Thursday, April 3, 2008

Why do you hate Freemasonry?

(Warning: Statement of political opinion ahead.)

I finally put my finger on something that has been bugging me about the critics of Brothers who raise awareness about problems with the fraternity or its appendant bodies. The discussion argument never begins with a common understanding. For example, a common understanding you might expect would be,

"We're all Brothers who love the noble ideals of our fraternity. We all joined looking for more or less the same thing, even if what we each found was a little (or a lot) different."

Instead, on the one hand we have Brothers coming from the above position, writing about things that don't quite mesh with their notion of Masonic conduct or ideals, or what they were led to expect when they decided to join; The goings on in WV, Halcyon and Euclid Lodges, The recent disturbing information about the Jesters, the fact that there are still jurisdictions in this country, in 2008, that do not recognize Prince Hall Masonry, et cetera - their understanding is more or less the above: Freemasonry is great, but we have some issues that need to be dealt with. If enough people are made aware of them and try to do something about them, it will be better for all of us in the long run.

The counterpoint understanding is more like "Freemasonry is super-double-plus-awesome and I can't understand why a Brother would ever say anything even remotely critical of any aspect of it in any jurisdiction, especially in public!" and the resulting discussion reminds me of the jingoistic, right-wing style of political discourse we enjoyed in the U.S. after 9/11 and during the run up to the invasion of Iraq:

Person raising a valid point: "Well, I don't know - we need to be wary of terrorism/Saddam Hussein/etc., but if we start infringing on peoples' civil liberties it's going to be a slippery slope-"

Right-wing republican: "WHY DO YOU HATE AMERICA???"

Person raising a valid point: "No, no! I'm just saying-"


et cetera. There can never be any kind of meaningful discussion or debate if one party won't even acknowledge the validity of the other's points.

I'm not much of a bumper-sticker person, but I do like the one that tries to remind people that "Dissent is patriotic."

(Addendum 2008-04-08) I should follow this up by adding that I am aware that "Freemasonry is not a democracy", as some people delight in pointing out whenever anyone questions the actions or policies of a Grand Lodge. That fact should not, in and of itself, preclude meaningful discussion about an issue, even if a Grand Master ultimately decides to exercise his prerogative and go in an entirely different direction. Once again, the argument happens at two different levels, with one side simply trying to make this point that some issues should be discussed or even just acknowledged, and the other saying "but they don't technically have to be acknowledged or discussed, so we can solve the problem by simply ignoring them!"

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