Regarding the controversy about the Belle Plaine veterans memorial (“Cross removal has veterans in battle mode,” Jan. 20, and “Belle Plaine fights back,” Jan. 25): I was taken aback by a supporter of the Christian cross who said this was not an expression of religion. If that were true, why do Christian churches have a cross adorning the tops of their steeples, and why do Christians wear crosses to express support for their religion? The cross is a specific religious symbol, so let us all agree.

As for the religion of veterans, I went to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ page of available emblems for grave markers. There are close to 100 options, including several variations of the Christian cross, including the Latin cross in this display. The options include almost every known religion — including Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, humanists, Unitarians — and the option of none. These emblems represent all veterans who have served in the U.S. military, and to the military’s credit it wants to respect each honorably discharged veteran in his or her personal religious or nonreligious choice. That is something that is missing from the Belle Plaine memorial. It represents just one religious preference.

To the residents and veterans of Belle Plaine, do not be angry. Your intentions are correct, but take this as an opportunity to honor each veteran in his or her own religious or nonreligious tradition, and leave no soldier who honorably served out of your memorial. It can be done, and your community will become an even healthier place.

Steve Petersen, Shoreview

PROTESTS AND PENALTIES

Cracking down comes with its own consequences, you know

The Star Tribune Editorial Board recently implied that it’s sensible to lock up protesters for a year for blocking traffic, because it agrees with some legislators that a 90-day penalty is proving to be too ineffective a deterrent (“Take prudent steps to keep protests safe,” Jan. 26).

I write as a former public defender, and I don’t want to talk about the First Amendment. I want to talk about practicality.

First, this is a really high-cost proposition. A living wage would earn someone around $30,000 a year. Jailing someone for a year: at least that. And then you’ve got to think about the lost taxes back to the state and lost revenue circulating in the community, and the high cost of reintegrating people back into society after a whole year behind bars.

Second, deterrence works only if there are other options on the table. I’ve counseled thousands of people who have committed crimes about why they did what they did, and what could get them to make better choices. Out of those thousands of interviews, I can count on one hand the number of times clients said that they stopped themselves from doing worse because they feared incarceration.

People do what they think they need to do in the moment to survive, to maintain their status, to feed their kids. And look at why people are in the streets: to demand the cessation of state-sanctioned extrajudicial killings of their community members, and for living wages and sick time for hourly workers. Americans everywhere agree that it’s abhorrent to put in an honest day’s work and fall further behind on bills, to lose your job because your kid got sick, to live in fear of the police. And Americans who are vulnerable to those problems, and the community of people that loves and supports them, are not going to stop asking for those basic rights.

So, what else is on the table: voting? Phone calls to representatives? Writing letters to the editor? If only those worked.

Lindsay Turner, Minneapolis

MINNESOTA LEGISLATURE

Is Israel an appropriate issue? Yes, and here’s why.

Like many other states, the Minnesota Legislature is considering passage of a bill that will require vendors doing business with the state to not engage in a boycott of Israel. Such a law would be welcome because the intent of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is to put pressure on companies that do business with Israel, and to challenge Israel’s status as a democratic Jewish state.

The Minnesota bill would apply to both Israel and to the territory Israel controls, primarily the West Bank. This extension is, in the opinion of commentary writer Eric Schwartz (“Legislation mustn’t overreach on Mideast boycott,” Jan. 26), “a misdirected piece of legislation.” But criticizing the legislation on this ground overlooks the fact that many Palestinians, perhaps 25,000 or more, are employed by Israeli companies that are located in the West Bank. In fact, the Palestinian economy receives in excess of $300 million each year through wages earned by Palestinians working for these companies. Significant economic opportunities are available to Palestinians employed by these Israeli companies because the Palestinian minimum wage is $410 per month in contrast to the Israeli minimum wage of $1,217 per month, and the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that Palestinian workers are entitled to the same salaries, benefits and conditions as Israeli workers.

Boycotting the products of companies doing business in the West Bank will benefit no one, and certainly will not further peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians people.

Ronald Haskvitz, St. Louis Park

• • •

Israel’s future has nothing to do with the Minnesota Legislature. Do not interfere, for a mutual agreement has to be based on fairness and compromise between Israelis and Muslims. Without it, catastrophic disaster will take place with the killings and suffering of many. Remember, peace is more important than justice!

Robert O. Fisch, Minneapolis

LOW PERCEPTIONS OF WOMEN

Girls’ lack of confidence is no wonder; messaging abounds

I couldn’t help noticing, after first reading “Little girls doubt that women can be as brilliant as men, study shows” (Jan. 27), the article “Doomsday Clock is closest to midnight since 1953” on the same page.

“Thursday’s announcement was made by Rachel Bronson, the executive director and publisher of the bulletin,” read the article about the Doomsday Clock. Yet an accompanying photo showed two men, one a theoretical physicist and the other a former U.S. ambassador.

Is it any wonder that little girls doubt that women can be as brilliant as men when we witness this type of “subtlety” all the time, everywhere?

Barbara La Valleur, Edina

WINTER IN MINNESOTA

And so many trying to drive it home with one headlight …

After a moderation in our Minnesota winter weather pattern, I had hoped that I would see less opportunity for my own personal annual rite of winter, which is watching for automobiles with one headlight out. Sadly, my optimism was misplaced: Lo so many Minnesotans are driving around in the dark with insufficient visibility for their evening drives. In an era when police officers don’t give out tickets for texting and driving because it’s difficult to see, a lone headlight can be easily seen. People, fix your lights. Cops, start giving out tickets for this annoying wintertime offense.

Adam Michael Schenck, New Hope