I have a right to my opinion!

I hear that a lot these days, often with the exclamation point, and usually I can let it go. But then along comes Mary Lou Bruner: none of us can afford to let it go.

Maybe you missed this story, and really, it’s meaningless in most of our lives—except that it does show how immersed we’ve become in this purported right to our own opinions, no matter how ridiculous and harebrained they may be.

Mary Lou Bruner, a 69-year-old former schoolteacher,  recently lost a bid to sit on the Texas Board of Education—a bid she had all but locked up until some of her Facebook postings began turning up and causing most reasonable people to demur. Among Ms. Bruner’s observations were gems like the following:

  • The flood from Noah’s Ark destroyed the dinosaurs — not some meteor invented by atheists.
  • Barack Obama spent his twenties as a prostitute, thus enabling him to buy drugs.
  • School shootings began after schools began teaching evolution.
  • The Boy Scouts of America is a homosexual organization.

Even the Texas Tea Party abandoned her, though she retains fans on right-wing talk radio—where her ideas probably originated.

When pressed for reasons for such baffling statements, Bruner said “I’m just saying what I believe and what the people of my district agree with.”

And there it is. As long as people say what they believe, they get a pass.

As a pretty-close-to-69-year-old schoolteacher myself (why haggle?) I suggest we call this belief what it is: laziness. Forming opinions requires some investigation of facts, and when those facts confute our views, the least we can do is try to come down on the right side of something—if for no other reason than to affirm our own self-respect. It would simply require some work: some reading, some listening, some digesting of facts which we would then have to weigh and validate.

In the political arena, such a well-informed citizenry would spell doom for Donald Trump. It’s no mystery why he lambastes the media whenever he can: the better the journalist, the greater the likelihood of proving that Trump’s brand of snake oil is no better than the bottles sold off the backs of carts more than a century ago. Donald Trump is Mary Lou Bruner with a plane and an expense account, tossing off outlandish statements in case some of them stick. (In a recent statement on energy policy he offered several suggestions that were either illegal, unconstitutional, or ludicrous—sometimes all three. His audience never called him on it.)

And before you pat yourself and your fellow humans on the backs for turning away someone as absurdly misinformed as Ms. Bruner, let’s not forget that she garnered 41% of the votes cast—just over 25,000 people thought that she should be making the education decisions in our second-largest state. If nothing changes between now and November, Donald Trump is certain to garner at least 41% of the vote. Maybe more.

I’m just saying what I believe and what the people of my district agree with.

If we paid a little more attention to why we believe what we believe, we’d realize in short order that Trump and Bruner are two sides of the same coin…one of them, of course, has a plane.

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