More than 70 years ago, the nations of the world promised never again to stand as silent witness to the horrors of war and genocide. Despite last week’s remembrance of the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the sacrifice of our nation’s Greatest Generation, we sadly, once again, stand as silent witness to the horrors of war and genocide taking place in Syria.

When we abandon women to choose between committing suicide or being raped, or force families to have to consider killing their children so torturers cannot, while we go on about our days, then we are complicit in their suffering.

In heartbreaking, difficult times like these, it may appear that we are helpless to effect change halfway around the world. However, this is only an illusion.

During this holiday season, please take a moment to act in whatever way you can. Monetarily, please donate to charities that are providing essential relief to victims. Politically, please contact the president and members of Congress to support refugee aid and resettlement and to compel a ceasefire as well as using our diplomatic influence and resources to penalize those who perpetuate these atrocities. If nothing else, please at least offer a heartfelt prayer for those who are suffering or take a moment to reflect that at this very moment, we are losing our humanity.

Please do something and let us not continue to be silent witnesses so that the blessings of this holiday season may truly be upon us all.

Muhamad Elrashidi, Rochester

• • •

So, President Obama, just how well is your “leading from behind” in Libya and your “red line in the sand” in Syria working out? The poor beleaguered and bombarded people in Aleppo, Syria, would like to know.

Obama’s foreign policy has been hapless, feckless and often downright reckless. He once scoffed at “American exceptionalism” and has done a good job of seeing to it that the U.S. has indeed become less and less exceptional. I’m not sure that is what he meant by putting on the mantle of a “transformative” president, but that kind of transformation does not bode well for America’s future.

Walt Kilmanas, Minnetrista

• • •

The mistakes of foreign policy in the Mideast and Syria, specifically, keep pouring in to Europe, and we did and do nothing. The politics of Europe in the 1930s keeps replaying in my head and I fear that the Trump foreign policy will be tested early when the Baltic States become the next Czechoslovakia. Vladimir Putin will test the NATO resolve, and the Trump foreign policy will capitulate, despite the reinforced military presence in the Baltic states. Putin wants to regain the geographic stature that was once the Soviet Union — and he won’t stop there. Hungary will be probed and will look to the West for help, and just like 1956 during its revolution, it’ll call; it’ll be given false promises of hope, false red lines, and then nobody will answer the call. Poland? It may be Poland again. I’m afraid that history is repeating itself. I am hoping that Winston Churchill’s words may be prescient: “You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor, and you will have war.”

Dave Setnicker, Biwabik, Minn.

POLITICAL AMBITION

One job, then the next

Kudos to St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman who, like Gov. Mark Dayton and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, chose to finish his service in his current office before seeking another opportunity (“Coleman joins race for governor,” Dec. 14).

I also hope that he and others will indeed compete in the primaries regardless of the party endorsement. I have participated in several local conventions and was discouraged by having the party candidate selected by several hundred activists instead of by all the voters.

It is no wonder that we see low participation in the state primaries, with most party races having already been decided. Gov. Dayton, after all, skipped the party convention and won. If more will follow, we will empower more citizens to participate.

Hanna Hill, Plymouth

HIGHWAY PROJECTS

Thanks but no thanks

Far from being celebrated, the completion of Hwy. 610 (“ ‘North Crosstown’ opens at last,” Dec. 10) should be seen as an embarrassment to our supposedly progressive state and region. Decades after other regions have realized the futility of continued freeway expansion, the Twin Cities somehow remains convinced that it’s possible to “build our way out” of congestion, an outdated 1950s and ’60s mind-set that dooms us to further decades of sprawl, automobile dependence, habitat destruction, loss of farmland and worsening air pollution. This is not progress; it is, at best, the victory of simple inertia and, at worst, the failure of the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Council to plan comprehensively for the 21st century.

Nicholas Baker, Minneapolis

• • •

Thanks to all the men and women who worked for so long on 610 and 494 projects. What a great present for us. Merry Christmas to you all!

Kathleen Fink, St. Michael, Minn.

U.S. EDUCATION

Top grades, little knowledge

Even though our top students are still among the very best in the world, it should come as no surprise that the U.S. has such an overall low ranking on education tests among highly developed countries. All across America, in public and private schools alike, because of parent and administrator pressure, thousands of students are given A’s and B’s when in fact they know very little indeed.

Don Gerlach, Burnsville

PSYCHIATRIC DRUGS

Stat is not bad news

The Dec. 13 article “1 in 6 U.S. adults say they have taken psychiatric drug” neglected to mention that thousands of lives are drastically improved by such prescriptions. Even the common drugs mentioned (Zoloft, Xanax, etc.) can have immense benefits for those who truly need them. Highlighting this particular issue without acknowledging the positive effect only serves to further the stigma associated with such medications. As someone who takes Zoloft, I have heard choruses of: “Do you really need to be taking medication? Is it all that bad? I don’t trust drugs like that — they change people’s personalities!” and “What you need is a pair of running shoes and a long trail instead of that prescription bottle.” You can trust me, and the rest of us who benefit from our psychiatric medications, that we wouldn’t be taking these drugs if we hadn’t exhausted all other options, and felt that they were absolutely necessary to better the course of our lives. With our medication, we are able to cope with and overcome depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, anxiety … the list goes on. We are the success stories — the positive effect this article regrettably omitted.

Anna Maher, Minneapolis