The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


SMU petitions: A referendum on the Bush presidency?

If the debate on whether the Bush Library will be housed at Southern Methodist University were a sports event, the outcome already would have been decided. Last night the number of signatures on the petition opposing the library stood at 10,101; this morning it is 10,124. Most of the signatories identify their denomination as Methodist and include their church. The online petition supporting the Library and Policy Center on the SMU campus stood last night at 107. This morning it is 106; the last two entries had been removed and one had been added.

Last night the last two entries were from Dr. Susanne Johnson, the faculty member from the Perkins School of Theology who cosigned the letter that resulted in the demand from the faculty that the project be subject to a faculty referendum. The two letters were written on the issues that have appeared elsewhere in the media of late, including Bush’s unwillingness to meet with the bishops of the Methodist Church for the last six years and the use of torture.

The petitions are different in every imaginable way. The URL for the petition against is titled, “Protect SMU.” The petition supporting the Bush Project is titled, “Protect SMU from the Leftist Bush-Hate Kooks Opposing the Bush Presidential Library Being @ SMU!”

The use of vilifying rhetoric is mostly absent on the “Protect SMU” petition; vitriol is a standard practice on the other. Since it is well known to political activists that NeoCons routinely employ a cadre of young men to surf the Web and plant disinformation, the similarity in wording and grammatical errors is understandable. They are fed their scripts through the network of political operatives that includes John Fund, Matt Drudge and David Horowitz.

The Protect SMU Petition focuses on the violation of the tenets of Methodism by the Bush Presidency. The other ignores the issues raised, points to the potential for profit, and chooses to characterize those in opposition as, “effete snobs,” “a few looney lefti-wing creeps,” and “left-wing, radical socialists.” Phrases are slavishly reused.

No one on the Pro-Library petition addressed the concerns of those opposing the Bush Project or commented on Bush’s continued unwillingness to meet with the Bishops of his own church or expressed an opinion on the use of torture by Americans.

The issues raised on the petition supporting the Bush Project go to the potential of the facility to generate income for the area and its utility as a research facility. In the majority of cases the signers ignore the issues, instead demanding unquestioning loyalty to US policy or to Bush.

The benefit of the Bush Project for Dallas as a tourist destination is doubtful. Crawford opened shops featuring novelties and collectibles in the belief tourism would bring in bucks, but the income from these has fallen significantly as Bush used up the good will it stole from the tragedy of Sept. 11. According to the Office of the Controller of Texas, there is an upward swing in sales when Cindy Sheehan or other protesters are there, though it is not clear that it is pro-Bush memorabilia that is driving that blip on the local economy.

Since Bush has signed an executive order allowing him and his heirs to block access to documents in virtual perpetuity, the usefulness of the library for research is probably nil. Already funded to the tune of a half a billion dollars, mostly by the Bush core constituency of oil companies and other multinationals who are profiting mightily in Iraq, the Policy Center is expected to justify and promote the policies that Bush has himself followed. Would that mean techniques in torture would become a subject for research as an approved “policy tool?” One can imagine the kind of research carried out behind the sound-proofed doors. But we are led to think that how to lie more effectively and manufacture the needed justifications would also be included. Perhaps that will be Karl Rove’s job when he retires.

Presumably, SMU will be offered an endowed chair dedicated to the work of Leo Strauss.

The problem is, perhaps, trying to view the Bush Library and Policy Center through the lens of what we have always understood as acceptable. By refusing to be governed by SMU and by massive funding, this facility will be different than any presidential library ever built. Bush is planning to take the power of the presidency with him when he leaves office.

When something is so monumentally outrageous, we try to find a way to look at it that makes it comprehensible. It is like America has been invaded by blood-sucking aliens, but it’s not polite to mention it.

While most of those signing the Protect SMU Petition are still Methodists as of now, both Susanne Johnson and Andrew Weaver, a Methodist minister from Brooklyn and SMU grad, are well aware that the petition may become a national referendum on the Bush presidency. Dr. Johnson said that the possibility that the dialogue would extend beyond the university and Methodism had occurred to her as she saw media interest increase.

She said she and Bill MacElvaney, the other faculty member who signed the original letter, have been interviewed by a steady stream of media from various parts of the country and overseas.

Weaver commented that while it had not been his intention to elicit a broader dialogue, he hoped that the petition could make Americans contemplate morals, values, and a renewal of faith.

The NeoCons have done an artful job of re-creating icons that attracted young people into the Republican Party while drastically changing the dogma. The idealists who read and believed the words of Barry Goldwater are few now. Goldwater wrote in his book “Conscience of a Conservative” that “throughout history, government has proved to be the chief instrument for thwarting man’s liberty. Government represents power in the hands of some men to control and regulate the lives of other men. And power, as Lord Acton said, corrupts men.” “Absolute power,” he added, “corrupts absolutely.”

Those same activists, once committed to seeing the Republican Party deliver on the promises of small government, local control, individual rights for all, and simple kindness were displaced by a new breed: young men and women who idolize Anne Coulter because she has glamorized political deception and become wealthy in so doing. The young people who flock to see people such as Coulter seek icons who say, “Wealth and power are the only justifications you need.”

Today, America is confronted with a state far more dangerous and confiscatory on every level to us than any imagined by our founders. Today, we see a state that is the property not of Americans, but of the same corporations who will build the Bush Library.

Southern Methodist University is about to be consumed because it is convenient for Bush to claim membership as a Methodist, and he will be able to have a lavish home near his buddies. To that end, he is more than willing to sacrifice all the unearned money he can lay his hands on. We are witnessing the plans he and his buddies have for America. We will not be able to say we were not warned.

About the writer:

The mother of five children, Melinda Pillsbury-Foster also is the author of several books, as well as founder of the Arthur C. Pillsbury Foundation, an institution dedicated to the legacy of her grandfather, the inventor of the lapse-time, the microscopic, the motion picture, the x-ray motion picture and the underwater motion picture cameras. You may respond to her at: [email protected].

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