Saturday, May 03, 2008

Library of Redactions

Now who would be attracted
If the text is redacted
And if the tortuous prose
Makes one hold his nose?
Surely not the Methodists
But how ’bout the rest of us
Is this all jest for us
That George knows best for us
The Emperor without any clothes
Who knows?

            This week, there was an important demonstration of courage by the Methodist Church when it refused to approve the plan for the George W. Bush Library to be located at Southern Methodist University. Of course, most betting people will put their money on the Methodists backing down to an offer that cannot be refused. There will be another meeting of the church in July. This is not the first controversy surrounding the presidential library in Dallas. Much earlier, the SMU faculty objected to locating the library and a partisan political center on the grounds of SMU. The library and partisan political center will cost in the neighborhood of a half billion dollars and will eliminate some student housing although SMU has purchased adjoining land in anticipation of the plan being approved.
            Reading the blogs and comments associated with the news is a hoot because of the names that citizens are offering to describe the content; much of it in creative spelling such as ”LIEbrary.” Despite all the negative feelings expressed for the unique concept of a partisan political center coupled with a library, I would like you to consider the possibilities:
            This could be the world’s largest collection of redacted text and therefore likely qualify for a Guinness record. Consider that scholars for centuries will debate the content of the visible text and, more likely, the content of the stuff under the Magic Marker obliterations. There may even be an entire branch of study, perhaps under linguistics, that will ponder the meanings of the text and why some words were chosen to remain while others were chosen to be blacked out. For decades, we had expert Kremlinologists who interpreted the meaning of bureaucrat A or B being included or excluded in text and photographs in order to predict the direction of the Soviet Union. This library could spawn an entire industry. We haven’t done that much in the last 8 years unless you consider war itself to be a growth industry. Add to that the word inventions of GW and we may advance learning for what drugs do to the formative brain…unless I “misunderestimate” the scholars of the future. Most of us guess that the redacted text of the documents from this administration is simply protection from embarrassment and not from disclosure of information that would be injurious to the national security of the nation, but who knows, maybe it was classified because we had enemies that we were unaware of?
            As I understand the plan for the library, there may be an entire wing devoted to shredded documents although the potential curator is understandably guarded about how these will be displayed, but given that Bush has expressed an interest in education with his famous “Is our children learning,” I understand that it will be an interactive children’s exhibit where they can piece shredded documents together. Given the zero impact on reading of the “No Child Left Behind Act,” there is no danger of the children even accidentally piecing these puzzles together and actually reading words like “waterboarding” or “torture” or Hurricane Katrina. There is another, although smaller, wing devoted to hanging chad just as you pass under the portrait of Katherine Harris and there are preliminary plans for an indoor maze on Astroturf from the Texas Rangers sale surplus and a replica of the Karl Rove desk is the center of that exhibit.
            Oh, I nearly forgot that the combination exhibit of shredded documents and the maze contains the shredded US Constitution. I don’t usually support mixing Church and State, but let us pray that the Methodists continue to demonstrate courage in the face of overwhelming odds and oddities.

George Giacoppe
3 May 2008

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