Bookbinding Meets Politics

As part of my desire to encourage a little more civility in American politics, I have decided to give a gift to someone whose politics I disagree with. Specifically, I’m sending a handbound copy of the Constitution to President George W. Bush.

I was going to be sarcastic about it, and say something about the rules of good gift-giving. After all, you’re supposed to give people something that they might find useful, for instance at work, and something that they don’t appear to own already.

But really, that sort of commentary is pretty nasty and counterproductive. And I think this is a matter more for sincerity than nastiness. So here’s the text of the letter I’m sending along with the binding. The language is a little stiff and florid, but the feeling behind it is sincere.

Dear Mr President,

I am an American citizen, although I have been living in the United Kingdom for almost eleven years. Living abroad has given me an interesting perspective on our shared identity as Americans, particularly with regard to our Constitution. It really is a unique and valuable document, one that has made our country what it is today.

I am concerned, therefore, by the ways in which your current policies do not reflect the values enshrined in this foundation of our nation’s law. I know that, as President, you must find a balance between the security of our fellow citizens and the culture of liberty that America values. I am sure you are sincere in the choices you have made. Unfortunately, I cannot agree with those choices, which seem to me to undermine many of our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

I am particularly worried by the lack of trials for some citizens suspected of terrorism, the chilling effect that use of “free speech zones” has on the First Amendment rights of people who disagree with you, and the drive to use the Constitution to limit peoples’ freedoms and the states’ rights to legislate with regard to marriage. I am also concerned by our frequent disregard of the Geneva conventions, either by the reclassification of prisoners or by a simple failure to follow its rules.

If we are to be the beacon of liberty to the world that we hope we are, then America must take the lead in defending peoples’ freedoms, both inside and outside of our borders. Peaceful, secure people do not as a rule join terrorist organizations; people who feel that their culture and religion are under attack may very well do so. By working in isolation and appearing to target Islam as a whole, we are the terrorists’ best recruiting incentive.

As a token of my regard for the Constitution and the ideals it expresses, I am sending you the enclosed leatherbound copy of this most important document. I created it myself, using traditional fine binding techniques. If you prefer not to keep it, I would appreciate its donation to an educational institution, where it can inform and educate another generation of Americans.

Very Truly Yours,

Abi Sutherland

I plan to post the book and letter on Tuesday (post offices are closed tomorrow). Normally, I wouldn’t post pictures and binding notes on a gift before the recipient has seen it. But I doubt that President Bush reads this blog, so I’m unlikely to spoil the surprise. (If I have, I’m sorry, George!)

12 thoughts on “Bookbinding Meets Politics”

  1. Abi,

    What a great idea! I would encourage you to find a way to let media outlets know about your story. You never know, it might get some play over here.



  2. My only reluctance about seeking too much publicity is the very viciousness that I’d like to combat. It’s not inconceivable that a few trolls could turn up and make running this blog a misery. One of the bloggers that I read, who is much more prepared to get into arguments than I am, has been plagued by a Republican troll for weeks, and it’s like trying to hold a conversation while a toddler shouts for attention in the background.

  3. Abi, as usual, you’re absolutely right about what you said.

    I’ve had several people pressuring me to shut down the troll. Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out how to reconcile that with my own opinions regarding speech in a privately-owned public forum.

    I’ve discussed a variety of solutions, because (as you may have noticed) the distraction is keeping me from being able to write the kind of blog articles I normally write. I’m researching and correcting troll lies while Bob has been writing blog articles for me, as a guest blogger.

    One solution I thought of was to install forum software and start moderating the blog comments: Trolls could have free run of the forum, while I ignore them and continue to blog. Off-topic comments on the blog would not get through; they would be directed to go to the forum.

    Bob came up with the idea of a playpen instead (he even submitted a “crybaby” graphic). Any posts I don’t want to approve because they’re just troll-droppings could be moved there instead. Again, this might meet my need to allow the speech while keeping it from distracting me. (I feel compelled to refute the lies, rather than let them stand.)

    Any other ideas are most welcome.

    But…back to the topic of what you’ve done. As you already know, I want one, too, even though I’m not President. (I’m Dean of the Hollis Best Senate of Delta Theta Phi Law Fraternity, International, though! Does that count?) 🙂

    Also, I’d like to do an article on my blog about it. Before I did that, though, I wanted to ask permission, because of the possibility that my troll would latch onto you if I write the article.

    What say you?

    Regardless, I think this is a great thing you’ve done!

  4. Rick,

    Yes, go ahead and blog it.

    I guess I’m prepared to deal with trolling, if it occurs. Unlike you, I don’t consider my blog a public forum. It’s a private space that I allow people to post to. But as a family blog and a private space, it is subject to MY rules.

    For the information of any posters here (not that you need this sort of thing, Rick, but at least two of your regulars might want to know), there is actually only one rule for comments on this blog: BE APPROPRIATE. (see for what I mean by that.)

    If anyone requires clarification, I will give it. A few preliminary comments, though, are that rudeness, namecalling and personal insults are not appropriate, not even for “stylistic” reasons. Off-topic postings are not appropriate when they become obnoxious, eggregious, or repetitive. If they’re funny, I may make an exception.

    Comments that are way out of line will be deleted like the spam they are. Comments that are somewhat out of line will be shrunken or disemvowelled (depending, partly, on whether I want search engines indexing them). Posters who persist will be blocked.

    I sound Draconian, but I’ve seen what the unmitigated vitriol of the current political climate can do to a blog. sunpig is like a dinner party that Martin and I throw, and we reserve the right to eject unruly visitors.

  5. Thanks, Abi.

    I may have no choice, in the end, but to adopt a similar stance on my blog. Since I started adding “Editor’s Notes” to the troll’s comments, though, interpolating actual facts into them, the troll-droppings are less frequent.

    So we’ll see. I’d like to stick with my current policy if I can.

  6. Abi,

    You’ve taken the high road on the tone of your letter. Thank you. I think that your gift is totally appropriate for the time. I’m going out on a limb here, but I also think that it will be well recieved.

    If you don’t mind, I would like to add your blog to my reading list. There is a lot to be said for civility.

    Semper Fi,


  7. Jeff,

    You are very welcome here. From the comments you’ve posted on Rick’s site, I can see that you’re exactly the sort of poster that I’m glad to hear from: you tend to argue from principle rather than personality, and you have been universally civil. I kind of hoped you’d approve.

    I don’t know if President Bush will even see the book, or hear of its existence, but I hope that the respect I put into it will make its mark where such gifts and letters are recorded. And, to a certain extent, I did it for myself as well, for the sake of having done it. So even if it goes astray in the mail, it will still have been worth it.

    As for the site, I don’t actually do a lot of political posting. But feel free to browse around and read what I do write. Comment if the mood strikes. Glad to have you about.

  8. Just a thought, but I do believe that gifts of the nature of yours do wind up in the Presidential Library. That should make you smile.

    Judging by your site, life revolves around your family, and then your work. Good for you. Your spouse and children are your most precious assets. Guard them closely.

    Thank you for the welcome.


  9. WELL DONE!!!!!!!!!!! I’m a “Yank in the UK” living here PERMANENTLY (4 years now). I am VERY saddened by the changes in America very very sad. It blows my mind, in fact, when I go back for a yearly visit with my mum in Penna. You have to live outside the USA to realize how nutsy it has gotten I think….

    Please Abi, email me personally, we have lots to talk about!


  10. I,too want my book art to go beyond craft. Politics has been a major interest since a couple of great courses in college. More Power to you. We MUST continue to speak out.

  11. Abi, I would be very interested in obtaining one of the three you mentioned on Ricks blog. Please e-mail me back as I do not always have the time to go browsing around but I do have to check my e-mails. (I could always walk next door and steal Ricks) Not really. I know that Rick visits here often so I felt I could get a rise out of him. You do beautiful work girl, and I am sure when and if Mr. Bush sees his gift he will be very proud to own it. Thanks, Nick

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