Mailbag: Leave librarians and parents to make their own decisions about books

Patrons come and go from the Huntington Beach Public Library in May 2023.
(File Photo)
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President Dwight Eisenhower stated at the Dartmouth College commencement ceremony in 1954, “Don’t join the book burners … Don’t think you’re going to conceal faults by concealing the evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go into a library and read every book.”

Huntington Beach City Council Mayor Pro Tem Gracey Van Der Mark should heed the advice of this former Republican president and five-star U.S. Army general. Van Der Mark in June said the Huntington Beach Public Library has hundreds of books that are obscene and pornographic and that many are located in the children’s section of the library. Huntington Beach Council Member Pat Burns has said that there’s “smut and filth” in the library. Van Der Mark, Burns, and the other two conservative members of the council will announce their plan on restricting access to public library books on Oct. 17.

A library will always have materials that some people might find offensive, but when they get inaccurately labeled as “porn,” the facts get blurred, and people start repeating misinformation. Here are the facts: The Huntington Beach Public Library does not acquire porn, it locates books with adult themes in the adult or young adult sections — not the children’s section — and it offers a review process for parents who might want a book removed to the adult section.


The real target for the conservative council members is their discomfort with LGBTQ+ books and materials. There’s a big difference between pornography found in an adult bookstore and a library book about same-sex marriage (which is legal) or gender dysphoria (which is real). When politicians label these books as “porn” it’s clear that their intent isn’t about protecting children, it’s about promoting a culture war. That’s why the four conservative members of the City Council have banned flying the Pride flag in June, dissolved the human relations committee which addressed inclusivity, and inserted homophobic and transphobic verbiage in the city’s human dignity statement.

Republicans have criticized Democrats for political overreach, but by policing our library’s books, Republicans are conducting one of the most dangerous forms of political overreach by controlling our citizens’ intellectual freedom. The four City Council members should not have the power to force their personal moral standards on every other citizen within our diverse city of 200,000 people. This is censorship and is a violation of the 1st Amendment.

Carol Daus
Huntington Beach

There is an adage that states “Facts can change opinions, but opinions cannot change facts.” Huntington Beach Mayor Pro Tem Gracey Van Der Mark seems devoted to disproving the latter half of that expression.

Once again I am left shaking my head in disbelief after reading some of her comments. The following quote is particularly troublesome. “I agree, many people died from COVID. However, many more died from depression suicide because they were not allowed to earn a living, they were not allowed to see their families.”

This statement sounds like it comes from the Marjorie Taylor Greene school of political drivel and misinformation. Operating by the theory if you repeat a lie often enough people will believe it’s true.

After verifying the U.S. suicide statistics given in the Daily Pilot article (Huntington Beach proclaims itself a ‘No Mask and No Vaccine Mandate City,’ Oct. 6) using data from the World Health Organization I checked with other fact keeping groups such as the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, the Journal of American Medicine and several other sources. All supported total given of 143,617 deaths in three years from suicide in this country. Because the reasons for suicide are complex and multifactored, determining how many of these deaths are related to pandemic shutdowns isn’t possible. WHO reports U.S. deaths attributed to COVID-19 from January 2020 to October 2023 at 1,127,152. Van Der Mark is off by nearly a million. Shouldn’t a mayor pro tem have more common sense than this?

I spent a day poring through articles from the above organizations as well as studies and papers published by Johns Hopkins, Centers for Disease Control, the Mayo Clinic, Yale University and Stanford Medical School. I did not research the vaccines. The evidence for wearing masks to prevent or slow the progress of COVID-19 and to prevent those infected from sharing infected respiratory droplets with others appears solid. The CDC also states wearing a mask has no significant adverse health effects on the wearer.

When several of the world’s leading disease research and health organizations give the same advice for prevention it’s a safe bet that the advice is good. Unless of course you are a follower of “alternate facts.”

Gracey Van Der Mark and her three like-minded co-council members seem more intent on deconstructing any progress made by the previous council than actually getting anything of value done. All I see is a lot of busy work making changes to mission statements, city charters or anything else that doesn’t fit their narrow view of how things ought to be. Getting rid of citizen boards and committees followed by an attempt to have the city attorney take over the running of the library is moronic. I don’t believe these four represent the views of the majority of locals they were elected to serve.

Mary Franklin
Huntington Beach

What a relief. An end is in sight for what the O.C. Register Editorial Board described as Mayor Tony Strickland’s “descent into madness.” The rookie mayor and council majority has passed almost all of its other priorities, like flag bans, city prohibitions of masks and vaccines, a secret multimillion-dollar contract for Strickland’s air show owner-buddy, and big raises for the city attorney. They polished off their winning streak by jamming through a rushed, million-dollar March plebiscite that would yank elections from the prize-winning Orange County Registrar of Voters in order to give the council rodeo-like control of elections. All that’s left is library book banning, though with more clever branding. In about a week, smart money says that the Huntington Beach City Council will vote 4-3 to impose new restrictions on access to library books. Skipping over decades-old existing review practices that allow patrons to cite individual books, odds are that the council will set up a whole new book surveillance system to be run by the city attorney or the council majority itself. Perhaps they will call on outside experts such as Moms for Liberty to help manage the daunting task of reviewing and selecting what should and shouldn’t be read by whom in Surf City. What a relief. Just a week or so more of this descent into madness. Then sanity, right?

Buzz McCord

Huntington Beach

Massacre raises local questions

Yesterday, I wept as I read the headlines about 40 Jewish babies being slaughtered by Hamas, some by beheading. Israeli families are being warned to erase social media from their children’s devices before Hamas starts livestreaming the executions of hostages, which include more Israeli children and babies. Tears ran down my face and into my children’s lunch boxes, whose father is Jewish, as I thought, “those babies and children could have been mine.”

My tears turned into anger as I saw images on social media of young people around the world rejoicing in the slaughter of these innocent lives, holding signs saying, “Decolonization is not a metaphor” and “By any means necessary.” Yesterday, students at CSU Long Beach advertised a protest for Palestine with an image of a paratrooping terrorist, in reference to those that brutally raped and murdered over 200 Israeli civilians at a music festival. On Monday, UC Irvine released a statement, not condemning the violence, but softly “both-sidsing” the issue, stating that the “conflict in Israel and Gaza is having a direct impact on many members of our campus community.” How can these people be so blinded by the atrocities that occurred in Israel? Why do they not know evil when they see it?

While I agree there are legitimate grievances about the treatment of Palestinians throughout history, these grievances and current power imbalance should never justify the dehumanization and killing of innocent life. This celebration and rationalization of evil is what happens when an insidious ideology slowly creeps through our educational institutions and promotes lived experiences over objective truth and victim hierarchies over equality. These people wrongfully believe the notion that these innocent lives are “complicit” in the historical mistreatment of Palestinians.

Unfortunately, this ideology is only set to spread in California. In 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 101, which will require all California public high school students to complete one semester of Ethnic Studies to graduate starting for the graduating class of 2025. The model curriculum encourages students to use a critical lens to analyze social power structures such as colonialism, imperialism, white supremacy and capitalism. The word “colonization” is mentioned 52 times, and a sample lesson aims to “inspire critically conscious action and reflection” regarding settler colonialism. Another lesson asks, “How can literature be used to activate the possibilities of decolonization?”

By encouraging “critically conscious action” and the activation of decolonization, California’s ethnic studies curriculum will only perpetuate the evil we are seeing today. Local school board officials including here in Orange County must realize that the barbaric events that occurred in Israel are essentially what “decolonization” looks like. The ideology behind the ethnic studies curriculum dresses itself up as equity and compassion, but in reality, it divides communities, aggravates grievances and rationalizes evil.

Rebeka Sinclair
Newport Beach