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The Truth, Mainly - 02/12/2007

Anyone for a Bush, Jr. Library?

Strange times we live in.

You'd think that the decision to locate a presidential library in your hometown would be an occasion for great celebration. Your fellow citizens, you'd probably guess, would be honored to have a presidential library just around the corner. Not just because presidential libraries are inherently interesting, but because they attract out-of-town visitors who are likely to spend some money.

Next time you drive south out of Lincoln into Kansas, take a detour into Abilene and check out the Eisenhower Library. When you go east on Interstate 80, stop off at West Branch, Iowa, and spend some time in the Hoover Library. And if you ever venture to Little Rock, Arkansas, explore the Clinton Library. Talk to people in those towns and see what they think about living in such close proximity to history.

I'll bet the vast majority will think it's an all right place to live—in no small part because their towns are honored by presidential libraries.

But now comes the word that, according to the plan, the George W. Bush Presidential Library is going to be built on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. And a whole lot of indignation has hit the fan.

Much of it comes from a number of SMU profs who predictably are opposed to almost anything President Bush does, not because he thinks like a Republican but because, professor-like, they believe he doesn't think at all. And academics don't like being associated with people who don't think very well—unless they're paying tuition.

But even more of the opposition—and a petition—is coming from the Methodist clergy.

SMU last month issued this statement, designed, one imagines, to appease the Bush administration as best it can be appeased:

"The opportunity for a group of United Methodist ministers to circulate a petition reflects the tradition and values of the Church for open dialogue on important issues…we at SMU respect their right to express their views….Fifty percent of the Board's membership is United Methodist, including three bishops and two ordained clergy."

In other words, SMU is the best friend the Methodist Church has and would never do anything the church might be opposed to.

But large numbers of church members aren't so sure. And they're using a web site called www.protectSMU.org. to let us know. If you look at it very long you'll see that the really heavy opposition is coming from United Methodist ministers who don't want their denomination associated with the current President and his war.

So the web site seems primarily interested in keeping the Bush Library off of the SMU campus. And the SMU alum who initiated the petition, Rev. Andrew Weaver, said it had been quickly signed by 14 UMC Bishops, more than 600 UMC clergy, and over 9,000 UMC church members.

The Truth, Mainly


The web site quotes, among others, Bishop C. Joseph Sprague: "Bush violated United Methodist teachings when he initiated a pre-emptive, first-strike war, contrary to Just War criteria, when he pursued policies that reward the rich, while punishing the poor and he further sneered at the church teaching by condoning the torture of prisoners….he presided over more capital punishment executions…than any governor in this nation's history…it becomes abundantly clear why a G.W. Bush Library should not be housed on United Methodist Church property…."

(This guy is my kind of Bishop. Four years ago, he was accused of heresy for questioning the virgin birth of Jesus, but he was cleared of the charge. )

Another Bishop, Rev. William Boyd Grove, was quoted saying that putting the library on the SMU campus "would be a tragedy. The policies of the Bush administration are in direct conflict with the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church on issues of war and peace, civil liberties and human rights…."

And so on. Who knows which side is going to win this one? And doesn't it make you wonder how the President feels on Sunday morning on his way to Methodist Church services?


One last word from Texas: Molly Ivins, the country's best columnist, died on Jan. 31, five days after she wrote her last column. Here's the final paragraph of the final column:

"We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we're for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the street to protest Bush's proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on Jan. 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it now!'"


Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is: leonsatterfield@earthlink.net.


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