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: A Glimmer of Light

Oct 13, 2021
Courtesy of Beth Howard

A stray dog showed up on our farm a few weeks ago. At first, he only came around at night, lurking in the shadows as we sat around the fire pit after supper. He was tri-colored and as tall and lanky as a colt. I did an internet search and discovered he was a Walker Coonhound. He was young and puppy-like, probably about a year old, and judging by his aversion to being touched, he had likely been living on his own for a long time. Was he lost? Or was he dumped in a field by some heartless person who couldn't be bothered with him?

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I've been thinking a lot about legacy recently.  A quick Google search gave me the Oxford dictionary definition of a legacy as "an amount of money or property left to someone in a will."  But this wasn't quite what I was looking for.  Material things like money can be useful, but they don't really live on after someone is gone.  So, I kept searching. 

Commentary: My Life with Lupus

Sep 29, 2021

For the past three years, I have written a commentary every fall about a fundraising event that I help organize for Samaritan Well, Macomb's homeless shelter. I take great joy in the work that I do for this event, and I consider the contributions I have made to it as one of the greatest accomplishments of my adult life. However, today I will not be speaking about the fundraiser. Instead, I am going to talk about the reason why we aren't having the fundraiser this fall.

Attacks on Asian Americans in the United States in the last year have risen coinciding with the anti-Chinese rhetoric tied with the pandemic and by the proliferation of far-right propaganda. Xenophobia has been an American staple and the scapegoating of Asians is nothing new. The Asian narrative in America has been historically torturous. Asians in this country for centuries have been subjected to all manner of unconscionable acts, which they have quietly endured. It’s been said that Asians are minimized in America because they minimize themselves. "Keep your head down, work hard, and don’t complain;" such are the Asian rules of conduct for success in America. Collectivism and face saving, which feed these behaviors, are fundamentally crucial in Asian cultures because the first one ensures harmony on which the second one is built. But as recent events show, this thinking needs a major overhaul.

Commentary: Research and Activism

Sep 15, 2021

On Monday I woke up early, and with my dog Niko by my side, reviewed the hardships the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) recipients I interviewed went through on their trip to the United States. I then read and wrote about the physical threats most immigrants face when crossing the border like heat strokes, dehydration, and rattlesnakes. I also read about the abuses suffered by them in the hands of the local population, authorities, and organized crime. I felt a sense of relief that my interviewees were an average five and a half years of age upon arrival. "Hopefully the trauma is not too bad because they were too young to remember," I told myself.

Commentary: Teaching What Democracy Looks Like!

Sep 8, 2021

Hello Friends, it is good to be back with you on the airwaves. It has been a while and, oh my gosh, look at our world since we were last together:  We got the goings on in Texas where all the rights of women's agency and autonomy have been stripped; we got fires in California, flooding in Louisiana, the destruction in New Jersey; the fall of Afghanistan; the 20th year since 9/11. To mask or not to mask, to vaccinate or not to vaccinate.

Michael and I are among the millions of parents in the US who have young humans who have or will be moving onto college campuses this fall.  Last year, Willow & Maren spent their first semester remote learning from their childhood bedrooms because their mother was certain that their university, like many others around the nation, would end up delivering classes totally online.  I was wrong and am happy to admit that I underestimated what a university can do when they have outstanding leadership and total commitment from students, faculty, and staff to follow the public health guidelines prescribed by the experts.  

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
Courtesy photo

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
Courtesy photo

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
Rhododendrites/Wikimedia Commons

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.