The Old Webmaster and the criminal element

“I was asked a very odd question the other evening and I’m not sure I gave the right answer. It’s about criminals applying for Masonic membership.” The Master was in the lodge’s kitchen busily tossing a very large salad for the evening’s festivities.

The Old Webmaster had been drawn to the luscious aroma of roast beef cooking the instant he’d entered the building. After having offered his services and been advised that all was under control, he now leaned idly on a nearby counter. “Tell us about it.”, he said.

“I was just coming in to the parking lot for the officers’ rehearsal when I was approached by a fellow who was walking by. He asked about joining. I stopped right there figuring that this might be another potential candidate but he then asked whether having a criminal record would be a problem. Offhand, I just couldn’t remember whether there’s anything in the Grand Lodge rules about that – and I told him so – but I added that I didn’t think our lodge would vote favorably knowing such a thing.  I asked if this was something current or in the far distant past. He began to get indignant and said that he could simply not tell us about it. I responded that lying to join an organization of men who shared a brotherhood built on trust wasn’t any way to go about things and that we did do background checks. He went off in a huff but it got me to thinking about the whole issue.”

“You two are certainly deep in conversation  – not to mention you being deep in lettuce as well, Worshipful.” It was the cheerful voice of the immediate past District Deputy who’d learned during his term that a dinner at this lodge was not one to miss.

“Well, we were actually talking about criminals becoming Masons.” replied the Master in a far more serious tone. “It’s that ‘guarding the West gate’ thing we hear so much about.”

The new arrival looked at The Old Webmaster whose nod and hand gesture invited his own response. “We have, as you probably both know, a prohibition in this jurisdiction against accepting a felon. Frankly, I think it’s a good one though sometimes I’ve heard disagreement. A couple of years ago, a lodge at the other end of the state even petitioned the Grand Master for a special waiver, arguing that the man had paid his debt to society through his prison sentence.”

“That is an interesting example, Brother.” said The Old Webmaster chiming in. “In fact, the Grand Master called me to ask what kind of arguments I’d seen on the internet about the issue. I told him that everything I’d seen had always missed the mark entirely.”

“Which is???” asked the Master, deciding he’d tossed the lettuce quite enough at this point.

“The victims!” replied The Old Webmaster solemnly. “It’s all well and good for someone totally detached to say that the individual has paid his debt to society but what if you were the victim of the crime? Would you agree? Perhaps, but it’s certainly not something we can assume. Victims suffer considerably, externally but emotionally far more. While one or two or ten years behind bars might satisfy the statutory requirements, it can never remove the scars that the victims have endured.”

“Now that you’ve said that” replied the past District Deputy “I remember the Grand Master saying at a meeting of all the Grand Lodge officers – I was a Grand Junior Steward at the time – that you were the one who’d brought this up. Sure made a lot of sense to me. He also said that if he were a member of a victim’s family who had an ancestor who was a Mason, they would be appalled to see someone who’d given them such grief being elevated to such an honor as that of becoming a Mason.”

The Master looked from one to the other thoughtfully. “But what about something like a ‘white collar crime’. No victim!”

“Tell that to the people who lost their jobs at Enron!” replied the visitor. “I’m not sure they’d consider themselves victimless.” The Old Webmaster nodded his assent slowly.

“But what about a crime committed as a juvenile? No wait: I just answered my own question. They’d be no record because it would be sealed.”

“That’s true” responded The Old Webmaster “but when you ask someone about a criminal past and they lie to you, it should give you a reasonable expectation as to what could transpire in the future. Beyond that, if the Investigating Committee is doing their job, there will likely be some hints of a problem along the way. They may not be entitled to the records but if somebody is lying….”

“After I’d encountered that fellow near the parking lot, I went home and read a couple of posts on the internet asserting that each case should be considered on its merits. That is a compelling argument, after all.” The Master looked from one to another for corroboration.

“Not to be contrary, Worshipful, but let’s look at who has previously considered the merits and who’ll be doing so on our behalf. Previously a jury and/or judge weighed all the evidence and came to the conclusion that the man was guilty of a crime. He was entitled to and received legal representation committed to proving his innocence. He was tried under a standard set of procedures which govern us all. In fact, it’s commonly argued that someone with a good lawyer could get away with anything so in that case, there’d be no crime to report. The fact that there was a conviction should certainly tell us something. Going further, though, who’d be doing the judging if we were to consider such an applicant? Would we have the benefit of hearing the arguments on BOTH sides or would we just hear a biased version from the adjudicated criminal? To me, the whole thing is specious at the outset but that doesn’t seem to stop some people from arguing for its support.”

The three men looked at each other. The Master finally broke the silence. “I need to start going with my first instincts on things more often. Considering criminals is stupid and so would be putting salad dressing on this salad before it’s served. I think we can probably head up to the lodge room now.”

The Old Webmaster had a broad grin on his face as he spoke to the Past District Deputy. “I’m always nervous standing beside our Master when he’s armed with salad tongs – and thinking!” The three men laughed heartily and the two waved to the others in the kitchen as they departed. Considering criminals as candidates was for now a moot issue for their lodge – and well it should be, thought The Old Webmaster.

[tags]The Old Webmaster, freemasonry, masonic, criminals, crime, masonry, lodge[/tags]


The Old Webmaster and scare tactics

“I’m always amazed at the things I read on the web. Sometimes Masons write the most bizarre things. In fact, I was reading something a couple of weeks ago asserting that Masonic leaders have an ‘enemies list’ of Masons who are ‘problem makers’. What’s your take on that?”

The Old Webmaster just shook his head in bemusement as he leaned back in his chair which gave its characteristic squeal of protest. The discussion this rainy afternoon, sitting in the upstairs storage room of the Lodge, shared with the Lodge’s Master, was certainly covering a great many topics.

“Nothing gets attention like fear mongering. Heck, it’s done by everyone from world leaders, evangelists, governors, and even the local school board. The creation of a boogey-man can help them achieve their goal and whip up a frenzy, making people think they’re fighting the good fight against a very evil enemy. Ironically, it’s sometimes the person that’s spreading the rumor of evil who’s most to blame. We’re both too young to remember the Army-McCarthy Hearings of the 1950s but that was a classic example, it seems. And, if the awful never materializes, the claimant can walk away saying that he just presented his thoughts. Who can argue?”

“Sounds to me like a consultant. They bring a guy like that into our plant from time to time. He’ll fixate on some really insignificant thing – or something that’s actually non-existent but MIGHT be a problem – and get the young management people all worked up about it. The last time it was about us not following some OSHA regulation. The VP asked me to check it out and see what OSHA had to say. The regulation this consultant was on about had been rescinded the year before. But wait: you’ve done a fair amount of consulting in your time. I’d better be careful with what I say!” The Master grinned broadly. He knew his indictment would not be misconstrued.

“Yep. I came from 50 miles away and carried a brief case. Earned some fair money doing it but frankly, I was never too good. I told clients the truth and didn’t try to make things seem so very much worse than they were. They weren’t used to such an approach: truthfulness! If they were paying good money, they wanted to be told that they were doing everything wrong and the world would end tomorrow. They preferred to listen to people who told them the worst things, even if there was no connection to reality whatsoever and things were pretty much okay.” The Old Webmaster just shook his head disdainfully.

The Master nodded in agreement. His younger brother had initially joined a lodge while stationed with the Army in another part of the country. There were a couple of members there regularly ‘poisoning the well’. Fortunately, he soon moved and left that lodge behind. It was eventually merged into another and the gossips were left without an audience. “I don’t know if it’s a desire to ‘tattle’, a need to be noticed, or that odd compulsion to stare at an auto wreck but as an organization, some of our members seem to exhibit a horrible tendency to dote on this sort of junk. The ones who’re creating it seem to be few in number but with the internet, they can accumulate a rapt audience to dote on them.”

“Again, not unlike the McCarthy Hearings. Sooner or later, though, these witch hunts become exposed and their creators fall into oblivion where they should have stayed in the first place. Shakespeare wrote a play whose title always comes to mind when things like this crop up.” said The Old Webmaster with a broad grin.

“The Tempest?” asked the Master wryly.

“Much Ado About Nothing” replied The Old Webmaster.

They both chuckled. Smiles shared between those who can best work and best agree – without the need to artificially create a crisis.

[tags]Freemasons, freemasonry, lodge, leadership, The Old Webmaster [/tags]


The Old Webmaster and politics

“Would you have a problem, Worshipful, if I skipped out of the officers meeting in two weeks? As you probably know, there’s a big rally down at the state capital and a bunch of supporters are heading down there to show our enthusiasm for this candidacy. This is one heck of an election year in this country and I’m trying to make sure that the best person wins. I’ve already talked with the Junior Warden and he’ll give me a call afterwards to let me know what I’ve missed – and to make sure we’re coordinated for the upcoming supper we’re doing when the Grand Master visits.”

“I don’t have any problems with that, Brother Senior Steward. I don’t get involved in partisan politics but I do get out to vote at every election.” replied the lodge’s Master.

“Well let me give you a brochure to help you make your decision then. I’ve been giving some of these out to other lodge members but I’m not sure everyone is as excited about politics as I am.”

“I have had some complaints about your doing that, I should mention….” The Master knew he was treading on very thin ice broaching this subject with a young man with such extraordinary zeal for political campaigns.

“Why should anybody complain? I’ve been doing it outside in the parking lot mostly and I’ve never brought it up in lodge. Why are these guys so sensitive? Everybody should feel free to talk about such things outside of the lodge environment. After all, we should all be proud citizens of our country and we’re taught in our ritual….”

“Whoa, Brother!” said the Master, holding his hands up. “I’m not trying to get you upset but I think you’re missing the point here.”

“What do you mean? I’m a darn good officer – or at least that’s what I’ve been told – and I’m a strong supporter of the fraternity. I even have a blog about Masonry for cryin’ out loud.”

“And it’s where you’ve made your political views very clearly known.” said the Master. “The problem is that when you put on your ‘Masonic garb’ so to speak – with Freemasonry as part of your very visible ‘identity’, it gives the appearance that you are speaking FOR Freemasonry. You know you aren’t. I know you aren’t. Our Webmaster standing quietly against the wall over here knows more than either of us, perhaps, that you aren’t – but what does the PUBLIC see? They see a Mason supporting a particular political candidate. This, ipso facto, becomes a Mason supporting a particular political party and train of thought. It’s very much like the conundrum faced when candidates have police officers standing with them at their rallies: there’s a public perception that ALL people of that grouping feel that way – which is great if you do too but if you’re on the outside looking in, it’s not so good.”

“Worshipful…” A vigorous reply was started but then there was a pause and a much more subdued tone. “Worshipful, I mean no disrespect to either your office or yourself but I think you’re just plain wrong. That blog is my own. Masonry has nothing to do with it. I defer to our resident online expert though: Brother Webmaster, what do YOU think?”

The Old Webmaster continued his casual lean against the wall. He cleared his throat and began slowly. “My Brother, if your blog was titled ‘Oliver’s Opinions’ or ‘George’s Gripes’ and you posted some stuff about Masonry on there, I could easily accept your view – as would, I’m sure – the Master. But your blog is titled ‘The Active Freemason’ and frankly, that means that whatever you write is going to be seen by others as being somehow connected to Freemasonry. You can argue that it shouldn’t be but you’ve put on the uniform, so to speak, and your actions are now judged with that background. It’s just the reason that military personnel aren’t allowed to campaign for someone while wearing their uniform – or to take political stances while on duty. It’s somewhat the same for police officers. They’re held to a high standard in our society and their conduct in or out of uniform is judged by the same very high standard 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They get no ‘time off’ from being a police officer. I’d argue that neither does a Freemason. It’s the same high standard, reinforced in that image by what is, ostensibly, the primary purpose of your blog.”

“But look at our country’s patriots. They were Masons. They were involved politically – to the hilt!”

The Master replied quickly: “Ah, but here’s the difference, my Brother: they were careful not to wear their ‘Masonic mantle’ on their sleeve as they engaged in those political acts. They behaved as Masons always but they didn’t flaunt their membership so that the public would see them as such whenever they saw them. You won’t find political speeches published in newspapers with large Masonic emblems beside the text as we see today on blogs, for example.”

“And what you feel is right for our city, state or nation may be completely opposite of what your Brother Mason might feel. And who really knows?” interjected The Old Webmaster.

“I’m not sure I fully agree with all this – but let me think about it a bit. Maybe we can go out for a beer or something after the officer’s rehearsal next Wednesday night?”

“Sounds like a plan. I’ll put it on my calendar.” replied the Master quickly and with a broad smile.

“And maybe we can try that new pizza place over near where you live. I heard it’ll be opening this weekend. Might be worth a try….” suggested The Old Webmaster.

It would be – they all knew – a very interesting get-together.

[tags]The Old Webmaster, freemasonry, Masonic, politics[/tags]




The Old Webmaster confronts sound and fury

“Apparently, Brethren, we’re in a bunch of muck now. It’s all my fault – and I want to apologize.” The words of the Master to the assembled officers at their monthly meeting drew looks of confusion from everyone in the room. They looked to one another in askance and then turned to the speaker. No one had a clue…. “Last week, acting independently, I decided that we might want a little more publicity for the Men’s Health Screening Clinic that our Masonic District sponsors, so I printed off a few notices and posted them in several of the local variety stores that I pass on my daily commute. They all have bulletin boards so it just seemed appropriate. In fact, one store owner asked me for an extra one to paste right on their front door – and even asked me about joining Freemasonry. Last night on my way home, though, I stopped to pick up a few things at one of the stores and found a guy in there literally screaming at those entering to look at how the evil Freemasons were taking over the world – and they…. we, I guess…. were now going to use health care to subvert the country.” The Master looked down at the floor dejectedly.

“No good deed goes unpunished.” The Senior Warden chimed in with an upbeat voice.

“Who was this character? Do you know?” asked the Secretary. “Did the folks at the store know what was going on?”

“I went inside and the cashier was joking with another customer about him. Apparently he’s a fellow from the community who lives alone and is known for his erratic behavior. The clerk and the customer laughed about him – but then something even more ominous happened. The customer, a man in his mid-40s I’d guess, started telling the clerk how the Freemasons were an evil bunch. He claimed he’d been a member for a bunch of years but they’d all turned out to be liars and cheats so he quit. The cashier knows me and knows I’m a Mason but she had to listen as he ranted on. After he’d spent a couple of minutes trying to impress her with how important he’d been in the organization, she told him that as a child she’d been burned terribly and had been taken to a Shriners burns hospital. That shut him up fast and he exited quickly. I just stared at her. She’s seen me wearing our lodge’s ball cap and jacket before so she knew I was a Mason. She smiled and said ‘I never did tell you about that, did I?’ She was clearly embarrassed by what had just happened. The man who’d been outside was still there and the guy who’d been at the counter was now with him. They were talking up a storm when I drove out of the parking lot.”

“Sounds like they belong together. Maybe they can start their own lodge….” added the Senior Steward. The Master’s demeanor showed that these attempts to lighten the tone were useless.

The Secretary leaned back and jutted his chin forward. “Was this customer a sort of short guy, bulky looking, thinning sandy hair and glasses?”

The Master’s eyes opened wide and he stared at the Secretary for a moment before answering. “Yes…. Yes, you’ve described him very well. Do you know this guy?”

“As you know, Worshipful, for several years I’ve been on the Grand Lodge Committee that reviews the actions of the Grand Master. This fellow came before us a few years ago to rail about the then Grand Master. While it seemed like the GM might have handled one or two things differently in retrospect, this guy was out for blood and wouldn’t stop at anything to get it. He also seemed to us to be more intent on letting all of us know how important HE was compared with everything else. It’s a sad case of someone looking for revenge.”

“Wait a minute!” said the Junior Steward. “Does this guy belong to a lodge near here?”

“He did.” replied the Secretary.

“I’ve seen him too, believe it or not. When I was visiting the other night there was some strange guy sitting in a car across the street just staring at everyone who went in. I thought he was casing cars for a robbery so I called the police. They showed up a couple of minutes later and he moved on. Man, this guy’s a former Mason and he’s stalking us now?”

There was silence in the room. Each man went through a whole series of emotions relative to the whole matter. It was The Old Webmaster who then spoke:

“Brethren, I’ve seen similar things occur in online venues involving Freemasonry and, in fact, similar tales told. I’ve come to the conclusion that those who want to mock or denigrate Freemasonry – even the precious few who were part of our friendship and fellowship who’ve decided that they know better than anyone else how things should be done – are really just souls looking for someone, anyone, to pay attention to them. They don’t get it anywhere else in their lives and those who were Masons didn’t get enough of it from us to make them happy. Something has kept them from achieving whatever it was they need to feel fulfilled. Why would people back in London in the early 1700s, for example, choose to take the time and effort to march in a parade to mock the Masons? I wish I could figure it out but it seems to me there are always those who’d rather curse the darkness than light a candle.”

Those in the room again allowed their thoughts to turn inward. They all knew someone who, if given a bag of gold bars, would complain that it was too heavy.

“I probably shouldn’t tell you what I said to that clerk before I left the store though.” The Master broke the silence tentatively. “The lady behind the counter was clearly upset after she’d benefited so much from the kindness of Masonic strangers as a young child. I told her that the fellow who’d been in front of me in line reminded me of that line in Macbeth: ‘it is a tale, Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.’ She smiled and patted my hand as she gave me my change. She had tears in her eyes….”

“I think the Master had a GREAT idea with this poster thing. Can we get some more of them and maybe the rest of us can get them into the convenience stores in our areas?” The Senior Warden’s eyes met those of the Master which were starting to well up with moisture, filled with appreciation and affection.

[tags]The Old Webmaster, freemasonry, Masonic, behavior, free-masonry[/tags]