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Tony Bender, Published March 09 2013

Bender: Puritans out to hang the pagans

When will our North Dakota Legislature catch on? We did not elect them to be our mommies, daddies or ministers. And yes, I do believe in God. I fall to my knees and thank him daily that the Legislature only meets every two years. I wonder, though, why no one has yet been struck by lightning on the House or Senate floor or why locusts and frogs have not yet sprung up in committee rooms.

This Legislature has conjured up more personally intrusive bills and sidelined others relating to equality and open-mindedness than any in recent memory. For all this morality-based legislation, an underlying arrogant, mean-spiritedness is evident in, but not entirely limited to, the majority.

North Dakota’s new-found wealth seems to be the testosterone fueling a puzzling mix of sentiment that caters to our temporary friends in the oil industry while kicking the less fortunate aside, all with self-righteousness that is an embarrassment now and will prove disastrous as it plays out. This state has a unique opportunity to do good for its people – improve education, health care, infrastructure, improve the lives of the less fortunate – but too little of that is happening.

Protest against Puritans

Bismarck Sen. Margaret Sitte seemed surprised the other day when some 40 people showed up on her doorstep to protest after her vote against SB 2252, which would simply have banned workplace, housing, government and public service discrimination based on sexual orientation. As the defacto head of the Puritan Party in North Dakota, Sen. Sitte’s politics when it comes to personal freedoms have been consistent in its intrusive nature. And now the moral arbitrator of North Dakota is “shocked” by the reaction. Clearly, she is as naïve as she appears. It was unclear if the protesters were straight, gay or conflicted – but they were fashionably dressed, and when they left, the lawn furniture had been pleasingly arranged in accordance with the principals of feng shui. (Remember, Margaret, the gallows must always face west so when you hang the pagans, they are facing the sunset.)

Sit in it a while

And here’s evidence of the nanny state in full gallop – HB 1423, a bipartisan bill that would require a six-month waiting period before couples are allowed to divorce. The way I see it, the mandatory waiting period ought to come before the marriage. You, know, like with guns. Sen. Sitte signed on to this one, too.

Six months! That’s longer than the checkout line at the supermarket before the blizzard hits. While you may not realize immediately you’ve stepped into a pile of crap, after you have been there a while, it becomes pretty obvious to you and everyone around you. The solution from some “freedom loving” legislators? To force you to sit and stew in it a while longer. That’s like breaking up a bar fight and then putting the combatants in the same jail cell.

No milk for anyone

I think we need to take the defeat of HB 1421, which would have provided free milk during snack breaks to economically disadvantaged kids, a step further. We need to ban milk from schools altogether because you know where milk comes from, don’t you? Cow boobs. And that is vaguely sexual in nature. Admittedly, the bill was complicated by the possibility of having to drug test every child before passing out the milk. But from here on out, if we are not able to ban milk then at least we ought to address the moral decay in our pastures and make those cows wear skirts.

Tone, message

The tone and message of this session are coming through loud and clear. The Legislature thinks it is fine and dandy to look over your shoulder and tell you exactly how to live your life. You, however, are not to be accorded the same privilege. Butt out. Mind your own business.

To be fair, the Legislature seems very concerned about protecting your Second Amendment rights and about making sure drones are not used intrusively. Who needs drones? We’ve got the legislators. They are the drones.


Bender and his wife, Julie Bender, are publishers/owners of the Ashley Tribune and Wishek Star. He is author of two published novels. His column has twice won the National Newspaper Association’s Best Humor Column award.