A few months later, the pole was installed, flags were purchased, and a Flag Pole Dedication ceremony was held. I had suggested we use a Flag Pole Dedication ceremony that a then-living but fading fast Past Master and dear friend had written back in the early 1990s, which had been used when his former lodge had installed a flagpole. I hoped that our blue lodge officers (including me — I was then Senior Deacon) would conduct the ceremony.
I was outvoted. Our officers, of course, didn't want to have to actually conduct a ceremony they were not familiar with, and the power brokers within our lodge wanted the "prestige" of this event to fall to the Grand Lodge, and so they asked the Georgia Grand Lodge officers to conduct the ceremony.
(The added delay while the Grand Lodge found a last-minute suitable date in their schedule, late in the summer, meant that my elderly, sick Past Master friend who had so wanted to see this event happen, died before it occurred.)
The small and dignified ceremony I had originally envisioned turned into a typical Masonic circus, with Grand Lodge officers with their "ladies" in tow, Eastern Star women cooking a big meal, a DAV 21-gun salute, and a singer from the local high school belting out the National Anthem.
And of course, the Grand Lodge officers muddled through the ceremony, reading from a script. Even though it wasn't what I had originally forseen, I enjoyed it immensely. I jumped in and took care of many of the details to make this the big shindig everyone seemed to want. They all seemed SO happy the Grand Lodge officers were coming.
A dinner was held, of course, with a special table for the Grand Lodge officers and their wives, because they, of course, are more equal than the rest of us.
After the meal, an open meeting was held. About a hundred lodge brothers, family members, and members of the public attended.
We had invited local politicians and public officials to attend. The only one who accepted our invitation was the county commissioner, who told a stirring tale of his military service as a member of the color guard at Arlington National Cemetary during the Vietnam War.
I gave a talk on the history of the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag. My talk was well-received, and I was asked afterwards by several people for a copy of my talk.
Six months later, in my role as Director of Masonic Education for my lodge, I was searching for a topic for another talk. I thought of the unanswered questions my Pledge talk had left in my mind, and decided to seek further information.
At that time, I was a subscriber to a Masonic email newsletter written by the state Director of Masonic Education. I wrote him asking a few questions. He didn't know the answers, and so, he published my questions in his newsletter.
I had asked: "I was wondering if anyone could tell me when the Pledge of Allegiance, which has only officially existed since the 1940's, first came to be recited in lodge meetings, and how it came to be included, and if it is considered part of Uniform Work, is it mandated by GL, or simply a tradition?"
I gratefully received several thoughtful replies from brethren around the state. I never did get any concrete answers, though, but what I learned was interesting. One brother said Masons had been reciting the Pledge since it was written in the 1890s (which, I guess, is technically true since it was written by a Freemason); another recalled it was first adopted in his lodge in the 1960s. Others, who knew the Pledge had become officially recognized by Congress during the 1940s, said that Masons had first used it in lodge at that time. No one seemed to have any definitive answers.
Never would I have expected to receive the following reply. I've deleted the name of the writer, to save him embarrassment.
"Who the hell cares, are you American or what? Do you have a problem with pledging allegiance to our Flag? The Flag was first shown in Lodge by Brother Gen. George Washington, Why would any AMERICAN EVEN QUESTION saying our pledge? — WB _________, Masonic Service Association Representive to the VAMC in Atlanta GA, President Executive Committee, VAVS VAMC Atlanta, Ga., and a PROUD VETERAN OF THE UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES"
This was my first exposure to this kind of attitude in Masonry.
Never one to back down from a redneck, even one trained to kill in 147 different ways, I wrote W. B. ______ (yeah, he signed his email with the "W. B.") the following:
My obligations prevent me from speaking ill of one who is capable of writing such a rude, arrogant and thoughtless email. I, for one, care about when and how the Pledge of Allegiance came to be recited in the lodge room. It's history. It's knowledge. It's information. It's education. It's Light.This "worshipful brother" had more to say to me. He replied:
It's my job. I'm the Director of Masonic Education. Not the Director of American History Class, not the Director of Proud to Be An American Day, but the Director of Masonic Education. I'm here to learn. And to teach my Brethren.
You have no right to be judging my patriotism or motives in asking a question. Last summer I was the one who made the motion that our lodge install a flagpole from which we fly the U.S. Flag and the Masonic flag. I was instrumental in putting together the Flagpole Dedication Ceremony and U.S. Flag Raising that the Grand Lodge members along with the DAV rifle squad graciously conducted for us and to which local and state government officials and the public were invited. I ran the ads. I wrote the invitations. I took photographs. I was the one that gave a 20-minute presentation on the history and meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance. (Read it at [website no longer online].)
Recently I had simply asked Bro. _____ if he knew the answers to my questions. He put the question in his newsletter. I wanted to present an update to the Brethren of my lodge. Yeah, my lodge... full of proud veterans, DAV members, American Legion members, etc. Seems not all vets are as sensitive as you are when someone asks a legitimate question.
You are pretty senistive [sic] yourself. My email was not meant to be rude but to only question. In these days when all the liberal Democrats and the ACLU, atheists, queers and foreigners are trying to change our pledge, take away our Ten Commandants [sic], tell us that we have to accept queers, can't offend anyone, can't fly the American Flag because it might offend our neighbor, I have every right to question the motives of anyone. The Masonic fraternity is not immune to having someone slip in and try to stir up things.I assume "AH's" in his next to last paragraph means "assholes."
Yes I am a proud Veteran, and a very proud American. After serving our great nation for 30 years in uniform, I have earned my right to question. I was spit on once returning home from a combat zone, this time I have learned to spit back. For the first time in history a traitor got on the ballot for President of the United States, for the first time in the history of our great country everything we stand for is being questioned, slandered, slurred or torn down.
My email was not meant to be rude just to question motives, which is my right. Your email was very rude in itself. The anwser [sic] to your question is very easy obtained and listed in Masonic documents. Even played out in the the [sic] Masonic Play the SR does.
In this day and age, I will always questions peoples [sic] motives for questioning things that have not been questioned before all the liberals and AH's see [sic] to have taken over.
If it offends, get over it.
Worshipful Brother ______
This exchange was a foreshadowing of things to come, I can now see. It was about a month later that I gave the talk in my lodge, the one that enumerated Grand Lodge rules and Masonic traditions and landmarks that forbid the discussion of politics and religion within a lodge. That event is documented in "Small Town Freemasonry — Part 1: A Bucket of Rattlesnakes."
When I first joined Freemasonry, I had no idea that so many of the 60 to 75-year-old Masons I would come into contact with in the 2000s would be the now older then-middle-aged rednecks with flat-top haircuts and "Love It Or Leave It" bumper stickers of the 1970s... you know, the kinds of guys that shotgunned Billy and Captain America off their motorcycles in the film Easy Rider. I had thought that THAT crowd had moved on to the Moose Club and the John Birch Society, not into what I thought Freemasonry was, a group of noble and tolerant Knights dedicated to the betterment of humanity. Whoops! My bad!
— Widow's Son
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