Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither, and lose both.
-- Benjamin Franklin

Bush Memorial Liberry

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

In anticipation of the day when George W. Bush is no longer in office, it is perhaps appropriate to give some thought to the prospect of a George W. Bush Presidential Library. The concept may seem oxymoronic to some. After all, how do we go about building a library for a man who appears so proud of his alienation from printed matter? He boasts of not reading newspapers, and there is little to be found in any of his public statements to suggest a familiarity with any book whatsoever. The thought of our current president reading, say, Shakespeare, defies imagining. It is difficult to think of him reading Danielle Steele, or John Grisham, let alone the Bard of Avon.

But if the Bush presidency has been about anything, it’s been about breaking free of the fetters of the traditional past. It was the Bush presidency, after all, that did away with the fussy old notion about the U.S. not engaging in unilateral acts of first-strike aggression against sovereign nations. It was George Bush, after all, who redefined a “conservative” as someone who believed in enormous deficits. And it was the Bush administration that accelerated the separation of language from action by constantly saying one thing while meaning another; i.e. “Clear Skies” initiatives, and “No Child Left Behind.”

Given all that, it may turn out that the George W. Bush Presidential Library (or, perhaps, “Liberry”) will be equally surprising in the ways it breaks with tradition, and with meaning.

But one tradition that probably won’t be broken is the time-honored practice of commemorating presidential bon mots by chiseling them in marble. Immortal ideas expressed in the president’s own immortal language.

Consider what might be chiseled in stone over the door to the education wing of the Bush Liberry, for instance. “Is Our Children Learning?” would make a most fitting presidential quote emblazoned above the portal to the Bush Hall of Lurning, a monument to the Bush administration’s heroic struggle to “leave no child behind.” Or, if a more timeless quality is required for future visitors to the Bush Liberry, the president’s observation from Jan. 23, 2004, might suffice: “The illiteracy level of our children are appalling.”

The wing of the Bush Liberry dedicated to the administration’s contributions to the space program could be entered by passing under the motto: “Astronauts … courageous spacial entrepreneurs.”

Heading west from the Space Wing of the Bush Liberry, visitors may find themselves approaching the Compassion Wing. What words would better express the President’s compassionate nature than these?: “There’s only one person who hugs the mothers and the widows, the wives and the kids upon the death of their loved one. Others hug but having committed the troops, I’ve got an additional responsibility to hug and that’s me and I know what it’s like.”

Beyond compassion, history will want to record the visionary and far- sighted energy policy the administration promoted. Over the entry-way to the Energy Wing of the Liberry, we might find the following Bush words: “We need an energy bill that encourages consumption.”

In the wing devoted to Bush’s bold statesmanship, the visitor may well find these words, spoken about Saddam Hussein in the run-up to the war with Iraq: ” … you disarm, or we will.”

Over the archway to the Hall of Labor, we may find these Bush words: “We want anybody who can find work to be able to find work.” A fitting commemoration of the administration’s tireless efforts on behalf of America’s work force.

In the wing of the Liberry devoted to Bush, the partisan warrior, future visitors might find the following timeless words, uttered in an attempt to fight back the nefarious work of the Democrats: “They want the federal government controlling Social Security like it’s some kind of federal program.”

There is certain to be a wing of the Liberry devoted to George Bush, the dreamer.

That wing could be introduced with these words: ” … America — a literate country and a hopefuller country.” Or, in that same vein, try to imagine these words set in stone: ” My job is to, like, think beyond the immediate.” What could be more visionary?

At this point in time, the George W. Bush Presidential Liberry exists only in the imagination, but it won’t be long before such a place becomes a reality. Future visitors are, however, encouraged to bring their own books.

And crayons.

Jaime O’Neill teaches English at Butte Community College near Oroville.

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