I’m a septuagenarian and a skeptic. I’ve always been suspicious of majorities and their penchant for simple solutions to complex problems — solutions that are, as H. L. Mencken put it, “clear, simple, and wrong.”

I’m not a “team player” preferring to keep, on most issues, what my grandfather called “an open mind and a critical attitude.” But I do understand that it’s easy to get comfortable with consensus and be one with the group. There’s strength and safety in numbers, especially when the group decides it’s time to ferret out heresy and punish dissent. Consider the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, the Army McCarthy hearings, or the behavior of the Prior Lake-Savage Area School Board, as reported in recent editions of this newspaper. Dissent takes courage; especially in the face of bullying and censure — tactics used by the chair and the board majority to suppress the voices of board members who disagree with the majority on policy matters and choose to take their concerns public.

John Diers is a Prior Lake resident who spent 40 years working in the transit industry and is the author of “Twin Cities by Trolley: The Streetcar Era in Minneapolis and St. Paul” and “St. Paul Union Depot.” To submit questions or topics for community columnists, email editor@plamerican.com.

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