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October 13, 2021 - 05:00

I appreciate your rationale for printing every letter you receive from your readers. You surely want to avoid having to decide if one opinion merits publication while another does not. However, the opinion page of the September 29 issue cried out for a more independent voice.

The bulk of the letters represented the extreme Republican viewpoint; the Democratic column provided a fascinating discussion of the travels of water on and below the surface of the land and then threw in a sentence on pollution to tie it to a Democratic view of current events. None of those voices particularly resonated for me, since facts were either ignored, misrepresented, or left out altogether.

I have to wonder about the thinking of some of your writers, who seem to feel that lack of evidence is a minor inconvenience when one has a conspiracy theory to support. For example, if there is “documented forensic evidence of pervasive voter fraud in the 2020 election,” as one of the writers states, why has this evidence not been shown to the courts, in the many lawsuits that were filed? Oh, well, it’s because the evidence is being “suppressed.” So let’s ignore the evidence that does exist,even though it’s been presented in multiple court cases and by multiple secretaries of state, because it doesn’t support what you believe.

Do you see how logically the dominoes fall? If you believe, without evidence, that the 2020 election was “stolen”, then you must believe that the evidence is being “suppressed.” And then you must believe that the January 6 uprising at the nation’s Capitol was the work of “patriots” who are being unjustly persecuted. This then becomes further evidence of a plot.

Another example can be seen in the government’s response to the COVID pandemic. Uncertainty and changing strategies would seem to be an understandable part of dealing with a novel situation that has not been encountered before in our lifetime. But if you believe that “the government” is trying to train everyone to follow orders and become “sheep” who can be more easily manipulated, then scientists and government officials changing the “rules” and trying to decide what’s best for the most people might be seen as just pretending there’s a crisis so they can trick the gullible public. The skeptics then become the smart ones who see through the government’s “lies.”

In my career as a psychologist I had occasion to study people who experienced paranoia. I observed that if they were presented with evidence that refuted their beliefs, they simply doubted the source of the evidence, and/or believed the source was in on the plot. Paranoid people are often very good at connecting the dots of their theories, and at adding new dots to explain how A really does lead to B.

I’m not saying that everyone who doubts the forthrightness of our government is paranoid. I’m not a naive believer in the benign motives of our elected officials. But I don’t feel comfortable with the extreme rhetoric of either party, so I’ve become a relentless fact-checker. I’ve learned that both sides play with the facts to make a stronger point. To be a fact-checker, you have to be willing to admit you might be wrong and to possibly change your mind, or at least modify your position somewhat (many humans, myself included, have a lot of trouble with that).

I would urge your readers to expand their menu of information sources, so that they can make more informed decisions about what to believe. I’m no longer very interested in reading only sources that agree with what I already believe. But I can feel the tension within me when I start to read something that challenges my beliefs. I push myself to read it anyway.

If you try, you can find thoughtful discussions of the topics mentioned in last week’s issue that will expand your knowledge rather than simply solidify your beliefs. If you think everyone on the “other side” is evil or a raving lunatic or stupid, you might benefit greatly from reconsidering that sweeping assumption.

For instance, you can unhappily accept that Biden won the election and begin to work your butt off to get your favorite nominees elected in 2022 and 2024. If you simply preach to the choir because they’re the only ones who take you seriously, you might lose the power you actually have to change things.

I read recently that a poll conducted by the Dallas Morning News found roughly equal distributions of Republicans, Democrats and Independents in our state. Rural areas tend to be more Republican and urban areas often have more Democrats. But a third of us are actually independent - we have views that don’t always line up with those of the two major parties. I bet we even have some independents in Bandera County. We just don’t have any representation among the extreme voices that speak the loudest. Try thinking like a truly independent person, you might like it!

- Susan Hull

Bandera, Texas