I’m the wife of a refugee from a communist regime who is now a naturalized citizen. He may love the spirit of the Pledge of Allegiance and its “liberty and justice for all” even more than I, because he has firsthand experience with “forced patriotism.” In his case, as a soldier, it meant being ordered to kill fellow citizens who may have done anything to provoke the government. Men and boys were taken, families not knowing where they were — until the government sent them an invoice for the bullets used to execute them. All the public bowing, marching, saluting — a forced facade. He fled, risking being caught and killed, rather than execute fellow citizens at the government’s orders. He was branded an “unpatriotic traitor.” “Wanted” posters went up, with instructions to kill him, if caught.

My husband loves his home country and celebrates his culture. But it is a true love of country and people — not trappings. Now, he stands for the U.S. flag. We have three of them in our home. We also have his home country’s flag. He and his fellow refugees say, “This is the flag of the country I was born in, and this is the flag of the country that saved me. I love them both.” He would be first to tell you that patriotism is not something as simple as a pledge, or what one does publicly for show or by rote memorization — but what one does every single day to contribute to, and honor, the country they love. We each hold the power to be a walking, talking “pledge” to the city, state and nation we love.

I love the pledge. And the national anthem. And so many symbols of our national culture. But I have seen many a white supremacist waving the flag while spewing hate.

Words and symbols are meaningless without actions that support them. I will take action every time. And nothing at all prevents anyone, at any time, from silently, fervently offering up a pledge, an anthem — or a prayer, for that matter — out of gratitude and love for one’s community and country.

Kathleen Goor, St. Louis Park

EDUCATION

$1 spent on education now is $17 returned later. Why not do it?

It’s obvious politicians don’t like to spend on education. The federal government is cutting funding and subsequently, so are states, including here in Minnesota. Teachers are getting laid off, programs cut and class sizes are increasing. It’s obvious these politicians need education. They don’t seem to know the difference between an “expense” and an “investment.”

Education is, literally, an investment — in children and adults, in us and society. We get the best bang for our buck — or return on our tax dollar — by providing early education, prior to kindergarten, especially for lower-income kids. I’ve heard and read many times that every $1 invested in high quality, early-learning programs yields up to $17 in societal benefits.

It’s obvious why: A business coalition formed to confront education issues found that half (half!) of Minnesota kids — disproportionately lower-income families and minorities — weren’t getting the development they needed to be ready for kindergarten.

The Star Tribune story on the findings (from September 2018) concluded that “getting kids ready for school was the best single investment Minnesota taxpayers could make. Kids who succeed in school, according to myriad studies, are less likely to drop out, get in trouble with the law, get pregnant as teenagers and otherwise disproportionately tap public programs instead of graduating high school, ready to be trained for employment or postsecondary education and economically self-sufficient taxpayers.”

Duh! It’s obvious. Don’t blame the kids that were never read to, for instance. It’s not their fault. Blame yourself for being unaware or, maybe, apathetic.

Don’t think this is relevant to you? What if “getting in trouble with the law” for a kid who drops out meant a robbery, an assault, a murder … if not to you, to a member of your family? How about that cost? That “expense”? Wouldn’t an investment have been a better idea?

We all have to be aware, speak up and educate our politicians. Remember, they work for us. So, we need to pull our heads out and do something. Do something! You are not helpless. No whining about race or blaming a kid who dropped out of school when something bad happened. We need to give all kids a fair shake.

It’s obvious.

Tim Munkeby, Tower, Minn.

CLIMATE CRISIS

As climate changes, so should the urgency of our language about it

In late June, continental Europe experienced a record-breaking heat wave (“Europe sizzles in record heat,” June 29). In the U.S., we have seen catastrophic fires in Alaska and flooding across Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. For a long time, people have struggled to grasp the difference between weather, what we experience around us every day, and the macro factors shifting in our climate, which have an impact on our weather.

Those of us who care about the climate have struggled to explain that to people, and our news media has often made things more confusing through its reporting. How many carbon parts per million in the atmosphere or by how many degrees Celsius our planet is warming are difficult data points for reporters to quantify or for news consumers to grasp. However, that has changed as news outlets like the Guardian have stopped reporting on “climate change,” and began talking about our “climate crisis” and “climate emergency.” The shift in labels reflects the danger our planet is in.

One outlet doing that is a start, but we need more. Our climate emergency does not just mean wildfires out West and more devastating hurricanes in the Southeast. It means longer mosquito seasons in Minnesota, warming waters in the Great Lakes, warmer winters here and all across the upper Midwest. We must name this what it is: a climate crisis. The Star Tribune, and news outlets across the state, should call it what it is and do more to cover it.

Liam McMahon, St. Paul

• • •

As a young person who will be able to vote in my first presidential primary in 2020, I want to know how each candidate plans to combat the biggest issue facing my generation: climate change. However, I have been disappointed by the Democratic Party’s failure to treat climate change like the crisis that it is. In response to the proposal of a climate change debate for the Democratic presidential candidates, Tom Perez and Democratic leadership have erroneously asserted that climate change is only a “single issue” and therefore does not merit an entire debate.

This statement demonstrates either a fundamental lack of understanding about the reality of the climate crisis or a conscious choice to diminish the urgency of combatting the greatest issue facing humanity. Climate change affects health outcomes and the spread of diseases. Climate change lead to decreased resources, increased violence and large numbers of people forcibly displaced from their homes. Climate change impacts economic growth, increases our national debt and influences foreign policy as well as domestic infrastructure. Climate change is an environmental crisis as well as a health crisis, a humanitarian crisis and an economic crisis.

If the Democratic establishment wants the enthusiasm and contributions of young people going into the 2020 elections, the party must start showing right now that they care about our futures by holding a climate debate.

Anna Mulhern, Minneapolis