Sunday, June 21, 2009

Home From South Dakota

I'm back home at last from South Dakota. Many thanks to MWBro. Virgil Anderson, the immediate Past Grand Master, his wife Vi, and especially to WBro. Perry Anderson and his lady Dee, for their many kindnesses to Alice, Wiley and me during their Grand Lodge in Sioux Falls. It was great to meet so many brethren, and I am absolutely humbled by the decision of the South Dakota Lodge of Masonic Research to use Freemasons For Dummies as their book selection this year for their members.

The drive home allowed me to think further on the Georgia situation. I have seen elsewhere comments calling for the suspension of fraternal relations in Georgia over this. Keep in mind, the Grand Master and the Grand Lodge have done NOTHING as of yet, apart from allowing Masonic charges to proceed. No decisions have been made, no trial has been held. Further, it is my understanding that there are NO written portions of the Georgia Masonic code that prohibit black men from being made Masons. In light of the Grand Master's letter explaining Brother Marshall's proper membership, along with sitting with Brother Marshall in lodge, I do not believe MWBro. Jennings has any desire to see Gate City or its Master found guilty of any offense. I cannot help but believe it is most likely that the whole point of allowing these charges to be brought is to get this festering wound on the body of Georgia Masonry out on the table and dispensed with, once and for all.

Several black brethren were raised in Kentucky last year. A tiny handful of bigoted members attempted to block the raising of a black Mason in Florida, and the Grand Master had to step in. Indiana has not been a cakewalk—we were at one time the center of Klan activity in the United States, and David Stephenson, the Grand Dragon of the KKK in 22 states was a member of Irvington Lodge No. 666 (!) in Indianapolis, back in the 1920s. But we have raised African-American brethren in my lodge, and others throughout Indiana, and we enjoy an outstanding relationship with Prince Hall lodges in the city (our immediate Past Master is now part of a Prince Hall degree team that raised several brethren last weekend, with both Grand Masters of Indiana present). Not all that long ago, we held a joint degree in the downtown Indianapolis temple, and Prince Hall brethren were raised on the floor of what was unofficially known in the 20s as the "Klan Lodge."

As the old proverb goes, "One does evil enough when one does nothing good." There is no easy way to break men of a lifetime of prejudices. But there are strong leaders in many of the states with a history of longstanding racism, who are moving through the grand officers lines, and are attempting to put things right and bring Freemasonry in their states closer to its intended design of brotherly love and tolerance.

The British politician and poet Thomas Babington Macaulay famously said, "The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out." Grand Master Jennings is deserving of our respect and trust. No one outside of Georgia has a right to know his plans or beliefs, but the Internet has made it impossible to keep these matters private anymore. The spotlight of the Masonic world is now pointed at him and at Georgia Freemasonry to see what happens next. That's an uncomfortable spot to be in.

4 comments:

Masonic Traveler said...

Br. Chris, Truly, I hope and pray that you are right. It seems to me to be utterly irresponsible to let the charges stand, and even more so with them tied to a Moral Law of Freemasonry.

But, perhaps this is the utmost feint to crush the ugly head of racism in a reversal of the charges. But is such sophistry a safe move?

That is the hope I have, as we all wait and see.

Nathan Brindle said...

Better to let the charges stand and demolish them by showing that they have no legal merit, than simply to quash them out of hand and hope the memory of them fades quietly away, only to have them reappear later in slightly different form.

To put an end to this embarassment once and for all, the racist side need to be exposed for exactly who and what they are. With any luck, that's what the GM of Georgia is trying to do.

Chris Hodapp said...

All we have are documents, and the history of actions by men in PAST years concerning Gate City Lodge. Until GM Jennings sees this through the grand lodge process, I give him the benefit of the doubt.

And I'm guessin' no amount of vitriol from outside of Georgia is going to influence ANY decision that gets made.

Let me put it another way: if you were the GM, and you knew your decisions were up for a general review by the assembled voting members of the grand lodge at the annual communication, wouldn't you make damned sure that you followed the rules, stuck to the written code, and performed your job in such a manner that your decision wasn't voted down and your work eradicated?

As for Gate City going to the civil court, I absolutely disagree with that action—except that it seems to have been done because the trial commission deliberately moved their meeting from the lodge to what amounts to a broom closet to reduce the number of members who could attend, and they SEEM to have deliberately scheduled the meeting for when the WM was known to be going out of town. If the trial commission was intractable about the date and place of the meeting, Gate City had little choice. Again, if the Grand Master was seen interfering in the process, the entire result could very well be questioned and tossed out by grand lodge as improper.

I am well aware that all of this may be hogwash, and that the plan all along may have been to uphold the white's only unwritten "moral law" policy of Georgia. I'm not a complete moron. But all any of us outsiders have are these pieces of paper to examine, and no action taken yet. The Internet has made us all very impatient (How long ago did Frank Haas file his court case, and still it has not yet gone to trial? How long ago did the Grand Lodge of Ohio file its case against Halcyon Lodge, and still no trial?). If and when the results of these actions are decided, THEN it will be time to demand our grand lodges censure Georgia for its policies. But the opportunity exists here for change to happen, if we all stay calm and let it take place. Masonic jurisprudence is slow, deliberate and frequently inscrutable. It is designed to make sure fast, emotional changes can't be made imprudently. It is also the most misunderstood aspect of Freemasonry. All of that can be abused to conspire against what should be common sense. Nevertheless, there is a process. See it through before we gather our pitchforks and torches.

Charles E. Martin said...

I went to a dinner meeting of a PH lodge in Iraq. I was suspended from Kentucky Masonry for one year. I am sad to say, that racism and bigotry extends even to those Masons who risk their lives for our freedom.
SMIB