Friday, December 3, 2021

‘Not necessarily the news’

Courtesy WickedDesigns1

There was a time—and this wasn’t a million years ago—when the sacking of a top officer of a Masonic grand lodge would have been news. It would have “made the papers.” It would have been covered by the newspaper that you read daily. This edition of The Magpie Mason is in reminiscence of a much larger time, an era when our discreet Masonic fraternity was publicly consequential because of its vast membership, because its executive leaders were admirably newsworthy in their professions and communities, and—not for nothing, but—because of the prestige that is born of self-respect.

Yesterday, the grand master of the grand lodge of New Jersey evicted from office the senior grand warden of the grand lodge. That’s a fact, but that’s all I’m going to say about it because it’s the only fact of the matter I possess. (I was chastised on Facebook last night by a friend of many years who complained that I’m too negative! I know, right? Crazy.)

If you’re ever struggling to fall asleep, you could read the books of proceedings of this grand lodge. They are stenographic melatonin. I’m having a hard time putting my finger on the right volumes, but somewhere around fifty years ago, there were Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey who were invited to broadcast media studios for the purpose of discussing things Masonic. I think it was WOR in each situation, but the Most Worshipfuls appeared on both radio and television, according to those books.

Can you imagine such a thing happening this morning? Not necessarily.

I’m at labor in a New York City lodge named Publicity, founded in 1922 by the biggest big shots of Madison Avenue, plus numerous publicists and journalists, and I can’t picture my Grand Masters—past, present, or future—being interviewed about Masonry for the heck of it, even in this age of innumerable media platforms, and almost all those Masons are awesome!

(I don’t mean to write about the English for the umpteenth time, but the UGLE employs a professional communications team, so their grand guys are in the good news very often lately, but that’s a whole other dynamic.)

The obscurity of Freemasonry in the public consciousness today hurts us not only in the obvious ways that a lack of positive publicity depresses everything from morale to membership size, but also in how absence of sunshine can corrupt the way decisions are reached and even how we treat each other.

“We get no self-respect,” to paraphrase Grand Master Rodney Dangerfield.

If the grand master thought his defrocking of his brother officer would have been reported in news media, replete with quotes from outraged onlookers and the “no comment” from red-handed headquarters, I suspect he would have been slow to act. (Please understand I have no reason to believe anything illegal, unethical, or immoral provoked the elected officer’s dismissal because there is no talk of removing him from the fraternity.)
I submit to you that what was done yesterday to that grand lodge officer would have been reported by The Star-Ledger in—I’ll put a date on it—1982. Not the Sixties, not the War Years, not the Coolidge Administration, but as recently as when I was in junior high school. But things have changed.

You may fact-check me. Visit the newspaper archives website of your choice and search Freemasonry, and you’ll find journalistic reportage of grand lodge communications, officer installations, lodge consecrations, funeral orations—all kinds of “ations.”

I am not advocating on behalf of the former senior grand warden of that junior grand lodge. I don’t know him; I’ve never met him; and he wouldn’t know me if I sat in his lap. It’s just that I used to be a prize-winning newspaperman, in fact that’s who I was at the time I was initiated into this fraternity, so maybe that’s why I consider these events certain ways. I’m also a lifelong student of history, so I recognize how decay takes time, but that unwise humans usually accelerate the inevitable suicidal end.

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