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Thursday, December 08, 2016

Brother Terry Branstad Named Next Ambassador to China


Iowa's Governor, Terry Branstad, is president-elect Donald Trump's nominee for Ambassador to China. Reportedly, this is strongly related to his 30-year relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping. He is also a Mason in the Grand Lodge of Iowa AF&AM.
Well, Brother Branstad's Masonic membership made it into the New York Times Wednesday evening (via the Associated Press). And it came, refreshingly, with no veiled allegations of anything untoward or even spooky.

From US Envoy Nominee Branstad Member of Masons, Banned in China:

If Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad becomes the next U.S. Ambassador to China, he may want to leave any Masonic symbols at home.  
That's because the Freemasons group that Branstad belongs to has been banned in mainland China for decades.  
The only masonic lodges that exist in China today are in Taiwan. All the other chapters were eliminated after the communist revolution there in 1949. 
"Freemasons believe in freedom of thought, freedom of speech and freedom of action, and I don't think that's what the communist Chinese government is about," said Tim Anderson, who is deputy grand secretary of the Grand Masonic Lodge of Iowa. 
Masonic groups usually run into trouble in Communist countries because of their secret meetings, said Brent Morris, who wrote "The Idiot's Guide to Freemasonry." [sic] It doesn't help that Freemasonry was brought to China by the British when they were colonizing the area. 
"You've got a dual-edged problem: part of it is the residue of colonialism and part of it is the meeting in private," said Morris, who is a Master Mason himself. He wrote his book partly to debunk conspiracy theories about the group that were highlighted in "The Da Vinci Code" book and movie. 
Branstad accepted President-elect Donald Trump's job offer Wednesday, but he'll have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before taking the post.
The Iowa Lodge said Branstad is listed as a member of a chapter in Des Moines. His spokesman Ben Hammes declined to discuss Branstad's membership in the Masons. 
Branstad accepted the position days after Trump caused a diplomatic stir by speaking to Taiwan's president on the phone. 
[snip] 
Don't expect other Masons to discuss Branstad's appointment at their next meeting because politics and religion are divisive topics that aren't supposed to be discussed, said Simon LaPlace, executive secretary of the Masonic Service Association of North America. 
Masonic groups focus on helping members improve themselves, and many chapters also undertake community service projects. Women are not allowed to join although they are permitted to join affiliated groups. LaPlace said each chapter and state organization varies. 
"Masonry flourishes in those countries where freedom and individual rights are permitted," LaPlace said. "That's why in a lot of totalitarian countries, masonry is not permitted."

Brother Branstad's Masonic membership is certainly no secret, and he quite openly became a Scottish Rite member in the Valley of Des Moines in 2012 (longtime Iowa Senator, Illus. Brother Chuck Grassley, 33° was also in attendance at that event, seen below). He was also  named a Knight Commander of the Court of Honor (KCCH) in 2015. Heck, that's even on his Wikipedia page.




It's just a bit depressing to consider that, even twenty ago, such a story would never have made the news. Masonic membership was not seen as something remarkable enough to write about in the press until the last couple of decades, and this story is popping up all around the world tonight because of the AP's global reach. But Branstad's membership seems to just be a curiosity. 

For the bulk of history (in the U.S., anyway), we were long regarded as something noble and admirable to be associated with. Then for a time, we became dark and sinister. Now, we've acquired the worst of all possible perceptions. 

Now, we're just quaint.

All of that notwithstanding, congratulations to both Brother Terry and Mrs. Christine Branstad. Having personally known a U.S. ambassador to an Asian nation and his wife, I wish them all the best for what will undoubtedly be an exciting chapter in their lives, filled with both challenges and rewards.

H/T to Simon LaPlace

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