As a history and archaeology student, I am often asked of what use my degree is for society. My friends tease me and say that I chose two completely useless subjects to specialize in. It’s a fairly valid argument, since we spend our hours reading books, digging in the dirt and romanticizing over years past. I, however, believe that history and archaeology are essential subjects to study.

The barbaric destruction of the Temple of Palmyra by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has destroyed the hallmark of an entire civilization for the rest of time. Even with future restoration, the temple will never return to its former glory. Luckily, the work of archaeologists like Khaled al-Asaad — who devoted his life to understanding Palmyra before he was beheaded this month by ISIL militants, will allow us to remember the now-lost temples.

All it really takes is one deranged group (or one man with a knowledge of explosives) to destroy the remnants of an ancient civilization. In order to solidify their power, certain groups will attempt to change the history of their region. Because of this sad fact, historians and archaeologists are necessary so that history can be preserved the best as possible even after people wrongfully try to rewrite it.

Conor Long, Eden Prairie


What other countries believe of the U.S. is being confirmed

Five years ago, my family and I lived in Oxford, England, where kids in my fifth-grade class marveled at the seemingly endless cycle of gun violence in the U.S. Classmates asked me if I knew gangsters. In the U.K., firearms are rarely held by private citizens. To U.K. citizens, it is preposterous that a fully developed country in the 21st century lacks any significant gun control.

During my residence there, I felt that my classmates’ perception of American gun violence was heavily exaggerated, but upon returning to the U.S., I have only seen things worsen. Just several days ago, two journalists were shot and killed by a mentally ill man. The shooter legally purchased two Glock 19 handguns from a local store in Virginia; a background check deemed him mentally fit to own a weapon, since he had never been confined to an institution or diagnosed with any defect. Most of his co-workers, however, were in agreement that he was a possibly disturbed person.

Wednesday’s event was tragic — but it wasn’t new. Sandy Hook in Newtown. Charleston. Our nation mourns when these shootings occur, but we do not properly address how to prevent people from owning guns in the first place. In England, to purchase a gun a person must have an extensive background check, and at least two other people must verify the purchaser’s character. Would anyone have vouched for the character of Vester Flanagan, the shooter this week in Virginia? At the least, our country should demand stricter and more thorough background checks.

John M. Vaaler, Golden Valley



If protest inconveniences your day at the fair, consider this

I fear that the message and reasons for Saturday’s Black Lives Matter protest at the State Fair may not be understood well by onlookers. Some may see the protest as a rude interruption, an inconvenience to their fair experience. So in the spirit of the State Fair, I offer this translation of the protest:

Black people find their lives interrupted and inconvenienced in many ways. Driving, for blacks in this state, especially outstate Minnesota, is almost always more likely to be interrupted by police. It is inconvenient for black youths to have to deal with a system that can criminalize them with overpolicing and excessive school suspensions, while their needs for safety and education are met with underpolicing and underteaching. Black teens, suffering an appalling rate of unemployment, find it rather inconvenient to have a job application dismissed because of their “black”-sounding name. Lives are inconvenienced and interrupted, as blacks are far more likely than whites to find themselves in prison for drug offenses, despite their being no more likely to be users. Too many black people (as with what recently happened to Sandra Bland, and before that Michael Brown, and on and on before that) find their lives inconvenienced and foreshortened.

There you have my translation, suitable for mounting on a stick, for your convenience.

Paul Rozycki, Minneapolis



If you’re going to break them down, really break them down

It is disappointing that the Star Tribune Editorial Board contributes to institutional racism in this state (“No. 1 ACT ranking comes with an asterisk,” Aug. 28). By comparing the average scores of white students to black students, the Editorial Board has concluded that all black students are the same group. Somali students are included. But aside from skin color, Somali students are completely different from African-American students whose parents have been here for generations.

While I was teaching at the Hmong College Prep Academy (St. Paul), my students presented to U.S. Sen. Al Franken the information that their scores are included with Japanese, Chinese and Pacific Islanders. Hmong people are Asian, but other than that, they are not the same as Chinese or Japanese.

These comparisons do more harm than good, because the comparisons are not accurate. These students are being categorized and compared by skin color, and that is racism at its worst. Please help stop this institutional racism.

Howard Lewis, Cambridge, Minn.



Remember the work and sacrifice made on our behalf

The men and women building the Vikings stadium — and construction workers in general — are in a class all their own. Cold, snow and heat are the elements they must deal with in their pursuit of success and completion. They are family folks who deal with stress, baseball games, football games, soccer matches, dance classes, fishing, and just trying to be good dads and moms. We so often take them for granted when, in fact, they are the builders of the nation. They face dangers every day, and the death this week of Jeramie Gruber, who fell 50 feet while working at the stadium site, is an example.

When all of the fans are sitting in that new stadium, might I suggest that they take a moment to think of Mr. Gruber and all of those who built the home of the Vikings. I know I do, because one of my sons works there for Mortenson — John Schmidt.

Gordon Schmidt, Loretto



Like ’em or not, they belong

What do we make of Donald Trump? He and Bernie Sanders mine the rich vein of Americans’ disgust with politics. Many will argue that excessive money distorts the system to the point of dysfunction. But, aren’t we all tired of an entitled political class far more interested in preserving its power and comforts than we are of extreme candidates like Trump and Sanders? I find the political positions of both Trump and Sanders unpalatable. But, I welcome their insistence that we Americans find a new way of managing our nation’s business.

Mark H. Reed, Plymouth