Saturday, March 03, 2007
Why Freemasonry Means Freedom
Shortly before I started working on Solomon's Builders last year, I was attending a gathering of a club for younger men who were members of the fraternity. Almost everyone in the room was under thirty-five with the exception of myself and the father of one of the other men. The older man came over to me and we began to chat. He was in his late sixties or early seventies and spoke with a very thick accent. The gentleman, an emigre from Transylvania in Romania, had come to America in 1965.
Romania in those days was a puppet state of the Soviet Union. Their king had been forced to abdicate by the Soviets in 1948, and the country had been bled dry economically to pay for Stalin’s postwar debts. Between 1948 and the mid-1960s, almost two million Romanians had been arbitrarily thrown into prison for political, economic or other unspecified reasons. The Communists had the blood of at least 200,000 Romanian people on their hands, along with hundreds of thousands of incidents of torture and abuse of Romanian citizens. It was against this backdrop that this gentleman had secretly fled from his homeland as a young man and come to the United States.
Then he told me a curious thing. He had first read about the Freemasons in Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and like Tolstoy’s Pierre, he wanted very much to become a Mason. But Freemasonry was outlawed at that time in Romania, just as it had been outlawed all across the Soviet bloc, Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, Khomeini’s Iran and Hussein’s Iraq.
When he came to America and became a citizen, he said, the first thing he did was to petition a Masonic lodge. Because it was a symbol of freedom to him. Because Freemasonry can only exist in a free country.
The issues of liberty and equality are intertwined with the fraternity of Freemasonry as much today as they were in 1776. Men living under fascist regimes have been persecuted or even executed for the “crime” of Masonic membership. Yet, Freemasonry survives and grows wherever men are free. One need only look as far as the former Soviet republics where Communism has died to see the rebirth of their Masonic lodges. Even in Romania.
The United States is a symbol of freedom the world over, but it’s easy to forget that fact when the news is filled with stories of bomb plots, protesters and pessimistic national self-loathing. The flip side of anti-American terrorism is the unmanageable mob of immigrants beating down our doors, because the United States is still the destination for a globe filled with people who lie awake nights dreaming of liberties that Americans don’t give a second thought, or sometimes even a first.
At least not until a gentle man from, say, Romania wakes us up and reminds us.