WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Local Commentaries

The opinions expressed in these commentaries are not necessarily those of Tri States Public Radio or Western Illinois University. Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.

Commentary: I Am Third

May 19, 2021

I hear myself saying a little too often these days that I'm glad I grew up when I did, before cell phones and selfies. Before the internet became a runaway train of disinformation. Before being famous was valued more than being a good person. Before this current era of entitlement where the prevailing attitude is "It's all about me." Me first. America first. Look at me. Like me. Follow me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. 

As we pass the one-year point of the COVID-19 pandemic, I've been wondering: what stories will prevail about this particular point in time one hundred years or a thousand years from now?  How will humanity, if our species is even still around, look back at this moment in time and evaluate how we responded to this distinct crisis?  

Commentary: Pessary – Don't Keep It a Secret

Apr 28, 2021

Whenever you want to get a four-year old's attention you lean down, cup your hand over their ear, and whisper, "I want to tell you a secret." So lean in close because I want to tell you a secret.  I don't know why this is a secret but it seems to be and I want to change that.  The secret is "pessary."  P E S S A R Y.  If you know what I'm talking about you don't need to listen to this message.  If you already know what a pessary is, please spread the word. My experience has been that my friends and relatives don't know what a pessary is.  That includes my 90-year old mother and my 60-plus year old friends.  You can think of this as a public service announcement.

Commentary: Mediation for Child-Related Cases

Apr 21, 2021
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I’ve been an attorney for over 16 years. During my career, I have spent lot of time inside courtrooms, advocating for my clients as their cases wind their way through the court system. I have observed the limitations of that system for divorcing or never-married parents who have child-related disputes.

It has been so frustrating watching the lack of guidance and uncertainty surrounding our education system during the pandemic. And I don't even have that much skin in the game. I feel very lucky to not be one of the parents who worry about sending a child to in-person school or who have had to work at home while leading kids through online school, to say nothing of the nightmare scenario some parents face leaving kids at home for school while they go to work. Our little boy is only a toddler. My husband is a teacher at a rural school, and I've spent five winters substitute teaching. I'm certainly no expert, but I've seen enough during my days in various grades to understand how essential being in school is for kids.

In late July of 1995, Michael and I packed everything we owned into the back of a U-Haul and headed south to Gainesville, Florida.  As newlyweds and poor graduate students, we rented an apartment on the outskirts of part of Gainesville called Porters Quarters.  The upstairs garage apartment was spacious, surrounded by beautiful live oaks, and while only a couple of miles from campus, was considered to be in the poor part of town.  

The other day I had the honor of working with some graduate students in Public/Community Health. They had invited me to speak to their Journal Club, where a group of them meet regularly to discuss research articles. Part of the agreement was that I was to send them a research article so that we could have a discussion. So, I sent them one that I just read titled "Rural English Learner Education: A Review of Research and Call for a National Agenda," by University of Florida Professor María Coady. 

Commentary: Can She Do the Job?

Mar 17, 2021

When we think about workplace gender issues, we usually think about issues like sexual harassment, the pay gap, and the glass ceiling. But the effects of bias spread into many aspects of everyday work, often in ways that aren't always easy to recognize or identify. The idea that women are not well-suited for the workplace leads to stereotyping women, often questioning can she do the job?

Commentary: The Sword and the Shield

Mar 10, 2021

I recently finished reading Peniel Joseph's The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Malcolm X, who was born in 1925 and assassinated in 1965, is often associated with the Nation of Islam, with the slogan "by any means necessary," and with the right of self-defense when confronted with the violence of racism. Underlying this stance was his belief in equity and his insistence that the dignity of African Americans be recognized.

Commentary - Mrs. Thelma Glass: Teacher-Activist

Mar 3, 2021

As we leave Black History Month and enter Women's History Month, I am delighted to share with you something of the life of Mrs. Thelma Glass, a civil rights activist and professor of Geography at Alabama State University in Montgomery from 1947-1981. I interviewed some of her former students, who recounted the many impacts she had on their lives, and later I had the honor to meet her. Thelma Glass' career spanned a period of great change in social, political and race relations in this country, especially in the South, and Mrs. Glass was one of those quiet laborers who toiled to bring in the harvest.

Commentary: Why We Need More Women's Voices

Feb 24, 2021

This month, 83-year-old Yoshiro Mori, a former Japanese prime minister, was forced to resign as president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee after making sexist comments about women. Basically, what he said is, "Women talk too much."

Commentary: Coming Out

Feb 17, 2021

Now is a good time to talk about vulnerabilities and how they shape our experiences of the world.  If nothing else, the COVID pandemic has made it acceptable to discuss emotions, even in our work-worlds. We have seen memes of people who show up to Zoom meetings half dressed—traditional professional attire above the waist, and sweatpants-casual below.  We may be ready to embrace this home truth—that we take our full selves to work, vulnerabilities and all.  Perhaps we are ready to come out of hiding, and to illuminate those parts of ourselves we keep hidden for whatever reason. Perhaps the collective trauma, the grief of COVID-19, allows us to wriggle out of our straitjackets, and to tell our stories.

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Recently there has been a great deal of talk about the new proposed Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards. There are questions and concerns about what these standards will mean for students and what they will "learn" or not "learn" once the standards are put into place. It seems as though a bit more context is needed to help us all clarify our understanding of these standards.

Commentary - Planfulness is a Privilege

Feb 10, 2021

Living through the COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted the certainty that many of us enjoy during more "normal" times. What I'm thinking about today is the fact that certainty and the ability to be "planful" is a privilege that most humans in the world do not have, at any time.

I don’t know about you all, but I am beyond exhausted.  This isn't pandemic fatigue, but full on pandemic burn out.  Pandemic fatigue is being tired of wearing my mask.  Pandemic burnout is not being able to envision ever not wearing my mask.  I had hoped that by the beginning of 2021 we would have had COVID somewhat under control.  But, the new B.1.1.7 strain of the virus appears to be more contagious and at this point is moving faster than our ability to distribute vaccines.  

Commentary: In the Room Where It Happens

Jan 29, 2021

"Everyone wants to be in the room where it happens." In the home, especially when a delicious meal is served, it is the dining room, at the table.  I love having guests at my dining room table. I love the sharing of food and drink, the sharing of stories, one better than the next. Hours spent together at the table. 

Commentary: (Not) The Land of Freedom I Chose in 1999

Jan 20, 2021

As I finish my new book Creating Conspiracy Beliefs, coauthored with 3 brilliant scholars, I find myself constantly adding new conspiracies propagated by President Trump and his supporters. In March I added the conspiracy that Covid-19 was part of a Democratic plot to discredit President Trump.  In November I added the conspiracy that the election Trump had won "by a landslide" was stolen from him. Last week I found myself adding alarming information about the consequences of conspiracies. 

Having been an active participant in the local food movement in one capacity or another for most of my life, I have to say that 2020 brought unfathomable challenges that have tested our determination to provide healthy, safe, farm raised food.  I'm here today to share an anecdote of the every day struggles of a small farmer who raises and sells meat during the COVID pandemic.

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Last year was rough.  And to be honest, I am not sure that this year is going to be much better.  Usually at the dawn of the new year, I feel a sense of relief.  There is a perception of having a clean slate and being able to begin again.  This year I feel none of this.  The messes of 2020 continue to follow us into 2021 in no small part because of decisions we make as individuals and as a larger society. 

Commentary: Be Heard

Dec 16, 2020
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Do you ever have one of those memories that bubble up to the surface and you're not sure why? Well, this is one of those.

Commentary: Tis the Season for Problem Solving

Dec 9, 2020
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Bah humbug. I don't know about you but I'm really struggling with the holidays this year. It's a perfect storm, a trifecta of winter weather, the pandemic, and climate crisis. I mean, geez, why bother even getting out of bed? But I only allow myself to take refuge under the covers for so long until I remind myself to focus not on the problems, but on the solutions.

Congratulations!  We’ve made it to December and are that much closer to being able to say goodbye to 2020 in a few short weeks.  We survived Thanksgiving however we chose to observe, or not observe the day.  Whatever it ended up looking like, it is behind us now and in front of us are a plethora of holidays to celebrate.  Hanukkah, Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hogmanay, and New Year’s Eve are all festivities that take place this month.  While 2020 has been a challenging year, there is still much to be grateful for.   

Commentary: Words Matter

Nov 18, 2020

The 5th annual Macomb/McDonough County Out of the Darkness Event was held September 26, 2020 on the Macomb City Hall lawn. Things were done differently this year because of the pandemic, but our incredible community raised over $19,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Unfortunately, our community and others continue to lose loved to suicide far too often.

Commentary: Zooming Through the Semester

Nov 11, 2020

While thousands of college students around the country are gearing up to come home for winter break, I'm settling into the idea of two more months in my family's house. You heard me right. Another two months.

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To say that 2020 has been a stressful year is an understatement.  The coronavirus pandemic, racial unrest, and a contentious presidential election have resulted in heightened levels of fear and anxiety the world over.  My normally calm and even-keeled family is stressed out beyond belief.  And while intellectually we all know that this current state of being will not last forever, making our way through all the emotions of this year sometimes seems impossible.  

Commentary: Sleeping Out for the Homeless

Oct 28, 2020

Last year, I had the amazing opportunity to work with Samaritan Well, a homeless shelter in Macomb, to help organize their first annual Sleep Out for the Homeless fundraiser. The premise of a sleep out is to spend a night away from home - ideally outside - to raise awareness and funds for those in our communities who have no home to return to.

Local Commentary: Reclaiming 2020

Oct 21, 2020
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A few weeks ago, I stood onstage in Macomb High School's Fellheimer Auditorium for the first time since the storm of cancellations last spring. Walking centerstage, I realized exactly how much I missed theater and my community. I even missed the audition nerves that sit in my throat and shake my hands. I worried that something would feel hollow having to project through a mask and maintain social distance with the other actors, but it didn't. Instead, it felt like normal, and we all know normal is excellent in a pandemic.

Commentary: We Got This

Oct 7, 2020

A Pagan, a Hindu, a Christian and a Muslim gathered for a leadership meeting of the multifaith ambassadors this past week to discuss our programs.  Sounds like a great line for a joke, but no, this is the great life I lead as a chaplain serving on a campus.  As I see how polarized the world is now with rhetoric of hate and especially distortion and outright ignorant statements about religion and spiritual identities, using my own education in theology, religious studies and pastoral care, I celebrate each time I get to be at an interfaith table in my profession of chaplaining.

I have long been a fan of Brandon Stanton and his blog Humans of New York.  After he was fired from his job in Chicago as a bond trader, he moved to New York City and decided to see if he could make a living doing something that he loved – photography.  His initial goal was to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers and place their portraits on a map of the city.  At some point he started not only taking pictures of people, but talking to them as well.  He posts interesting quotes to accompany the photos. Sometimes it's a sentence and other times a short story. 

Commentary: Fiction is Not Frivolous

Sep 23, 2020

During these many months of living life in a pandemic, I've been thinking about what it means to read and be a reader. In times of extreme stress I find I  "can't" read. To be more precise, the escape I find that reading often provides--focusing and quieting my internal dialogue--eludes me. This is cruel. Just when I need that peace and connection and outlet the most, I can't access it.