I never thought there’d come a day when I didn’t stand tall and proud to be an American. But, under the presidency of Donald J. Trump, the day has come. It came when we ripped children from their parents’ arms at our Mexican border — the day when I could no longer pretend that my country was one of the principles, compassion, intelligence and courage that our former presidents honored, if not perfectly, at least in spirit.

Today, as Trump chooses the economic value of Saudi Arabia’s friendship over ethics, it’s important we find the mettle to openly defy the man who occupies our White House and vow to forever honor journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose courage as a reporter of fact impelled him to dare speak truth to power. Khashoggi’s worth to us as seekers of truth far surpasses anything Trump believes he’s given us. Trump is a man who sees no heroism in the late Sen. John McCain, as McCain was captured, tortured and refused to accept early release from his Vietnamese prison because others had been in confinement longer than he; Trump prefers those “who weren’t captured.” Trump is a man who received five deferments to avoid the draft, including one on claims of bone spurs. And Trump is a man who now lacks the courage even to listen to the tape affirming Khashoggi’s vicious end, because it’s a “suffering tape.”

How do we, as Americans, hold our heads up with this man at our helm? We must disclaim the shallow goal of “America First” and stand with Lady Liberty; we must affirm our welcome to those who seek asylum. We must acknowledge our bounty by adopting policies that recognize countries Trump disparages as in fact being beautiful places with beautiful people who simply need a hand up. Our bounty is great; our hearts must grow exponentially.

Shawn O’Rourke Gilbert, Edina

• • •

1. The president wanted to prosecute Hillary Clinton and James Comey, but was convinced not to by the White House counsel.

2. He gave a pass to Saudi Arabia for the murder of a journalist and U.S. resident. He said the billions of dollars the Saudis spend on arms is just too important to throw away.

3. The president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, used her personal e-mail server to conduct official government business. The exact behavior that the president and his base insisted was against the law.

4. The president blamed California for mismanagement of its forests, ignoring drought and global warming.

5. He appointed an obscure lawyer to be attorney general. The same attorney who has been under investigation for fraud and questionable behavior and who is on record for being against the Mueller investigation.

6. The troops assigned to the border for “protection” against the horde of migrants moving toward the U.S. were wondering if they would need to take down the razor wire they put up.

These are some of the headlines in the news the past week. Are millions of Americans really blind to this immoral and corrupt behavior? If I were raising children now, I really don’t know how I would justify or explain the actions of the leader of the free world.

God help us!

Daniel J. Hanson, Austin, Minn.

PATRIOTISM

Not a high virtue when it leads to unwarranted pride — and worse

In a Nov. 20 commentary (“Hey, America, let’s re-recognize our enduring national spirit”), Ann McFeatters writes: “What this country needs is an orgy of patriotism,” citing the many kind and heroic Americans, even “the many who do their sometimes thankless jobs without fail and without glory.” These people greatly deserve to be honored and exalted. But other counties also have such wonderful people. No studies of national worthiness have revealed that the people of one country have a monopoly on virtue.

The idea that our country is greater than others is genetically rooted in the benefit to the survival of primitive people who most effectively stood together against neighboring tribes. Thus was born the baleful concept of “the other,” which leads to the overwhelming feeling of pride when we compare our people’s accomplishments over those we, by default, deem inferior to us. The appeal to patriotism makes it easy to convince the impressionable young to travel to distant lands to kill that “other.”

The direct threat of another country may justify war but people who think patriotically in a time of tension can, by appealing to national pride, justify unjust wars. Consider the Vietnam War that resulted in premature death for 2 million to 3 million people, or the endless war in Afghanistan that has killed or disfigured thousands for almost two decades, or our bombing of the stable country of Libya that has resulted in a failed state overrun by vicious gangs. Without appealing to our patriotism, our leaders may not have had the national support to start these wars, and millions more innocent people would have lived out their natural life spans.

The press needs to stop painting patriotism as high virtue. Today, our fearless leaders are ginning up enthusiasm to militarily confront Russia and China by painting their people as being less virtuous than ourselves. War with either country, both nuclear powers, could result in the end of humanity — largely because of patriotism.

Dean DeHarpporte, Eden Prairie

PESTICIDES

The warning labels and more: Read ’em and weep

According to an article in the Star Tribune, farm groups want to overturn the recent court-ordered ban of the insecticide chlorpyrifos (“Pesticide battle plays out in court,” Nov. 18).

Over 1 million pounds of chlorpyrifos is used on Minnesota crops each year — mostly corn and soybeans. A large percentage is sprayed from airplanes.

To help people decide if they want this chemical in their food, water and soil, here are some usage directions taken from the label of one widely used insecticide containing chlorpyrifos:

May be fatal if swallowed and harmful if absorbed through skin or inhaled. Avoid breathing vapors.

All who come in contact must wear Personal Protective Equipment (hazmat suits) and respirators.

Do not enter or allow worker entry into treated areas during the restricted entry interval without Personal Protective Equipment (hazmat suits). Restricted entry interval includes:

• 4 days for fruit trees.

•24 hours for all other crops including corn, soybeans and wheat.

This pesticide is toxic to fish, aquatic invertebrates, small mammals and birds.

This product is highly toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment or residues on blooming crops, other plants and weeds.

In addition to these label instructions, here are quotes from the Oregon State University’s National Pesticide Information Center fact sheet on chlorpyrifos:

• “Chlorpyrifos may be harmful if it is touched, inhaled, or eaten. Chlorpyrifos works by blocking an enzyme which controls messages that travel between nerve cells. When the enzyme is blocked, the nervous system can’t send normal signals. This causes the nervous system to malfunction.”

• “Chlorpyrifos affects the nervous system of people, pets and other animals the same way it affects the target pest.”

• “Researchers studied the blood of women who were exposed to chlorpyrifos and the blood of their children. Children who had chlorpyrifos in their blood had more developmental delays and disorders than children who did not have chlorpyrifos in their blood. Exposed children also had more attention deficit disorders and hyperactivity disorders.”

Greg Larson, Excelsior