It seems that the Proud Boys have anointed themselves America's morality police. While taking a Saturday morning walk with a friend in a county-run botanical garden, Washington Post editorial page editor and columnist Karen Tumulty encountered a contingent from the group's D.C.-Maryland chapter gathered to harass and intimidate a small number of parents who had brought their mostly preschool-age children to the park to hear a drag queen tell stories. This stalwart band wore "Halloween-ready masks that made the bottom half of their faces appear as skeletons." Can the intent have been anything other than to frighten the children? One guardian of civic virtue carried a sign with the word "groomers" crossed out with a big red X. Other signs informed the preschoolers that "YOU are NOT BORN IN THE WRONG BODY" and "science is real."
A number of the parents sized up the situation and decided to leave. As tensions rose, six officers and two supervisors showed up. They found themselves caught between the First Amendment rights of the Proud Boys to protest and those of drag queen D’Manda Martini, who wanted to perform, and the parents, who wanted their children to hear the reading. (Tumulty, Stand back and stand by. Proud Boys may be coming to a park near you, Washington Post, October 15, 2022)
The families who remained, four or so according to Tumulty, adjourned to a room inside the visitors center to listen to stories. The Proud Boys remained outside and complied with police instructions not to use bullhorns or bang on the windows. After the event they congratulated themselves on Telegram: "Real men stepped up and let this mentally ill thing know that GROOMING will not be tolerated. Most people who saw us at the entrance were scared and turned around and left." Maybe the group should adopt this as a motto, tattoo it on their forearms: "Real men scare preschoolers." Emblazon a Proud Boys flag with it.
This was not an isolated incident in the campaign to protect Americans from sexual deviance, masks, and vaccination.
Proud Boys have been showing up across the country at meetings of school boards and health boards to protest government measures such as mask mandates. They have also taken to disrupting LGBTQ-themed events. The Anti-Defamation League, which tracks their activities, told me it has seen an uptick in such antics in June, which is Pride Month, and that the Proud Boys have continued at a brisk pace since then. (Tumulty)
Promoting fear of homosexuality and leveling specious charges of pedophilia and grooming against political opponents is a feature of the Kremlin's playbook and a staple of the MAGA right. The Proud Boys and others who go in for this are Putinista stooges in a war against American liberal democracy, unwitting perhaps, there is precious little wit to be found among them, but stooges nonetheless.
I do not share the fascination some people have for drag queens. This is not a value judgment. If someone is a drag queen or enjoys watching drag queens perform, fine. Not everything has to be for everyone. What floats my boat may not float yours. Some other things, by way of example, I do not find interesting are superhero movies, NASCAR, disco, hip-hop, and the poetry of James Dickey.
Drag queen story hour strikes me as a bit silly. It smacks of fashionable virtue signaling. But it does expose children to people who look and think of themselves differently from those they ordinarily encounter in a setting where the message is that this is okay. If I were a parent of children who wanted to attend drag queen story hour, I would take them. If they wanted to read books with drag queen characters, I would encourage them.
As a boy I was a voracious reader. Mom once told me that she did not want to know what I was reading back then. I am a little curious about what she might have had in mind that she would rather not know about. I suspect communist subversion, for a start. She also told me that our fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Ballantine, a leather-lunged little woman who had been Mom's teacher too, told her it did not matter what we read during summer vacation, even comic books, as long as we were reading. This seems to me to be a pretty good principle. No, not everything is suitable for young readers and preschool story hours, but inquiring young minds are apt to find their way to it anyway. Casting the net as widely as possible for what is permitted to be read will do more to steer young readers away from books that truly are arguably inappropriate for their age than banning books left and right.