Port: I went to a library to attend a book ban protest and didn't see a single pervert or 'groomer'
"In a word, they were just people. Concerned citizens giving up some of their weekend time to make a statement about their support for parental rights and free expression."
MINOT, N.D. — To hear certain people tell it, opposing the book banning bills making their way through the Legislature in Bismarck means you're probably some sort of deviant.
I'm referring, of course, to House Bill 1205 and Senate Bill 2306.
The former would make it a crime to shelve books in public libraries that contain sexual activity. Not just in the children's section. They would be banned from the entire library.
Meanwhile, the latter takes that censorship a step further and applies it to the private sector. Not even retailers such as Walmart and Barnes and Noble could stock, say, a romance novel to read by adults.
These are infantilizing, paternalistic laws, and when I heard that some volunteers had organized a protest against them at my hometown library, my family and I decided to go.
My wife and I are passionate about First Amendment issues, and we brought our teenage daughter, Layla, too, because it's never too early to teach your kids how to resist big government infringements on individual liberties.
Again, the proponents of these bills would like you to believe their opponents are perverts. Pedophiles and "groomers" who are titillated at the idea of showing pornography to children.
I didn't see anyone like that among the hundred or so quietly reading demonstrators at the Minot Public Library on Saturday, March 4.
I saw a woman who was once my Sunday school teacher. I saw school teachers, too. And librarians, of course. A farm family was on hand, a lawyer, and a bookshop owner, and a friend who I play pickleball with.
I saw several people I know to be long-time Republicans. And some Democrats, too.
In a word, they were just people. Concerned citizens giving up some of their weekend time to make a statement about their support for parental rights and free expression.
You wouldn't think I'd have to make that point about people protesting to keep the government's grubby hands off our books, but I do.
The proponents of these bills make a stupidly simplistic argument. Either you're for their censorship, they tell us, or you're with the pornographers and the pedophiles. They wave some particularly graphic work in the air and demand to know if we favor letting kids read it.
As if this debate were about any one book and not the egregiously broad legal definitions of what constitutes verboten content proposed in Bismarck for children and adults, too.
As a human being, and more specifically, a father, I understand the impulse to want to protect children. I believe everyone at the protest I attended on Saturday feels the same way. But we already have good protections in place. We have laws on the books now regulating how provocative content can be displayed in stores. Our libraries have policies for reviewing and potentially removing controversial content. I recently interviewed the director of the Minot Public Library, which serves one of the largest communities in our state.
She's been at the job for going on a decade, and during all that time she's handled just four challenges to library content.
My family and I go to our library a couple of times a month. We visit our city's bookstores, too. Not once have I ever been concerned about the content on hand.
We don't have a problem, and even if we did, these bills in Bismarck wouldn't be the solution.