A curious article appeared today on the Bold.global website, entitled: "It’s Been A Depressing Political Season, But Masonic Leaders Remind Us Peace is Possible" by Hayden Williams III. It contains an interview with the Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of California, MWBro. Russ Charvonia.
On the one hand, I'm all for a call to civility in the U.S., and the world, for that matter. There's too little of it these days, and the anonymity of the web has made things even worse, allowing total strangers to erupt in ways they would never do face to face. Increasingly, we all seem to be shouting at each other, and branding argumentative opponents as the enemy. The bizarre construct of "hate speech" laws in some countries to brand uncomfortable rhetoric as a crime is an outgrowth of this. Even universities, which were once bastions of open dialogue and opposing opinions, are now turning into philosophical gulags where some students feel they must be protected from speech itself, and speech codes and trigger warnings now govern what a professor may say or teach.
So, civility was the theme of MWBro. Russ' during his time in office - he has written about it (as DGM in 2014), and even issued a month-long "civility challenge" to California Masons in May 2015.
Now, on the other hand, there's this article today on Bold.global. PGM Russ has done a dangerous thing as a Mason - talked to the media. In this case, the interviewer wasn't anti-Masonic, which is refreshing these days. But he did have a very clear and distinct agenda.
Here's the article:
As the June 7 presidential primary approaches for the Golden State, members of America’s oldest fraternity, Freemasons, are speaking out against the tone of the presidential elections. A society woven into the fabric of American history, Freemasonry seeks to develop leaders through its central tenets: brotherly love, relief, and truth. Bold interviewed the most recent Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of California, Russ Charvonia, about the state of the nation from a Freemasonry perspective.
Anger and discord at a Donald Trump rally
This presidential election has been dominated by narcissistic personalities blatantly using American democracy as a personal showcase. Donald Trump has degraded women, minorities, and the profession of public service all in one bow. The truly alarming aspect of this is that millions of Americans are supporting this kind of showmanship, signaling a great sickness being reborn from America’s past ghosts. When asked about his opinion on the pulse of the nation, Charvonia said that the country needs civic society groups including Freemasonry like never before.
Charvonia said the world’s most powerful office needs a statesman. It needs a leader who can speak directly to the heart of a raging planet, and an egocentric politician will only throw gasoline on a raging inferno. Freemasonry is built upon a system of brotherly networks, all working towards a common goal. In a time where emotions are high and the stakes of national security are even higher, the ability to influence others to work together as a unit may be the most important qualification of the next POTUS. Charvonia knows this all to well. While heading an organization with more than 4,000 positions of leadership, his success came from having dialogue–not arguments–when making decisions for the future of this vast organization.
Recent national events show the country’s negative racial undertones are as high as ever, and Trump’s basis of power resides within this matrix. Charvonia believes that Freemasonry tenets may have to return and bring civility to this morally wounded nation. We must engage in dialogue, and not debate. Debates require a winner, in which the pendulum of revenge and envy swings continuously.
Dialogue brings opposing views together, while allowing compromise to manifest itself for the benefit of harmony. The Republican presidential race has resembled a playground shouting match using “yo mama so fat” punch lines. As a result, the American people imitate such behavior, destroying what little values people still possess. California Freemasons have seen a resurgence of young men ages 18-30 joining their ranks. They are openly rejecting today’s loud, bitter status quo for a brotherhood steeped in mystery and knowledge. While media has done much to tarnish its image, the tenets that the institution stands by has produced some of America’s greatest leaders in various arenas.
It is this reason why Charvonia said he feels Freemasonry must lead the charge restoring America’s civility. Currently, Freemasons from California are leading a call for dialogue discussions in racially divided cities such as Ferguson, Mo. They are becoming more publicly accessible to attract those who are fed up with seeing America’s spirit digressing into chaos. When primary day arrives in the Golden State, California Freemasons will vote for the candidate who shares the same values they believe in, rooted in truth. Unequivocally, that candidate will not be Donald Trump.
So, the question immediately arises: did RWBro. Charvonia actually just alienate between 15% and 30% (or more) of his own membership by seeming to attack a candidate of a major political party who they might just be voting for? Or was he simply the victim of a lousy reporter stuffing words in his mouth? (Note that there is not one, single, solitary quote from the GM's actual lips in the article.)
I've been edited up against wingnuts like Alex Jones enough in TV shows about Masonry to know how your words can be twisted around by even a moderately skilled editor (heck, I did it myself for 25 years). So, I'm not so sure that the PGM actually staked out a position on Donald Trump in his remarks to this reporter. But it sure sounded like it from the way it was written. (NOTE: See the UPDATE below.)
Now, I don't disagree that Trump specifically has brought a major clot of coarseness to the presidential race. And I pray that if he actually becomes president that some level-headed advisor or Secret Service agent wrests his cell phone and Twitter account away from him before he Tweets some 140 character zinger off to Xi Jinping that gets one of our aircraft carriers slammed with a cruise missile over it.
I think MWBro. Russ' goal of striving for more civility in the public arena is a noble one that should be pursued. As Masons, we strive to be tolerant and civil to each other and the world around us. But this story seems to be claiming that he is saying who Masons in California should not vote for, because of "civility." That's the kind of position that groups like the Grand Orient of France take, and staking out public position papers on political topics is one of the several reasons they are not widely recognized around the world. When a current or even past Grand Master walks into an interview with his apron and gold collar, he is speaking as a leader of all of his members. But if he wants to take a personal position on a public policy or societal matter, or just that he "feels the Bern," take all that stuff off and just be a concerned citizen who happens to be a Mason.
The author of the article contacted me on Facebook, and admitted that the commentary specific to Trump were his own opinions, and NOT those of the PGM. After the discussion, he went back and revised the last lines of the piece to reflect that.
And the PGM himself also sent a message saying the following,"To be clear, I did not mention Mr. Trump's name to the author of this article. That was Mr. Williams' conclusion, not mine."