Read! Speak! Know! — While you still can …Written by Paulette D. Kilmer | | firstname.lastname@example.org
That American right for all and irritant to some, freedom of expression, reigns on an Internet site, safelibraries.org (SLO) in surprising ways.
SLO claims the American Library Association exposes youth via Internet access to unwholesome sexual ideas and blames ALA for crimes committed against children in libraries. But libraries are not daycare centers.
Book banners frequently claim they wish to protect children and to thwart child molesters.
My search on Lexis/Nexis shocked me because articles about child sexual assault are published all over the world. Children lose their innocence in churches, malls, parks and sadly most often at home or in the company of someone they love and trust.
Predators can lurk anywhere, according to Washington Post writer Michele Booth Cole. One in four girls and one in six boys in the United States will be sexually abused before they reach 18 years old.
People of all ages should visit libraries to learn these facts.
“Child sexual abuse doesn’t discriminate on the basis of socioeconomic status or race” Cole said in an editorial on July 13, 2008.
“Further, most child victims are hurt by people they know, not by strangers,” she said. “Child sexual abuse is a crime of opportunity that thrives on people’s erroneous belief that it can’t happen to their child or in their school, community, faith institution, camp, sports team, etc.”
Cole advised parents to teach their children about both good and evil in the world so that they learn to regard trust as a treasure bestowed only upon those worthy to receive it.
Even as SLO asks “Are Children Safe in Public Libraries?” ironically, this Google ad appears in a box at top of the Webpage: “Sex Crime Legal Defense: Facing child pornography charges? Free consult. Get 24/7 legal help.”
Possibly, SafeLibraries.org did not approve the notice. Perhaps, Google randomly posted it. However, one could infer that pedophiles—or at least at those accused of molesting children — read SLO since the message is targeted at this group.
Regardless of who accepted it, not only is the advertisement protected speech, it might facilitate justice. No matter how vile or disgusting the crime, the accused person is assumed innocent until found guilty in court, and the burden of proof is placed on the state because evidence (not emotions, gossip, or suppositions) determine whether courts acquit or convict defendants.
I disagree with SLO’s views. I find their accusations absurd and frequently devoid of logic. They imply that feminists seek to expose children to pornography and declare opposition to the U.S. Patriot Act un-American. I will not list every SLO position that I think is misleading, dishonest, and threatens the First Amendment because I believe SLO belongs in a marketplace of ideas.
People browse the intellectual bazaar weighing and comparing information until they make their final selection. Therefore, although I detest the content of SLO, its chilling shrill tirade against librarians, the American Civil Liberties Union, and anybody who disagrees with them; nevertheless, I would defend to my dying breath the right of SLO to express its political views. When bullies (thugs, corporations, government officials) silence anyone of us, we all lose our freedom to “speak, read, and know.”
Civility as well as the right to read and think freely prevail only when our citizens remember that the United States of America is a democracy, which will wither away if the free flow of ideas is blocked. Oh, and although SLO ignores this fact, the American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of American Publishers, and the National Association of College Stores cosponsor BBW. The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress endorses BBW.
The University of Toledo campus community will celebrate ALA’s Banned Books Week with civic and educational groups across the nation on Thursday, October 1, 2009, on the second floor of Sullivan Hall.