Pulitzer prize winning authors and mainstream news are too radical for you.  You have traded in National Geographic for the National Enquirer.

Perspective: By The Light Of A Cathedral

Sep 8, 2020
Karen Elyea

I often turn to poetry when things fall apart. I suppose it makes me feel less helpless to artificially capture a moment in words as time sweeps something out of existence. These words are no replacement, but for me at least, they’re therapeutic. So as the Rockford Masonic Temple burned to the ground, all I could do was watch and write.

Out on the roof, I watched the church burn

A plume of smoke, so faint against the night

That most us past Prospect would miss it

Were it not for the sound of wind

Sucked through shattered glass and arched doorways- 

Perspective: Sequoia Wisdom

Sep 7, 2020
Simi Luft / Pixabay

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, I sat alone in a Yosemite forest and wept.

My husband and I had been hiking to a major grove of sequoias and were not more than a mile away, when I could go no farther. With my legs like lead and my heart racing, I knew I had to stop, even though to be so close and yet so far broke my heart.

Reluctantly, I told my husband to go on, and I sat down on a fallen log and let the tears fall.  Self-pity and misery were my sole companions.

At some point, however, alone in that awesome silence and solitude, I looked up.

Perspective: Whatever Happened To Sin?

Sep 4, 2020
Mitchell Orr / Unsplash

We are living in a time of softened language. This is called “euphemism,” but let us not get hung up on technical details.

People don’t die any more. They “pass.” Even mass murderers no longer “sin.” They just “made a mistake” and wish they hadn’t, since they got caught. Smutty films are now called “adult,” although every twelve-year-old knows that adults can be smutty sometimes. So there’s a certain logic here.

Perspective: Lies

Sep 3, 2020
Jay Park / Pixabay

Kellyanne Conway is leaving her job at the White House. She says she wants to spend more time with her teenage children and husband.


She’ll be remembered for her confrontational manner -- and for her lies. She burst out of the gate on January 22, 2017, with the jaw-dropping phrase “alternative facts,” the term she used to defend press secretary Spicer’s lie about the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration. Lying became a way of life in this White House.


Perspective: A Sign Of Immortality

Sep 2, 2020
Francisco Solares-Larrave

Sometimes, I take a walk through a cemetery near my house. There's nothing morbid about it. In fact, I enjoy cemeteries, and during a trip, I insisted on seeing the cemetery of a small French town, and we found the tomb of Marc Chagall. I felt vindicated.

The one near my house has no celebrities that I know of. It looks a bit abandoned, despite some shiny headstones here and there. When I walk through it, I stop to contemplate some groups.

Perspective: American Values

Sep 1, 2020
Mediamodifier / Pixabay

Kaneland’s school year has begun unusually. Our teachers worked hard to prepare and provide our students with the best education for this moment. It’s not a typical situation, so our actions and expectations cannot be typical.

All summer we asked -- how do we move through a time where nothing is normal and no plan seems appropriate? That we have to make things up as we move forward? How do we succeed when everything feels like an experiment?

Although these questions seemed appropriate for school, they also point to our nation’s current state.

Perspective: Live Fully Every Moment

Aug 31, 2020
photo courtesy of Dan Kenney

This is a unique perspective for me. I may be dead when you hear this.

I write and record on the eve of my heart bypass surgery. Tomorrow morning they will literally stop my heart from beating so they can fix it. Trusting my surgeon and team to hold my heart in their hands.

During these past few days I found myself preparing both to live and to die.

Perspective: A More Perfect Union

Aug 28, 2020
Markus Innocenti / Pixabay

Commonly-held narratives about identity and nationhood lend meaning to our lives and allow us to work together. One of America’s storylines is founded upon the premise that we strive for a more perfect union through the defense of equality and liberty for all.

Perspective: Grandmother's COVID Report

Aug 27, 2020
Bart via Flickr (CC by NC 2.0)

“We live inside historic moments, unaware of their significance.” One of my high school history teachers told us that. He said historians will one day study our time and lives and suggested we record our observations and thoughts to assist them. “Or do it for your future children and grandchildren.” The hint of sex in our future made the boys leer at the girls, which made the girls giggle and the teacher sigh.

Perspective: Mid-Year's Resolutions

Aug 26, 2020
Jude Beck / Unsplash

Just think, we’ve been coping with an unrelenting natural disaster for months.

Unlike storms that can be spotted on radar before they arrive, the pandemic surprised us all. People responded with their own unique crisis response and while each response is simply a normal reaction to an abnormal situation, after half a year of “responding” it’s normal to feel that you just can’t feel much of anything anymore.

Perspective: Little Bird

Aug 25, 2020
Katie Andraski

The barn swallows swooped over the field as if they were telling us where Little Bird was. Dutifully Bruce looked for him, knowing he’d survived the night. I thought about the saying: What is desirable in a man is his kindness. I loved my husband.

Andy Feliciotti / Unsplash

Two emergency economic relief measures are expiring, even while the emergency itself still threatens to overwhelm us.

One measure offered enhanced unemployment compensation benefits. The other subsidized employers to retain employees. Both measures mitigated the effects of a collapsing economy.

Perspective: A Message From The Ashes

Aug 21, 2020
Samuel Schiro / Pixabay

The mayor of Nagasaki, Japan, has made a plea to the world, including his own government.

And to all communities in Illinois.

He wants us to remember what happened 75 years ago on Aug. 9, 1945, when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on his city, three days after doing the same to Hiroshima. We killed thousands to end the war and the loss of more lives. 

In the ashes was a clear message for the conscience of the world that this should never happen again.

Perspective: Lefty

Aug 20, 2020
Nick Fewings / Unsplash

I was born left-handed, but my mother had heard that lefties die earlier than right-handers….So she decided I needed to become a right-hander. My mother and father would hand everything to my right hand and eventually this method worked. Sort of. When I learned square dancing years later, I had problems with left and right turns. The same thing happened with ballroom dancing.  My brain was evidently confused.

Perspective: What's It Going To Take?

Aug 19, 2020
Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Life during a pandemic is predictably chaotic, as scientists deliver the best available information and elected leaders provide daily infection rates, death counts and contingency plans. That chaos is not helped when there is an incessant stream of misinformation, conspiracy theory and political haggling.

Perspective: Entitled

Aug 18, 2020
Adam Niescioruk / Unsplash

Recently I took my car to the dealership for service. The entry door was posted: “Face covering required.” Just after I sat down in the waiting room, I heard a loud stentorian voice say:

“Where was the sign that said no one in a yellow shirt has to wear a face mask?”

I was in a yellow shirt. But my mask was up and over mouth and nose.  I looked in the direction of the voice. A 20-something young man wearing a yellow shirt got up and hustled toward the door to the exterior. He was asked again by a man he had to pass to get out the door: “Getting the sign out, huh?”

Perspective: Three Cheers For The Man In The Mask

Aug 17, 2020
Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Yard signs are beginning to take root now that we’re less than three months away from November 3rd. But the one that caught my attention was not voicing support for a political candidate. It simply said “Fauci.” For me the message was: listen to the people who know their stuff.


We’ve certainly needed a national hero, or at least a competent leader, these past months, and I’m grateful for Dr. Fauci’s indefatigable dedication, even with a science denying hitman snapping at his heels.


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: Honoring John Lewis

Aug 13, 2020
National Archives

The late Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis entered this world one full decade ahead of me. While I learned long division and state capitals in elementary school, he would be among the first Freedom Riders to risk his life to end segregation. While I was learning – erroneously -- that the 15th Amendment guaranteed Blacks the right to vote, he would suffer a fractured skull from a police officer determined to prove otherwise.

Perspective: Ode To Reading

Aug 12, 2020
Gaelle Marcel / Unsplash

Reading, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee cozily during a thunderstorm, nestled in and engrossed. I love thee as a 15-minute respite during the workday. I love thee sleepily while sneaking in a couple chapters at night. I love thee thankfully as an afternoon escape and a quiet, life-giving break.

It was Tyrion from A Song of Ice and Fire who said, “A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”

Perspective: The Least

Aug 11, 2020
Benoit Brummer CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wikimedia

You could go your whole life without knowing there is such a creature as a least chipmunk, which I almost did until last week’s adventure in the boundary waters wilderness with my family and the Ellisses. At our Basswood Lake campsite we were outflanked by a small army of the tiny dervishes.

Perspective: Going Ahead Alone Or Going Down Together

Aug 10, 2020
public domain

This has been a very American summer, one that has brought out both the very best and very worst in its citizens. It’s also a summer ripe for an opportunity for a rededication to what this country is ideally supposed to stand for.

The following passage is from a speech that captures the spirit of that rededication. It was by a person of incredible strength, compassion and fortitude, and who now ranks in the top five historical figures I deeply admire.

Perspective: Don't Teachers Get Summers Off?

Aug 7, 2020
Pixabay and Unsplash

Every summer, teachers -- whether primary, secondary, post-secondary or vocational -- face the same question from family, friends, and the public: Don’t you have summers off?

And every summer, teachers find themselves responding with the usual facts and figures: We are not on contract during the summer months. We are not paid during this period of time. And we are working -- researching, writing, and developing lesson plans -- we just do not show up to the classroom.

Perspective: A Message From The Hilltop

Aug 6, 2020
Connie Seraphine

Butterflies flit all around me as I drive the four-wheeler up the hill, our four dogs in eager pursuit. Crisscrossing all around me are tiny white, orange, and yellow butterflies competing for my attention and the nectar from the alfalfa and clover buds. Shifting down, my eyes are drawn to two other winged creatures. Stunning Monarchs play tag and honeybees from the hives up the hill perch on scores of purple alfalfa and pink clover blossoms. A teenage entrepreneur friend who tends three hives just ahead has promised several more jars of this golden nectar of the gods.

Perspective: A Brave New World Of Campaigning

Aug 5, 2020
gvbsonic / Pixabay

As the 2020 election looms, it’s a brave new world out there.  COVID-19 has changed everything, even elections. Candidates, staffers and volunteers are working on virtual strategies. This will mean more mailings, phoning and texts in place of traditional face to face events.

COVID-19 has reshaped how campaigns are organized. Many of you know I am managing my daughter’s campaign for the General Assembly in the 66th district. Though I am not new to campaigning, I have had to spend time wandering through the virtual world. Ugh.

Perspective: A New Breed Of RINO

Aug 4, 2020
Pexels / Pixabay

RINO, Republican In Name Only, is a slur used against Republicans who fail one or more extreme right wing purity tests.  It’s likely Reagan, Goldwater, the Bushes, Eisenhower, John McCain and other Republicans icons would be labeled RINOs by the standards of Trumpism.

Here's a new term – PINO. Patriot In Name Only. Examples:

If you disrespect 1st Amendment's free press protections and call

Journalists “Enemies of the People,” you may be a PINO.

If you think protecting our flag is more important than protecting the right