I’m a Master Mason of no particular distinction. I don’t hold titles or much in the way of influence. When I was raised, the charge I received included these items:
- I was to “recommend to my superiors kindness and condescension“;
- Quote: “Universal benevolence you are always to inculcate”
I take my obligation and duties seriously, and the purpose of this letter is to perform those duties.
Black Lives Matter
There is no doubt: black lives matter. Black lives are human lives. Black members of our communities and many others are speaking loudly and forcefully that they feel they are in danger, and subject to violence.
This must be taken seriously. Brothers, there is a clear and growing bodycount.
Do not be callous. Do not attempt to explain the problem away. This is a picture of a black man fleeing, and being shot in the back by a police officer.
I want you to look at these pictures because they are reality. Cut through the abstractions and all of the high principles we argue about, and stare death, pain, and suffering in the face.
The awfulness of this is why the world needs principled men in it, to stand against all of that ugliness. If we take our obligations seriously as Masons, we must help, aid, and assist. The first step is simply acknowledgement; to say three simple words: black lives matter.
Now is not the time to parse words, argue semantics, distract the issue with “all lives matter”, or “what about” such and such. Those distractions are ways not to talk about the real bodycount. They are distractions from our basic Masonic principles of the equality of men.
Kindness & Condescension
I imagine that most people who will read this will be my Masonic superiors. And so I recommend to them kindness towards all human kind. Members of our community desperately need that kindness right now as they feel themselves threatened.
I recommend to them condescension. Here, what that means is that we must voluntarily incline ourselves towards equality. Brothers, we should acknowledge the reality of economic and social class as a component of these problems. Many masons I know are middle class guys who live in suburbs, a world apart from poor black communities that feel the largest impacts of these troubles. Equality is the principle, and the truth. And equality does not permit us to find complicated justifications why this or that shooting might have actually been OK.
A Once in a Generation Opportunity
On June 13th, the GM of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina, together with the GM of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall held a “United at the Capitol” event to make a statement about the unifying nature of Freemasonry. You can see video of the event here.
These wise brothers were using the trowel! They have shown a concrete example of what real Masonic leadership can look like. They focused on Masonic principles throughout. And the two Grand Lodges together didn’t preach unity, it practiced unity. Events like these have had me bursting with pride and hope for what our institution is, and should be.
Back in March when a wave of closures was moving through Masonry due to COVID-19, we saw a pattern where a few Grand Lodges closed, and their actions caught on, prompting further closures. A few leaders took initiative, and it avalanched into action on a huge scale.
I want to see the leadership of our brothers in North Carolina avalanche into a global statement from all of Freemasonry on equality and unity, worldwide.
Principles are easy when times are good, it’s “fair weather sailing”. But when even Masonic statues are torn town, passions rise and we have to do twice the work. Will we stand for, re-affirm, and insist on our principles in civic life? Will we signal to our communities that Freemasonry is about unity, personal growth, and becoming better men?
Or will we find reasons why our attentions need to be elsewhere? This is the core principle question that I hope is keeping up every Grand Master late at night.
Principles and Politics
Finally brothers, what most concerns me is the period of polarization that we are in, and the casting of every little thing that a person does as a political statement. We as masons cannot permit this kind of shallow, tribal, & divisive thinking. The value of a black life, and the universal brotherhood of man are not Democratic or Republican issues.
Principles are not politics.
Think very carefully on this point brothers. I support masonry avoiding discussion of politics & religion. But if we permit principles to become politics: we have nothing to talk about with one another. The morality of the craft is rooted in those principles, and making them political rots out the very base of the institution.
Speak your minds and act your best hearts, never your fears. It is the only way we get through this.