I’m not the biggest fan of SMU. I’m not a big fan of private universities in general. Too much money and too many frat boys. But these complaints aside, even I wouldn’t wish the George W. Bush presidential library on SMU. It’s such a contradiction in terms.
In the first place, nothing about Bush says literature, contemplative quietude, or serious erudition or library – unless that’s how he refers to the joke books on the tank lid of the presidential porcelain fixture. He’s a swaggery, rustic, NASCAR kinda guy. He boasts that he doesn’t read newspapers. His most reliable source of reading material during his stint in the White House has been a teleprompter.
In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that George W. Bush is the most anti-intellectual president we’ve had in the last 80 years or so. His presidential intellectual forebears date back to Prohibition.
It’s obvious that as a youth he took his time in the library about as seriously as his National Guard duty – it was obligatory, but nothing he really threw his heart into. To put it bluntly, words like “literate” and “learned” should not even be used in the same sentence as President Bush. This is a man who repeatedly dismissed the science behind global warming. This is a man who doesn’t believe in evolution. This is a man who, upon being informed by an aide that his stance on renewing some of the more oppressive aspects of the Patriot Act was a violation of the U.S. Constitution, reportedly screamed “Stop throwing the Constitution in my face. … It’s just a god-damned piece of paper!”
That really sums it up, doesn’t it?
George W. Bush doesn’t need a library to commemorate his presidency. He needs an oil platform dropped down on a flourishing coral reef or a fat-catters’ bank built in the middle of a pristine natural wildlife habitat. Or a giant statue of his likeness on the outskirts of New Orleans, with his back turned on the city.
Nothing would say George II like a giant frat house. Think of it – a haven for spoiled rich guys, heirs of the have-mores, their daddies’ fortunes protected by obscene tax breaks, and trickle-up, middle-class-decimating corporate profit margins. There’d be beer drinking and paddles, hippie-bullying and pacifist-pushing, and lots of corny nicknames – but also coy nods to the church when it suited their purposes. And upon graduation, they’d have a first-class buddy system in place for immediate networking leg-ups instead of having to wait for promotions based on merit, on their quick trip to unearned positions of pomp and entitlement.
Plus, President Bush would obviously feel more at home in a frat house. What would be the point of filling a $200 million building with books he never read or even considered reading? Take The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) for instance. It lays out in detail the pitfalls of fighting with and against tribal Arab Muslims. Or The History of Warfare by John Keegan. In just one chapter, it succinctly explains why western military forces had so many problems subduing the Muslims during the Crusades. Either of these books would have made any leader think twice about invading Iraq.
If you built a George W. library, you couldn’t put those books on the shelves, could you? And you certainly couldn’t include any books written by or about homosexuals. Or atheists or Charles Darwin. Or anything penned by cultural dissidents like Cindy Sheehan or Michael Moore or liberals like Nobel Peace Prize front-runner Al Gore. Or freethinkers in general. Or any memoirs by the generals who advised not increasing our troop strength in Iraq. Or by the top-level staffers who advised against the war in the first place.
Essentially, a George W. Bush library would be a tawdry homage to good, old-fashioned American ignorance. And though many of us would probably feel right at home in such uninspired confines, they wouldn’t really capture the spirit of Bush in all his splendorless totality, would they?
Say it with me now: Toga, toga … toga, toga … .
E.R. Bills is a Fort Worth-based freelance writer.