It was early morning and I stood outside class, lamenting societal woes; someone told me that I "should go back to Vietnam if you think America's bad." That stuck with me. Why is it that this patriotism inspires, not action, but dismissiveness?

Is there a better patriotism?

Is the mother working two jobs more patriotic than the inheritor of a business with a flag in his yard? Is the young Black man protesting against police brutality more patriotic than the warden with the stars-and-stripes hat? Is the student marching for her life more patriotic than the corporate lobbyist with years of media training?

I believe the answer to all of these is "yes." I believe in a patriotism of improvement, not one focused on a blind ideal of America but rather one understanding of the chasm between that and our reality. History has validated this gap's bridgings, from the freedom amendments after the Civil War, to the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, to Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal and Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society, to the judicial activism during the civil rights movement.

Bitter partisanship, which characterizes the contemporary debate, was behind these triumphs. But I believe that they were motivated by a patriotism beyond deification. I believe that patriotism is petitioning the government, voting and filling out the census, not defying stay-at-home orders and occupying the State Capitol. I believe that patriotism is a sense of obligation beyond oneself, to see that one's actions have repercussions. Most importantly, I believe in fighting society's injustices.

So, why shouldn't I just leave if I see so many problems here? Because on arriving, I owe it. America took me in, that wide-eyed boy from a distant country, and with my parents' work, gave me a comfortable life.

My dad told me to see our backyard — itself quintessential America — as a blessing, to improve and perfect. And America's the best backyard on Earth, so why not help it out?

Khoi Truong Minh Phan, Circle Pines

Leave no trace. Protect the wild.

It is obvious that Minnesotans love the Northland, with its wild beauty and open skies. The opportunity to hike, bike, boat, fish, swim and drive the back roads in hopes of seeing wildlife are all wonderful ways to relax in these stressful times.

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is seeing new visitors and many are paddling for the first time. We must continue to promote the "leave no trace" policy for all of our parks and rest areas along with the BWCA. People must not leave their trash or pick the wildflowers, must stay on designated trails at busy areas and must respect the rules as posted. Watch the BWCA introductory video and understand its fragility before you come paddling.

We all want to enjoy and preserve the bounty of nature we are so fortunate to have Up North. Please leave no trace when you come up to the wilds of northern Minnesota.

Suzanne Davies, Lutsen, Minn.

The climate is still heating up, even if we've temporarily forgotten

Thanks to a recent letter writer for "Brace for Big Oil's next move," published in the Star Tribune on July 1. As noted in the letter, there are certainly parallels between Big Oil's disinformation about climate change and the tobacco industry's lies about health effects of smoking a generation ago.

The climate change issue seems to have gotten buried in all of the other national and world crises in the news, with COVID-19, police brutality, gun violence, the end of Civil War statues and President Donald Trump's mismanagement of all of these troubling issues. But, when the smoke begins to clear, climate change will again emerge as the single largest threat to the world's well-being and world agricultural stability (in addition to human overpopulation — we are the out-of-control, invasive species!).

There is some cause for optimism in the climate change debate. Coal is no longer the economic choice for electrical power generation, now being slowly replaced with renewables like wind turbines and photovoltaics. Petroleum has to be the next big target to address ever-increasing carbon emissions worldwide; fossil carbon has to eventually be left in the ground. If the petroleum companies really want to be the "energy providers" of the future for transportation, they must invest their petro-dollars into the next generation of renewable and sustainable energy sources — automotive batteries, renewable fuels from biomass and biogenic carbon sources.

Hey Big Oil — embrace the future! Don't continue to invest in the past!

Kirk Cobb, White Bear Lake
• • •

I'm writing in response to Neal St. Anthony's June 29 article, "Solar firm still hot in cooling economy." The article highlights the growth of solar energy in Minnesota due to solar companies, utilities and commercial customers.

There's also a big role for individuals to play in boosting the economy with solar energy.

I'm a member of a local group in southeast Minnesota called the Driftless Area Solar Co-op. We are homeowners, farmers and small-business owners who have come together to install solar on our properties using group purchasing.

Hosted by the nonprofit Solar United Neighbors, the group has been learning about solar technology, its benefits and the financial incentives to go solar.

Through a competitive and democratic process, co-op members recently selected Solar Connections to complete the co-op's installations. Because there's power in numbers, we're each able to get our own solar systems on our own properties but at a group rate.

I'm looking forward to having control over my electricity production, and the consistent payments and long-term cost savings will benefit my family and my farm.

If you're interested in going solar, there's a great opportunity in our community right now. The Driftless Area Solar Co-op is accepting participants until Aug. 31. Becoming a member of the solar co-op is free and does not obligate you to install solar. Please join us to learn more at

Dayna Burtness, Spring Grove, Minn.

Online care works, with caveats

I was saddened to read that HealthPartners will be closing several of its clinics ("7 HealthPartners clinics to close amid COVID upheaval," front page, July 2). Saddened because one of the clinics being closed has been the place where I have received excellent health care for almost 30 years. I am also deeply saddened to read that as a result of COVID, many systems are moving toward greater reliance on internet technology for the provision of care. Although telemedicine has provided critical access to health care during the pandemic, recent studies in neuroscience are providing an abundance of data demonstrating that although online services may work for some, they are far less effective for others.

My own practice experience as a mental health professional aligns with the findings from these studies. I worry that growth in the provision of health care services online will continue to expand long after the pandemic is no longer a threat — but for the wrong reasons. Cost effectiveness ought not trump the delivery of quality, patient-centered care.

Let's not treat what science is telling us about the limitations of online care as a trade secret. We need to discuss these limitations with our patients and work toward addressing them as best we can until it becomes safe to engage in-person again.

Judy Hoy, Plymouth

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