Ron Way’s Feb. 2 commentary “What is patriotism?” was insightful and comprehensive. It led me to a realization that, perhaps unlike times in the recent past, many of today’s senior politicians do not place patriotism above their own ego, desire for personal power or above allegiance to party.

Mr. Way also reminds us of the political “servants” who use their position as a revolving door to “earn impressive incomes, lobbying the very government they worked for” when they depart. And to come full-circle, President Donald Trump has now appointed 281 of these former lobbyists to his administration. It’s hard not to be cynical.

I feel bad for the teenagers of today. Looking up isn’t pretty. No wonder they prefer Greta Thunberg over the likes of Mitch and the gang. I’ve never favored term limits; however, the time may be here for some version of the same. After all, while the patriots — true servant leaders, like Marie Yovanovitch and others — are leaving, those who are content to substitute slogans and flag-waving for real patriotism continue to hang on.

Bill McCarthy, St. Paul

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I had a very positive reaction to Way’s article challenging us to think about what patriotism actually means. The question presented also could have asked “what is citizenship” or “what is service to country.” As a veteran, when I’m asked to stand and be recognized and hear the words “thank you for your service,” I have mixed feelings. Undeniably, I’m proud and humbled by the recognition. But I also feel those nonveterans politely applauding and thanking veterans do not fully appreciate what service to country means for them. Do they understand that service to country in some measure or capacity is also required of them?

The service and responsibility of maintaining and sustaining our democracy requires citizens to do their duty, which includes knowing how our government functions and understanding basic constitutional principles. Citizens have a duty to be engaged, to contribute, to volunteer in matters beyond themselves regarding their community, state and country. Citizens have a duty to vote, an act that helps ensure that our constitutional and democratic institutions are upheld.

I especially agree that patriotism and the service obligations and responsibilities of citizenship need regular checkups. I suggest Veterans Day as an opportunity to not only thank veterans for their service, but to reflect on the patriotic service to our country that is required by each of us as citizens. This act of reflection would truly honor veterans for their sacrifice and service in defense of our country and in protecting the freedoms and rights of citizens to carry out their duties.

Eldon Kaul, Blaine

The writer, a retired Minnesota assistant attorney general, served in the U.S. Navy from 1963 to 1967.


Human side of the equation: Put yourself in these shoes

Given Bret Stephens’ background and bias against the Palestinians and the Arab world in particular, he leaves out — in his Feb. 2 commentary about President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan (“It’s not in Palestinians’ interest to always say no”) — the human tragedy that has unfolded in the past 70-plus years of occupation.

If you could imagine the following scenario, what would you do?

When the United Nations and the global powers decided to partition the areas of Palestine after a horrific episode that happened to the Jewish people during World War II, the present-day Arabs who were the indigenous inhabitants had to give up their land under pressure and duress. They viewed the encroachment of the Zionist state as a risk to their way of life.

Their olive gardens became battlefields; their religion and culture were under assault, and there were not any real solutions to appease either side for decades. Thus the occupational battle begun, and each side grew bolder and more desperate to solidify their positions. Peace plans of many types were initiated and vanished for many reasons that are part of another discussion.

Many years went by after thousands were killed in wars and demonstrations, then two very sly, corrupt and politically savvy men came to the rescue. Their con was the “peace plan of the century,” cobbled together by a novice who just needed a job. The real motivation was political support for each other, because both were in trouble and needed a distraction. Before that happened, however, they conspired to take away more of the sacred lands and places that were part of the Arab culture and Muslim religion. Any good negotiator would have used these properties for future bargaining chips or at least would have asked the other side for sacrifices.

These leaders wanted to humiliate the Palestinians further by dictating all the rules and by blaming them for any inaction or nonparticipation in this plan. They threw in $50 billion as another abstract solution.

How would you react if this was your lot in life? How could you believe a pathological liar on one side of the ocean and a sinister politician on the other who has worked against the Palestinians causes his entire career? Again, would you accept all the conditions and historic injustices, and could you live your life in peace with yourself? This is the human side of the equation that is not in the discourse.

Kamel Aossey, Minnetonka

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Ahmed Tharwat’s latest diatribe (“Fill in the blank: What we have here is a two-_____ solution,” Feb. 2) reveals all too clearly his refusal to accept the existence of Israel. He can’t even bring himself to consistently call the country “Israel.” Instead he characterizes it as “the Zionist state.” And then makes incredible statements about so-called Arab Zionist leaders.

Mr. Tharwat’s column reveals so clearly why peace is so difficult to achieve. I suspect his goal is a one-state solution where Jews, if they are allowed to exist, are second-class citizens in a Muslim state, much as they were before the creation of Israel.

Ken Cutler, Edina


Characterizing the Sanders agenda and its congressional prospects

If presidential candidate Bernie Sanders scares you a little bit, it’s worth remembering that any sweeping legislation to the right or left requires agreement in Congress, which is why I’m hoping for a second Blue Wave and why others can hope for a Centrist Wave. One thing is certain, though: To the extent a president can, without congressional action, push the agenda, you will have executive orders in defense of the planet with Sanders, in defense of workers, in defense of clean water in Flint, Mich., and elsewhere, in defense of clean air, and in defense of reasonable cooperation with other countries. And you will no longer have babies in cages. For evangelicals out there, the Sanders platform is very New Testament. What scares people a little bit, of course, is that it’s the New Testament taken seriously.

Richard Robbins, Mankato

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