"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Friday, December 22, 2017

Clickbait Story Attempts To Invent Controversy Over G. Washington Masonic Statue

A few months ago, a local memorial to Confederate Civil War dead at a Union POW camp here in Indianapolis was hacked away at by some criminal vandal who had gotten himself all triggered by the national news mania for statue removal. After that, I was hoping this complete non-issue had otherwise passed normally sane Indiana by. But I popped onto the Indianapolis Star website this morning to be greeted by the most appalling, deliberately incendiary headline I’ve encountered there in a long time: “6 Indiana Statues That You Might Find Offensive.” It was just a triptych that highlighted six area statues for future vandalism, destruction, or removal, and some nonsensical, stirred-up “controversy” where none actually exists. In other words, irresponsible clickbait. Hey, what the hell - everybody's doing it these days.

So, sure enough, the statue of "George Washngton As a Master Mason" on the south lawn of the Indiana Statehouse was number two on the list. Reporter Dwight Adams wrote, "it shows him in breeches with an apron and medallion adorned with Masonic symbols. Washington was a slaveholder in Virginia and a member of the secretive Masonic organization."

This statue does indeed depict Washington in full Masonic regalia as Master of Alexandria Lodge, and it was placed there by the Grand Lodge of Indiana in 1987 as a gift to the people of Indiana. Adams doesn't say it IS "offensive," but it MIGHT be to somebody, somewhere. 
This article very specifically infers 'Here's a public statue of a famous slaveholding Freemason you MIGHT (or should?) be offended by, just in case anybody wants to do something about it.'

Too bad it didn’t also feature locations where spray paint and sledge hammers were on sale with holiday prices, so the "reporter" could actually have influenced some bored teenager to take action and scared up a real story to cover. 

This pure agitprop is more suited to The Daily Worker than a supposed mainstream newspaper. But that's where we are these days.

So, I can’t wait for Mr. Adams' next hard-hitting investigative series, “6 Oil Refineries You Might Want To Blow Up,” or perhaps “6 Hated Political Figures You Might Like To Assassinate,” or perhaps more the artistically themed “6 Ugly Indiana Buildings You Might Consider Fire Bombing.” I have a better list, and a shorter one: “One Indianapolis Star Reporter You Might Find Offensive.” 

With luck, this waste of pulp and electrons will pass as unnoticed as everything else in this Gannett-owned rag, and our statue of Brother George won't become our local version of the Albert Pike "controversy" to bear. But one never knows anymore. 

Meanwhile, at least the public servants responsible for the upkeep and protection of these statues all now know exactly to whom they should send the bill when they are damaged in future. That would be Mr. Dwight Adams at dwight.adams@indystar.com


  1. We would be much more insulated from attacks if there was truly universal inclusiveness. To us the inferences are uninformed and outrageous, but as long as some jurisdictions remain out of step we are going to see more and not less of this negative press. Grand masters representing inclusive jurisdictions have to be emphatic about recognition only when basic values are upheld.

  2. Twelve U.S. Presidents were slaveholders and eight owned slaves while in office. Brother George Washington was the only President who freed all his slaves. He did so after the death of his wife.

  3. Justifying Freemasonry by its famous members is a precarious business. That Teddy Roosevelt was a brother is hard to link positively with the suppression of Cuba's struggle for independence. Gerald Ford's pardon of Nixon doesn't relate to Ford's Masonic affiliations. Martha outlived George and freed his slaves.but never freed her own and willed them to relatives.

    1. Freemasonry is a human construct like any other institution, and few men are either saintly or demonic. The men and Masons you named each made judgements they deemed appropriate at the time, given the worlds they inhabited. I pray my life and yours are not probed and picked to pieces a century after our passing with this kind of myopic scrutiny by a future society as intolerant and hysterical as our current one that is hell bent on rendering all historical figures into grease spots of insignificance (or as Satan’s cloven footmen). It’s wearying, it’s intellectually dishonest, and it demonstrates an alarming tendency to not understand the entire picture of the past before learning from it. No one gives a damn anymore how and why things developed or events happened or human beings did what they did. Way too many people with loud megaphones speak in nothing but bumper sticker sayings and think no deeper than a Twitter post.

      So I will fight against this current maniacal fad of demanding the Earth to be scraped free of anything two teenagers are “offended” by until I can’t any longer.

  4. Well said, Chris, and thanks for the correction, Paul.

  5. Chris is right about how tiresome it becomes to judge the past based on our evolving values. However the current debate about public sculpture involves the present, as using public space means entering daily the space of diverse peoples. Hence the commotion over nativity scenes on public land. Hence the rows over Confederate monuments. In a diverse society like America's, the reactions of others to what you or I might find unremarkable can be quite excited. Probably statues of individuals in religious or fraternal postures belong on private property. It isn't just the Catholic church which opposes Masonry but large branches of the Lutherans, many evangelical churches -- putting something into public space that antagonizes others needs thought.

    1. Public spaces don’t “enter” anyone’s spaces. Those “diverse” people you mentioned enter them. In most cases, there’s usually a second entrance or some simple way to avert one’s gaze, if the view is just too horrible to contemplate. But I’m uncertain what you mean exactly by “diverse.” Ideological? Cultural? Racial? Educational or economic level? All of them? Something else? The last time I checked, “public spaces” are open areas where anyone can come and go freely, and can organize and demonstrate their views. Geniuses and cranks alike. And we don’t designate Speaker’s Corners as a rule in this country.

      The United States was founded (however imperfectly) on liberty, rooted in an idealistic notion of basic tolerance—not perfect and total toleration of every momentary whim, or deliberately provocative test of its limitations. That has NEVER been the same thing as some inalienable right to freedom from “offense.”

      So why should statues and plaques depicting historical figures or denoting an historical event be removed from public spaces purely because of briefly “excited” (your word) mobs demanding all of their momentary whims be immediately accommodated? In the cases of statues on public land, it has almost uniformly required the action of democratically elected officials to secure permission to erect them in the first place. Noisome demonstrators declaring their fashionable annoyances and insisting on immediate satisfaction “or else” is nothing more than a collective tantrum, worthy of little more notice than an angry toddler squalling for their Binky.

      Personally, I’m offended at the public funds wasted on the two abominations of “art” that were stuck on the Beaux-Arts facade of the Indianapolis Public Library a few years ago, but no one in power reacted to my strong protestations at the time. So, is only one kind of offense permissible and to be catered to? Is the determination “taste” versus “ideology?” Or what? I’m a member of the “public,” too. But my only recourse is to avert my eyes.

      “Tolerance” has never meant the same thing as “acceptance.” Nobody HAS to love an idea, a lifestyle, an activity, an event, and not even a fact or another person. Toleration just means either get along with it, or ignore it. Or legally change a policy. Any society can pass all the laws it likes, and declare anything legal or illegal. That never changes minds or private behavior. If “tolerance” is the goal in a democratic republic, and liberty is its cornerstone, the answer has ALWAYS been more speech, not less. Liberty ONLY flourishes in the arena of ideas, not in safe spaces, speech codes, “hate crime” laws, forced coercion, and selective erasure of what came before. Toleration is the hallmark of American culture, and the ideal of the Enlightenment itself. And I, for one, see it being dismantled by what are bored, overgrown teenagers hunting something else to break. Civic disengagement and deliberate ignorance tends to lead to that same result - breaking things, not building anything.

    2. You also expressed concern over the views of Catholics, Lutherans, and Evangelicals. Do you for one second believe that the majority of zealous big-P Progressives on college campuses today harbor an ounce of consideration for those denominations - or any other Christian church? Plus, you know full well that they have always been ideologically opposed to Freemasonry (as have many fundamentalism Muslims). We can hide every statue and outward symbol of the fraternity from now until the cows come home, and there will still be those who believe we lurk under every politician’s seat cushion. Why change a single thing to accommodate their doctrinal policies? (It’s never solved anything everywhere it’s been tried in the past.)

  6. Fraternal lodges and religions have the right to display their icons on their property. But a statue of the Virgin Mary or of the Bab does not belong on public property. The question is whether a Masonic statue fits into that category. An example of the issues raised by monuments was the sacking of Roy Moore as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to remove the sculpture he placed in the state capitol of the Ten Commandments. Where should discretion enter in. Why not depict Franklin Roosevelt as a 7th degree Granger, or RIchard Nixon as a Red Friar, or President Grant as an Odd Fellow.

    1. Honestly, if the local Grange or the Red Friars or the IOOF wanted to pay to commission such a statue for their statehouse grounds or the university, and could get permission to erect it through the proper channels, what of it? Likewise, if a state or municipality had a noteworthy figure from history who was a clergyman, why would a rational person object to a statue depicting that person in the clothing of their vocation? Sadly, Americans and Europeans are currently not behaving rationally, and Western culture and society are suffering for it. We are murdering our own posterity as a result. I once heard it aptly described as being "too open minded to take their own side in an argument."

      BTW, some day I'm going to write that AASR degree for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of Gerald Ford talking to the White House paintings of Masonic presidents, seeking advice over whether or not to pardon Nixon. Won't be a dry seat in the Cathedral...


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