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 livein no small part because their towns are honored by
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 wellunless they're paying tuition.
But even more of the oppositionand a petitionis 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
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
.he presided over more capital punishment
than any governor in this nation's history
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