Open Letter to Masonry: Black Lives Matter

Discussion in 'Masonic Blogs' started by Forthright, Jun 20, 2020.

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  1. Forthright

    Forthright Registered User

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  2. Brother JC

    Brother JC Vigilant Staff Member

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    Sadly, silence reigns.
     
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  3. brihau

    brihau Registered User

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    Forthright, thank you for crafting and sharing this work. I read it yesterday, knowing that I would need to read it again and again.

    Personally, the past weeks have stirred in me a range of feelings ranging from profound disappointment to hopefulness which spurred me to challenge my own understanding of racism through listening and reading about the effects of racism in the U.S.

    I appreciate your perspective and willingness to write.
     
  4. Forthright

    Forthright Registered User

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    Thank you. I would like to see further grand lodges follow the leadership example of North Carolina and other states. What could possibly be less controversial in Freemasonry than unity and the universal brotherhood of man?

    In some places I've gotten silence for these statements, and in other places I've gotten a lot of pushback and a host of "whataboutism" - people wishing to distract from the discussion of core masonic principles, with their personal discomfort on a whole range of topics - the words that get used, the political affiliation of some individual person - I even had brothers based in the UK tell me that this was all a US thing, and that racial injustice wasn't really an issue in the UK. (The people in their streets seem to disagree)

    It's my express desire not to draw Masonry into a political fight, but men who may or may not knock on the door in a year's time are watching us right now, and it is fair for them to conclude what we are made of by how we respond to challenging events in the world.
     
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  5. Brother JC

    Brother JC Vigilant Staff Member

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    Thanks for this, I’ve shared it with several Brethren and my WM. Still, the silence is louder than the cry.
     
  6. Bloke

    Bloke Premium Member

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  7. TheThumbPuppy

    TheThumbPuppy Registered User

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    Of course, I cannot judge for the US, as I only lived there for two years and didn't experience much because I was too busy with my studies.

    But over here, at least in Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK, there is no racism at the Lodge. Everybody is judged on his own merits, independently from their skin colour. And that is already loud and clear the moment you step in. No need for additional statements on this subject.

    Furthermore, I firmly believe that there has been no time in history and no place on earth, where minorities have enjoyed a better condition than in our countries (I'm talking about North-West Europe that I know directly) today. It is what our countries and civilisation have been able to build and we should be proud of it.
     
  8. Forthright

    Forthright Registered User

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  9. Brother JC

    Brother JC Vigilant Staff Member

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  10. Matt1

    Matt1 Registered User

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    I haven't read but a couple of these statements. They seem to be like mutual agreement about Freemasonry being brotherly, against racism and against violence like all good people. Is there some kind of commitment of eg. co-operating between the signed parties?
     
  11. Forthright

    Forthright Registered User

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    Not exactly? I don't think any of them require any particular behavior out of anybody. They are very high level and focus on principles, and aren't statements that organization X is going to do thing Y.

    Missouri said this, in particular:

    It is our duty as a fraternity to influence those within our ranks to make decisions that help contribute to the repairing of the various broken systems that plague our communities.

    It's a start. It's good and appropriate for GLs to leave to lodge & member discretion what to do. And so I personally wouldn't say they should have been more prescriptive, since if I were in their shoes I'm not at all sure what that should have reasonably looked like anyway.

    A key takeaway for me though is this: the entirely uncontroversial core principles of Freemasonry are extremely applicable to this moment in history. That appears fairly, dare I say it...obvious? But as @Brother JC said:

    Six out of fifty-one... not a real good percentage.
    I do not think it's unreasonable, or inappropriate, for the institution to be loud about its principles from time to time, particularly when the moment calls for it. I'd wish to focus on what I see as very positive Masonic leadership on the part of the GLs that have already issued these statements.
     
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  12. TheThumbPuppy

    TheThumbPuppy Registered User

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    I may sound controversial to some, but the published statements and their wording raised a question within my limited understanding.

    Possibly because of my geographic location – Belgium – I'm rather sensitive to the distinction between European regular and irregular jurisdictions, their historical context, and their differences today.

    One of the main differences is their role in society. My impression is that irregular jurisdictions – the larger ones at least – have preferred a direct social and political role in changing our communities, while regular jurisdictions prefer to concentrate on improving the individual – and by improving yourself you improve the environment around you.

    The Grand Orient de France, for example, has as their motto Faire avancer concrètement la société, while the Grand Orient de Belgique has been known – allegedly – to promote certain political views.

    In my view, it is shortsighted to think that social matters can be discussed without supporting more or less explicitly a political group or another.

    It seems to me that by reacting to social and political unrest with any official statement is the beginning of a certain politicisation of those Grand Lodges. Because even in the well crafted language that they used in their statements, it is sometimes visible a certain political leaning.

    It is that slippery slope that concerns me.

    It is my opinion, and I may well be in a minority, that our regular Grand Lodges should not take part in the socio-political discourse. Our individual brothers – when not in the Lodge or representing the fraternity – are then free to pursue whatever social and political role that they want. There are well known historical anecdotes of brothers with diametrically opposed social and political views sitting at the same Lodge.

    I believe that if our regular Grand Lodges do not hold their shield from socio-political matters, these matters will infiltrate – at first by appearing very reasonable, later more intrusively – in our jurisdictions eroding one of the main differences between regular and irregular jurisdictions.
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2020
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  13. Forthright

    Forthright Registered User

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    The concern is fair. I see the potential for a slippery slope, but it doesn't necessarily have to be that way. (I.e. it is not inevitable that a chain of events that starts with statements like these, ends with support of a political party). We agree that politicization is not a good idea, and I think we agree that it's a strong positive that people of different opinions sit in lodge together.

    I think my main counterpoint to this is that we cannot allow Masonic principles to be perceived within the lodge as "political", because the moment Masonic principles become politics -- because we can't talk politics in lodge -- well that's the moment that Masons no longer have anything important to talk about. What's the point? An institution that won't stand up for and speak its own principles...well does it have any, really?

    The view that discussion of principles leans in the direction of politics -- well that is an attempt of a political movement of the day to co-opt a universal & timeless principle. Parties come and go, but universal brotherhood worked in 1600 and I have every expectation it'll work in 2300.

    But look, admittedly, this is a fine line, and it requires wisdom to navigate (probably more than any one person has - which is why we need each other). What I've been saying is that GLs and others can and should keep the level of discourse about the principles. It's incumbent upon every Mason though to figure out how those principles apply in the real world. They're like tools, they have to be used, otherwise what's the point of having such a glittering shiny principle if it doesn't do anything to the real world? The application of those principles is contentious indeed, and in particular applications, they do become political. Political policies are derived (in part) from principles. So clearly there's a link between them, but I think it's possible to keep the discourse on one side of the line.

    That's what the GMs did (in my view). A policy is a way of directing action or making decisions. And notably they did not set any policy, or express any opinions on anyone else's policy. If they did (for example saying "every mason should contribute to police unions") this would be clearly over the line into a concrete policy directing action, and yes, that'd be political and deeply inappropriate. If the GMs did that, then you'd have me on your side worrying about the slippery slope. And it doesn't even matter if the policy would agree with my personal leanings -- we would certainly be losing something going in that direction.

    But when the GM stands up and re-iterates the things I learned in the degrees and says publicly, "This is who we are", well, I gotta cheer. Because it's true.
     
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  14. Brother JC

    Brother JC Vigilant Staff Member

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    Masonry claims to be a system of morality, a character-building endeavor. In my mind there can be few greater signs of moral character than to say “we will not tolerate this within our ranks, it violates the very heart of our society.”
     
  15. Drew1971

    Drew1971 Premium Member

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    Thanks for this. When I’ve given my opinion on matters involving social injustice and made mention of Masonry I was told to leave Masonry out of it. I have to be honest and say I was discouraged and questioned my involvement in the fraternity.


    Sent from my iPhone using My Freemasonry mobile app
     
  16. Forthright

    Forthright Registered User

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    Another brother from Indiana wrote a blog post called "The Impotence of being Harmonious" - which does not reference black lives matter directly, but speaks directly about what we came here to do as EAs. Some key bits:

    That, maybe, by attempting to be quiet for the sake of harmony, by avoiding difficult subjects for the sake of peace, the grumbling that grows behind closed doors will become the breaking of the pillar of the organization as a whole.
    And

    I say this to you brethren, to highlight what we are not doing. When we shout “HARMONY!” and cease the process of refinement, we allow ourselves a poor fit. We silence the discussion that allows the new stones to fit better with the old. We make no room for others to come who do not fit an already defined shape. And should those stones be laid amongst the others the foundation will be not as strong as it could. There will be fewer stones that are able to be laid upon the others without the whole crashing down.
    They're all difficult topics for sure, and have to be approached carefully, but for that we have the trivium
     
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  17. brihau

    brihau Registered User

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    An excellent blog that captures a lot of the essence of my concerns and observations. Thought provoking videos as well.

    I mailed a letter to my GL last week requesting a joint statement with the MWPHGL publicly condemning racism. I’m hopeful yet pragmatic on the outcome, but also refuse to remain silent on this.
     
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  18. Bloke

    Bloke Premium Member

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    I doubt there is co-operation, we dont work like that, but there is a commitment to trying to live the values of Freemasonry and in that context these GLs decided to issue a statement.
     
  19. Bloke

    Bloke Premium Member

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    "t L t S M P a I Ms i Mry."
    I have no idea what that is ahahahahahaha !
    (Please don't expel me !).
    *sends PM*
     
  20. Bloke

    Bloke Premium Member

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    What a good conversation.

    It is a tricky question and I acknowledge the "slippery slope" and against "evil happens when good men do nothing".

    For me, it's about Masonic Values, - "We prize each Brother, fair or dark, who bears no moral stain"" (Not a line from our ritual but the Tyler's Toast).

    I think publicly articulating Masonic Values is good.

    More generally however, even a statement like "we should feed the starving" will be read as "social justice" by some and a politically charged by others.

    Be honest, be fair and respect others I think are way of interpreting the lessons of Masonry, and of course, try to be a better person. I think if we articulate that we are not been political. At the essence of a good society if fairness and for people to feel safe. If that is not happening, then perhaps we should speak out, but transcending the politics and events of the day, time and place.

    Tyler's Toast
    'Are your glasses all charged in the West and the South?'
    the Worshipful Master cries.
    'All charged in the West!' '
    All charged in the South,'
    came the Wardens' prompt replies.
    Then to our final Toast tonight, our glasses freely drain,
    Happy to meet, sorry to part, happy to meet again.

    The Mason's social Brotherhood around the festive board,
    Reveals a Truth more precious far, than the miser's hoard.
    We freely share the bounteous gifts, that generous hearts contain,
    Happy to meet, sorry to part, happy to meet again.

    We meet as Masons free and true, and when our work is done,
    The merry song and social glass is not unduly won.
    And only at our farewell pledge is pleasure mixed with pain,
    Happy to meet, sorry to part, happy to meet again.

    Amidst our mirth we drink to all poor Masons o'er the Earth,
    On every shore our flag of love is gloriously unfurled.
    We prize each Brother, fair or dark, who bears no moral stain,
    Happy to meet, sorry to part, happy to meet again.

    We Masons prize that noble truth, the Scottish peasant told,
    That rank is but a guinea stamp: The man himself the gold.
    We meet the rich and poor alike, the equal rights maintain,
    Happy to meet, sorry to part, happy to meet again.

    Dear Brethren of the Mystic tie, the night is waning fast,
    Our work is done, our feast is o'er, this toast must be the last.
    Good night to all, once more good night, again that farewell strain,
    Happy to meet, sorry to part, happy to meet again
     
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