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WNIJ Perspectives
Perspectives are commentaries produced by and for WNIJ listeners, from a panel of regular contributors and guests. You're invited to comment on or respond to any Perspective on our Facebook page or through Twitter (@wnijnews), in keeping with our Discussion Policy. If you would like to submit your own Perspective for consideration, send us a script that will run about 90 seconds when read -- that's about 250 words -- and email it to NPR@niu.edu, with "Perspectives" in the subject line.

Perspective: Breathe

Cooper Baumgartner

A knee to the neck for over 8 minutes and a man can’t breathe, suffocated by the police ‘force’. Over 2 million coronavirus cases in the U.S., many of its victims can’t breathe. What ties these two crises together? The breath. We are, if not literally, figuratively gasping for air.


Had we the ability to see “the other” as part of the human race, moved forward quickly on the latest scientific research, accepted accountability and embraced compassion over the last four hundred plus years and then just in the last four months, would we not be in these life and death, begging for breath, crises? Calling out for mom as we are slayed on the side of the road or rushed in an ambulance to the ER hoping there’s a spare ventilator, as strangers look on in what we call our progressive America?

“I can’t breathe,” the simple signage and artwork we’ve seen (even sailing across the sky behind an aircraft), is a profound statement. We are taking our last breath and alone; these deaths could have been prevented had we the leadership of responsible, mature and empathic people that our country has prided itself on. What we see instead are these cowards who duck in the hallways, in bunkers or behind a twitter feed, not having the courage to speak the truth and protect their own people. I take a deep breath and wonder, can our democracy still breathe?   

I’m Cheryl Sheinman, and that’s my perspective.