WNIJ Perspectives

Perspectives: We Cannot Look Away

Jun 19, 2020
Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Disruption. That is part of the point of current local protests— bringing awareness so that people not affected by racial injustice can no longer look away and ignore it. The time for change is right now.

I believe that, for many people, this call for change is not anti-police, or about hating police— but rather it is to love Black lives. Black Lives Matter is an acknowledgement of the value of Black lives. Of course all lives matter, but right now Black lives are in danger. We are fed up with racial injustice that has persisted for far too long.

Perspective: Monarch Mama

Jun 18, 2020
Rosie Klepper

I am a monarch mama.

If you’ve never raised a monarch butterfly from an egg to a full grown, beautiful butterfly, you really should try it. It is really quite simple.

Perspective: Lessons From The Pandemic

Jun 17, 2020
United Nations Covid-19 Response / Unsplash

The last few months have been a social experiment of global proportions. We saw firsthand how interconnected the world has become and how quickly things could shift as we all bolted our doors to keep out COVID-19.

Perspective: I Asked For Wisdom

Jun 16, 2020
justcallmeang / Pixabay

“Could you send us an article?” Andrew Sullivan, the editor of the New Republic asked in a phone call. He was responding to a letter about how as a college instructor, I’d observed that I wasn’t sure young black men wanted to take advantage of the academic help being offered. I kept my voice calm. “Sure,” I said. Maybe this was my big break.

Logan Weaver / Unsplash

The current crisis concerning policing is so multifaceted that it threatens to overwhelm and immobilize us. What are the root causes? In what order do we address them?

But this is no time for collective handwringing or causal inertia, no time for doing nothing until we can do everything.

A small piece of our problem is the legal concept of "qualified immunity." We can address it now. It is a start. Let us begin.

Perspective: Thoughts On Flag Day

Jun 14, 2020
Osman Rana / Unsplash

When my two sons were little boys, we lived in a very diverse Southern California community, where the local gas station displayed what was considered the largest American flag in the world.

My younger son Jordan was in preschool at the time and very proud of himself for knowing how to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Still learning the words, of course, he already knew the flag was a symbol of our country, that we needed to respect our country and our flag, that we took care of our things and the people around us because we are one nation, under God.

Perspective: History's Heroes And Villains

Jun 12, 2020
Fabien Barral / Unsplash

I had trouble digesting history classes in high school.

I had no appetite for massive platefuls of dates and names … a chronology of events that I was forced to memorize.

Those classes are history now. Ha-ha. Gone but not completely forgotten. Even now I feel pressure to never forget the significance of 1776. I still have trouble thinking in terms of dates. But there is something notable about all those names on that history plate. Yes, history buffs. Time and place are important.

Perspective: Support BLM Like You Mean It

Jun 11, 2020
photographer unknown, in Scherer family collection

“Black Lives Matter” is not just an expression, it is a fundamental truism in any fair society. It's deeply resonant because of the inherent and systemic injustice and violence that remains prevalent, and particularly commonplace in police forces around the country. But racists, in their willful ignorance, just don’t see it. Most racists probably don’t even know that they are racists.


In 1903 W.E.B DuBois wrote “Either America will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States.” 

Perspective: Teacher Education Is A Tool For Anti-Racism

Jun 10, 2020
Clay Banks / Unsplash

When I went to college to become a teacher, I learned the content I would need to teach and the best methods for creating successful academic outcomes for students. And, during my 35 years as an educator, that’s what we’ve continued to do.

But that is no longer enough.

Teacher-preparation programs must intentionally, and deeply, address equity, race, racism and social justice because, as I often say, teachers are the backbone of our democratic society. Teachers spark and nurture young minds, support families and contribute to every community nationwide.

Perspective: I Lost My Perspective

Jun 9, 2020
Anemone123 / Pixabay

I’ve lost my perspective. Not as in “the dog ate it,” but as in “I can’t think straight so how could I possibly articulate any coherent message to you?”

The disarray of my thoughts has been building since 2016, but what’s happened over the past couple of weeks has pushed my brain over its tipping point. And I’m left in a puddle of wordless emotions.

The best I can do is to try and describe what’s brought me to this state, so I’ll start with one of my favorite words, flabbergasted -- I think I picked it up early on from my mother.

Perspective: The Summer Of The First Amendment

Jun 8, 2020
Susan Stephens / WNIJ

While the nation’s attention is quite understandably focused on the protests taking place on our city streets, there is another First Amendment struggle that is developing online.

Recently, the President of the United States signed an executive order targeting social media. The order was a direct response to Twitter having fact-checked one of the President’s tweets by adding a link that invited users to learn more about mail-in voting.

Perspective: Go Before You Go

Jun 5, 2020

Trigger warning:  Anatomical terms, medical phrases, and grade school potty humor ahead.

I was thrilled when county forest preserves remained open during this pandemic. I was NOT thrilled to see signs indicating their pit toilets were closed. A few times, I treated these signs as advisory rather than compulsory.

If a young man were to ask me for words of wisdom, I would tell him, "Your prostate will swell to the size of a grapefruit, and your bladder will shrink to the size of a grape."

Perspective: Attitude Reflects Leadership

Jun 4, 2020
Joanbrown51 / Pixabay

In 1971, in Virginia, a black teen was shot and killed by a white store owner. The city Alexandria created T.C. Williams, an integrated high school. The movie Remember the Titans gives us a glimpse of that struggle. There is a moment when Julius (a black player) and Gary (a white player) are arguing under a tree. When Gary challenges Julius to give his all for the team, Julius turns to Gary and says, “Attitude reflects leadership…Captain.”

Perspective: A Middle-Aged White Guy

Jun 3, 2020
Susan Stephens / WNIJ

I live in a nice house with a nice lawn, in a nice subdivision and am comfortably upper middle class. My wife and I have both worked hard to have what we have. I also have the advantage of being a white male. I also have the disadvantage of being a white male.

Perspective: Looting, Allies, And Accomplices

Jun 2, 2020
Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Last weekend, in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and Ahmaud Arbery, interracial protests against systemic racism erupted across the nation. The nation once again collectively played out the tried and true tired playbook: Peaceful protest, in some places devolved into rioting and looting, sometimes by sabotage.

Perspective: We Need A Hug

Jun 1, 2020
Anastasia Vityukova / Unsplash

It’s the hugs I miss most.

Joyous bear hug greetings, gentle squeezes of love, and lingering arm-wrapped farewells. All have disappeared like a loose kite on the breeze since the coronavirus took over in mid-March. And if you’re a hugger, like I am, then you feel the loss of those sweet embraces from family and friends more than your heavy heart can say.

Because my family and I have adhered to medical pandemic protocol, we have only hugged those who live with us, and lucky for me, at least I have a husband to hug.

Perspective: Use Your Head When It Comes To COVID-19

May 29, 2020
Michal Jarmoluk / Pixabay

Recently there have been some recommendations being made about treating covid-19 with over-the-counter medications.  As a pharmacy student I felt compelled to share my opinion and would like five aspects to be understood. 

One, over the counter medication is non-prescription medication that is used by many people every day.  These medications can be a convenient and effective solution when used correctly and as intended.  These medications can also be dangerous when directions are not properly followed.  

Perspective: Language Of The Pandemic

May 28, 2020

The words we hear about this mysterious virus that continues to spread, increasingly to children, carry serious emotional content and power to influence our hearts and minds.  For instance, we have heard something like, “I believe beyond a doubt there will be another wave of this virus in the autumn and winter months.”  But contrast this pronouncement to the message:  “If we can crush the curve, do thorough testing and contact tracing, continue safe social distancing, and safely move the opening of businesses, then we can avoid a second wave of infections.”

Perspective: When Your Skin Is Your Sin

May 27, 2020

The videotaped attack and murder of Ahmaud Arbery was shocking to some and not others. The 25-year old African-American man, and former football standout, was running near his home on the outskirts of Brunswick, Ga. Two armed white men, a father and son, pursued then shot and killed Arbery, who they claim was a burglar. Two days after the graphic video went public, and 71 days after the actual murder, the father and son were charged with murder and aggravated assault.

Perspective: The Renewal Of Democratic Education

May 26, 2020
Mediamodifier / Pixabay

“Democracy,” wrote Charles Dole in 1906, “is on trial in the world.” In 2020, the more apt analogy might be that democracy lies gasping for air in a hospital bed. Just as the coronavirus is savagely attacking our flesh-and-blood, so too is it attacking our body politic. The institutions built to sustain us in times of crisis are failing like organs starved for oxygen; addled by partisan fevers, we confuse compromise with capitulation and fiction with fact. 

Perspective: The Language Of Love(birds)

May 25, 2020
Lori Drummond-Cherniwchan

My husband and I adopted Sam, a Quaker parrot, when he was 3 years old. His previous owner, who’d grown too ill to keep Sam, had treated him well and taught him a few phrases. Sam’s limited repertoire then -- and now -- includes laughter, “ma,” “hello” and “yum yum.” While Sam is not terribly fluent, he has inadvertently become an ESL -- English as a Second Language -- instructor.

Perspective: The Exercise We're Missing Out On

May 22, 2020
Silviu Costin Iancu / Pixabay

Every week I hear that obesity is a national crisis. It’s always blamed on a rich diet and a poverty of exercise. But when experts think of exercise they imagine jogging and walking and weight-lifting. That’s big exercise. But it’s the little exercise, or lack thereof, that’s the real problem.


Perspective: Support Your Local Newspaper

May 21, 2020
Andrys Stienstra / Pixabay

I used to buy a local paper when we traveled so I could learn more about the community we were visiting. But in recent years it has become rare to find one. I now know why. Local papers have become an endangered species. Since 2006, one-third of U.S. papers have disappeared, and tens of thousands of local reporters have lost their jobs.

Perspective: Balcony Running

May 20, 2020
Bill Nino / Unsplash

We might not be able to do our regular binge shopping, meet up with friends at the local pub, or continue classes at the gym. But we can still keep ourselves healthy and fit.

Elisha Nochomovitz, age 32, living in a French suburb, showed us how.

On his balcony in Balma, he ran a 42.2 km. marathon at a slow and steady 6 hours, 48 minutes. Though nauseous and worried about the steady foot pounding his neighbors might object, he ran to make a point -- several, in fact.

Perspective: Stepping Out Of The Circling

May 19, 2020
Alfred Leung / Unsplash

Waiting for the stay-at-home order to lift is getting hard. We are in so many ways stuck and stagnant.

The other day I found myself walking in circles around the house. I didn’t know what to do with myself. There was plenty I could do. But I'd already done so much of that. I had no motivation; I had no direction, just aimless, anxious energy. I needed relief. Some sort of distraction.

Perspective: We Must Do Better Than Normal

May 18, 2020
Winnebago County Health Department

The air is filled with spin words about “opening up and going back to normal.”

The coronavirus, like Katrina and other disasters, has put a bright light on what is broken in our country. A fragile food system. Overcrowded prisons. Or how Hispanics and African Americans are always the most vulnerable in times of disaster and every day.

The percentage of people who have died who are black or Hispanic is twice as high as the number of people who are white.

Perspective: Death In The Time Of COVID-19

May 15, 2020
public domain

Many deathbed scenes before the Black Death of mid-14th century Europe featured a dying person surrounded by community. For decades after that plague, they were often shown alone with death. Fear of contagion changed behaviors toward corpses. What would plague do in a culture that already denied death, like in the United States?

Mourning in black for a year—to ritualize a life lived through each day without the loved one—is an antiquated practice in Europe, but unheard of here, where people prefer to say “he passed away” rather than “he died.”

Perspective: A 2020 Commencement Message

May 14, 2020
Unsplash and Pixlr

There’s a Dr. Seuss book that’s a popular graduation gift – Oh! the Places You’ll Go. But as we know all too well, no one has been able to “go” much of anywhere in quite some time.

Though change is on the horizon, we aren’t yet sure how the future will unfold. That makes it especially important to celebrate the accomplishments of our new high school and college grads.

Hopefully, their newly earned diplomas will be a passport of sorts that allows them entry into spaces and places that were not possible until now.

Perspective: Virus Vs. US

May 13, 2020
public domain

The iron lung. I first saw one in the newsreel at a Saturday matinee. A young boy was encased in a cylinder like a silo on its side. His head rested on a pillow. A mirror hovered above his eyes so he could see the room behind him. The contraption breathed for him. He was there as long as he lived. Polio -- the scourge virus of our time. Damaging our nervous systems, withering limbs, taking our breath. Silently waiting a new host. Lurking in contaminated food or water or contact with an affected person. I feared polio: wasting away in a hollow chamber.

Perspective: Things Get Better

May 12, 2020

Fifty years ago, I halted my horse by the mandrakes, far from the house, so my parents would not hear my sobs. I stepped out of the saddle and sat on a maple, newly fallen. The National Guard shot thirteen students at Kent State. Four died. Just because they protested the Vietnam war.

As a toddler, my parents put me to bed before sunset. They left the radio on. I heard the words Castro. Khrushchev. Nuclear missile crisis. Cuba. The bald man Khrushchev shouted to America: “We will bury you.”