US flag represents truths both inspiring and terrible

We write to offer a veterans’ viewpoint different from those dominating the events at Hampshire College in Amherst. We are members of chapter 95, Veterans for Peace, an international veterans’ organization whose mission is to build a culture of peace, expose the true costs of war, and heal the wounds of war. Though we wouldn’t burn the flag, we applaud and support the work of Hampshire College students and administrators in creating a teachable moment. We believe in the right to free speech, to listen, and to protest. We find the threats to Hampshire students and administrators and to reporters to be reprehensible and contrary to values we served to protect.

Springfield Mayor Sarno says the flag represents “freedom, democracy, strength and hope.” As veterans, we served our country with the hope of protecting such values. But we also recognize that those values — spoken so easily on days like Veterans Day — are not all that the flag symbolizes.

It cannot be denied that horrible things have been done under the flag. In the U.S., we often ignore and erase the truth: unending immoral wars and occupations, denial of Native American sovereignty, repression of many Americans’ civil rights, as well as betrayal of service members and veterans. As veterans of moral conscience, we choose to see the full impact of our country’s choices.

Howard Zinn said, “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”

To be proud of being an American without seeing our darkness is a deadly sin. Our flag represents multiple truths — both inspiring and terrible. We must work on seeing and acknowledging where we fall short of our ideals, not just seeing what we want to believe.

Although flag-burning is free speech that we are pledged to defend, instead we wash the flag — metaphorically and literally. It’s time to wash the flag so that we can fly it proudly, without stains and tatters. The work of setting right the wrongs done under the flag will take a long time, so we must do it every day. The first step of mending the social fabric is not ignoring the harm done by some of our country’s choices.

— Daniel Ritchie, Easthampton and Eric Wasileski, Greenfield


A new Electoral College

The debate has started again as to whether the US.. Constitution should be amended in order to change the presidential election process. Some promote eliminating the Electoral College in favor of a direct popular vote for president while others believe the Electoral College should remain unchanged. Just as compromise solved the initial problems of the framers so it is that compromise can solve this problem. The solution is to change the electoral votes to electoral points and reward each candidate a percentage of points based on the percentage of popular votes received in each state.

This would eliminate the “winner take all” system thus allowing for all the votes to count. A voter is more apt to believe their vote counted when a percentage of popular votes are taken into account rather than the “all or nothing” system currently in existence. Further, this new system would integrate the desire for a popular vote for president with the need for the individual states to determine who actually gets elected.

As for political primaries the number of delegates awarded in each state should be determined by the percentage of votes won by each candidate.

For 2016 multiplying the percentage of votes each candidate received, in each state, times the number of electoral votes, in each state, results in the following: Clinton 256.985 and Trump 253.482.

— Joe Bialek

Cleveland, Ohio