No, President Bush isn’t really in my backyard, but it looks like his Presidential Library will be. According to the New York Times, Dallas’ Southern Methodist University will likely be the site for the president’s future library and museum.
Unfortunately, some of SMU’s faculty are resisting the prospect of a Bush library on their campus. Two anti-war professors from SMU’s Perkins School of Theology have co-written an opinion editorial in the campus newspaper opposing the library. After weighing the benefits of having the library on their campus, they ask this question:
“Do we want SMU to benefit financially from a legacy of massive violence, destruction, and death brought about by the Bush presidency in dismissal of broad international opinion?
“What moral justification supports SMU’s providing a haven for a legacy of environmental predation and denial of global warming, shameful exploitation of gay rights, and the most critical erosion of habeas corpus in memory?”
For these two professors, the future location of President Bush’s library is a moral question. Because President Bush has presided over an unjust war and because his other policies are patently immoral, they argue that to enshrine Bush’s legacy on SMU’s campus would be to give a tacit assent to his presidency. Thus the library would be an albatross around the university’s neck. The professors further argue:
“In addition to our concerns already expressed, new revelations may well come to light that would render SMU’s decision to house the President George W. Bush Presidential Library highly regrettable.”
Their take on the president’s legacy is a dim one indeed (perhaps they anticipate his impeachment?).
Of course, the professors’ argument is only as convincing as is the accuracy of their prediction of what President’ Bush’s legacy will be. Theirs is not a consensus view either of the President or of the reasons he gave for going to war in Iraq. And despite their less-than-even-handed prognostication, only time will tell how history will judge President Bush and the war in Iraq. The war is not even over yet.
In the meantime, the Presidential library will be built somewhere, and it will become a permanent, prestigious repository for presidential papers and artifacts that will attract scholars, historians, and interested citizens from all over the world (as the professors duly note). Is it really necessary, therefore, to judge the President’s legacy before agreeing to build his library?
Even if history does judge President Bush harshly, would that judgment make his presidential library any less of a boon to our community? I think not. It would probably increase it. Bush’s legacy, therefore, for better or for worse, should not deter SMU from welcoming his library to their campus.
I doubt that a small number of liberal professors from SMU’s divinity school will prove to be the decisive factor in determining the site for the library. But it would be a shame if arguments such as theirs turned public opinion against the library. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that such a thing could happen. If it did, it might cause Dallas to miss all the benefits that such a library would bring to our city.
I, for one, hope that doesn’t happen.