It is time we expand our thoughts about how to address the assault on the Capitol. The president of the United States took an oath to uphold the Constitution, then did everything he could to override the outcome of the election — including fomenting insurrection. I hear the Democrats calling for accountability and Republicans calling for healing. It is not a binary, either/or situation. It is both/and. Healing comes through acknowledgment of the wrong, accountability for the wrong done, reparation for injury caused, personal commitment for a change of mind, heart, language and action, and then forgiveness. Accountability and healing are not opposites but connected as a whole.

Eileen Wallace, St. Charles, Minn.
• • •

Like many, as I watched our lawmakers take cover on Jan. 6, I became more aware of how tenuous our democracy is. I was also aware that it's not just a thin line of law enforcement that is protecting us; it is the thin line of our laws and norms.

The line of defense of our laws and norms has been slowly eroded in recent years. This time it is vital to make it clear that no one is above the law. What precedent do we set if we allow one president to call for an insurrection and incite violence against our government and have no consequences for it? I am not overly concerned about a coup attempt in the next eight days. I am concerned about four, eight and 12 years from now. Someone smarter and with more vision than President Donald Trump will so easily mow over what we, right now, are laying the groundwork for.

Our lawmakers need to take action now. It needs to be bold, and it needs to be unwavering. I call on my senators, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, and my representative, Betty McCollum. If our vice president won't do it, you are our only hope. We need impeachment and conviction. Truth is on your side. If not now, when? Holding on to articles of impeachment until you have the majority just weakens the country's resolve, and the moment will be lost. Standing up is hard. Drawing the line for democracy is hard. But we, as citizens, rely on you to do it.

As a physician on the "front lines" of the pandemic, I've heard other health care workers say that we are not actually the front line of defense. We are the only line. Our lawmakers are also our only line, and in this moment with so little time, we need them to stand up and hold it.

Amy J. Engebretson, St. Paul
• • •

To the four Minnesota Republican congresspeople: If not impeachment, then what punishment for Donald Trump? You certainly can't suggest zero consequences for his actions on Jan. 6? For what he incited? For what he caused?

Just what do you recommend as a punishment?

Stephen Williams, Minnetonka
• • •

In the past couple of days, I have heard several people say it makes no sense to try and remove Trump from office or impeach him because he only has a few days left in office. So, imagine a board votes to replace the CEO of a company at month's end. In the meantime, the CEO embezzles money from the company and passes on company secrets to competing organizations. Should the board act to hold the CEO accountable for these actions or say, "Well, he did some good things for the company and he will be out of office at the end of the month, so it makes no sense to bring charges"? Or imagine a company tells an employee that they are being let go from their position at the end of the week. The employee goes back to their office and ransacks the place, destroying thousands of dollars in equipment, and then does the same to the company car. Does the company call the police and ask that the employee be charged with destruction of property, or do they say, "Well, they will be out of the job at weeks' end"?

If you do not believe Trump is guilty of inciting the riot that took place at the Capitol, of inciting insurrection, say so. But enough with this, "Well, he will be out of office in eight days, so it makes no sense to hold him accountable for his actions."

Roland Hayes, Shoreview
• • •

Both the Twin Cities newspapers used "insurrection" in their headlines after a group of Trump rowdies occupied the Capitol. That didn't seem like the right word. It was too important sounding, too melodramatic. Here are some other headlines I'm sure they considered but rejected: "Stupendously bad political theater," "Ignorant Americans assail greatest icon of democracy" or "Phew, we just barely saved democracy that time."

And now there's talk of impeachment. Why give "The Donald" exactly what he's shooting for? Why make him an even greater martyr for the millions that adore him? Just let the election loser fade into his own parade. It's only a few days away.

It's time to back off. It's time to let the healing begin. It's time to start over and try to find a common dialogue. It's time to start listening and stop orating. This is a golden opportunity; let's not blow it by indulging our vengeance.

Or someday we will have an insurrection.

Al Zdon, St. Paul

FUTURE OF THE GOP

First, get away from this president

In a letter published on Jan. 11, a letter writer laments that he can "no longer bear" to be called a Republican and that he would welcome a "fresh-start party" for people like himself who still "hold traditional conservative values but don't embrace flat-earth-like nonsense." I get it! I share his feelings! But a more immediate and practical solution would be for those of us who support traditional Republican values of truth, decency and character (as well as free markets and fiscal responsibility) to distance ourselves immediately and decisively from President Donald Trump, whose despicable behavior has shamed and disgraced the Republican Party. Although Trump has regularly disparaged and denounced those Republicans who disagree with him as RINOs — "Republicans in name only" — it is Trump himself who is the RINO. The tough-minded and practical Minnesota farmers who I got to know many years ago (in the 1960s) as a kid growing up in Martin County — still one of the reddest counties in Minnesota — would have been appalled by the economic policies and fiscal irresponsibility of Trump. They were Republicans! Trump is not!

There is still hope for the Republican Party — but only if Republican leaders choose to embrace and publicly support the values of truth, decency and character that "common folk" (like the letter writer and myself) appreciate and value. It is also imperative that party leaders clearly dissociate themselves from the disgraced RINO who will soon leave the White House. If party leaders will actually lead "with malice toward none and charity for all," the Republican Party might still be recognized as the party of Lincoln.

Charles M. Hanson, Brooklyn Park
• • •

As a patriotic conservative, I'm happy to witness former Gov. Tim Pawlenty's evolution into a bold champion of education reform, LGBT rights, a clean environment and immigration ("Where does the GOP go from here?" Opinion Exchange, Jan. 11). Mmm ... I'll believe it after he cleans up the mess his party made while he stood by and said nothing. Pawlenty, along with former House Speaker Paul Ryan and former Rep. Erik Paulsen, have lingered behind the curtain too long to ever be considered anything more than lobbyists, and a dustpan full of liberal platitudes won't perform the deep cleaning their old Republican Party requires. Too little, too late — you should have spoken forcefully way back when Trump started the birther nonsense.

But all is not lost. There is a road to redemption for your new Republican Party, and it starts by figuratively punching the stuffing out of the MyPillow guy, Mike Lindell, the old party's presumptive flimflam governor and world-class liar. It'll be a dirty job that starts by screaming at the top of your lungs that the election was not stolen, that there is no vast radical socialist conspiracy and simply hugging a flag, a cross or a gun does not make you a good American. If you don't, your new party will have no more substance than the inside of Mr. Lindell's pillows.

Good luck. I look forward to the fight.

Donald Smith, Bloomington

We want to hear from you. Send us your thoughts here.