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The new George W. Bush Library at Southern Methodist University (SMU) campus in Dallas is finally about to begin construction after wails of protest from left-wing Methodists and professors. But now the anger is rising again thanks to a preliminary exhibit at SMU featuring, among other Bush artifacts, Saddam Hussein’s handgun and President Bush’s bullhorn from his first post-9/11 Ground Zero visit.
“I hope that a bullhorn will not become the symbol for the entry of the United States into an unjustified war and that a pistol of Saddam Hussein’s is not seen as some strange symbol of victory in that horrendous misjudgment,” harrumphed anti-Bush United Methodist theologian Tex Sample to The New York Times. “That these should be the symbols of the values and commitments of the Bush administration and should now become the face of Southern Methodist University is cause for alarm.”
A more charitable interpretation of Bush’s bullhorn would recall the President’s words of encouragement to the toiling and grieving New York firemen at Ground Zero. And shouldn’t advocates of gun control at least celebrate that one particularly egregious mass murderer was mercifully relieved of his pistol before killing again?
Of course, the ongoing hostility to the Bush Museum at SMU and in United Methodist circles is informed more by Bush Derangement Syndrome than serious concern about museum displays. The new exhibit is called “Breaking New Ground: Presenting the George W. Bush Presidential Center.” Besides the artifacts, it will also feature a model of the insidiously impending new Bush Library, which frenzied critics fear will transform SMU into the host vessel for the contagion of Bush militarism.
“It’s the approach they’ve taken all along; it fits their worldview,” explained leading Bush library critic and SMU professor emeritus William K. McElvaney, who is an ordained United Methodist whom The New York Times also quoted. “It’s a tragedy for SMU to hitch its star to this.” Evidently McElvaney has promised there will be demonstrations at the library’s groundbreaking this month. With the Rev. Sample and other left-leaning United Methodists, he unsuccessfully tried to persuade SMU’s board and the denomination’s bishops to halt the library. More temperate minds understood that whatever controversies surrounded the Bush years, the library’s archives would be a boon to SMU scholarship. George W. Bush, who’s wife Laura attended SMU and sits on SMU’s board, is himself a United Methodist. The pastor of his Dallas church also sits on the SMU board and has outspokenly defended the library.
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