Friday, August 15, 2008

The Masons Celebrate 150 Years of Conquering Franklin (Secretly)

(News-Herald, August 14) This Saturday, the Masons will descend upon Franklin in celebration of the 150th birthday of the local lodge (or shrine or club or coven, or whatever you like to call a gaggle of Masons).

There are many histories of the Freemasons. The most ambitious put the origin of Freemasonry back before 800 BC, with the building of Solomon’s Temple. Some like to link them to the Knights Templar or the stone mason guilds of the Middle Ages.

There’s all sorts of scholarship, some of it by reputable people (there’s also research about the Masons conducted by people who apparently made their tin-foil hats a bit too tight), to suggest some Freemason activity in the 1600’s, but the widely accepted kick-off date for modern Masons is 1717, the year the first grand lodge was formed in England.

Throughout their history, the Freemasons have set the gold standard for conspiracy theory; if your only background for this stuff is watching the National Treasure movies, you haven’t even seen the top of the iceberg. They engineered the French Revolution. They engineered the American Revolution. They got the Russians in the UN. Pope Clement XII actually fixed it so that any Catholic who became a mason would be excommunicated. And many fundamentalist Christians will tell you that Masons are, if not Satanic, at least anti-God.

This anti-God theory will come as news to Masons, who are under the impression that one of the few requirements for membership is a belief in a supreme being. But the conspiracy ding-dongs have an explanation—the five million Masons in the world are dupes, manipulated by a secret cabal that pulls the strings in the world of Freemasonry. If you keep following these wheels within wheels, you eventually arrive at the wellspring of all nutburger conspiracies—yes, the Freemasons are tools of the Illuminati.

Some conspiracy theorists point to the many well-placed members. George Washington, Ben Franklin, and John Hancock were Masons. Fifteen US Presidents were Masons (Reagan was the last; neither Obama nor McCain are Masons, at least not yet). Other important Masons: Napoleon, J. Edgar Hoover, Sir Winston Churchill, W.E.B.DuBois, the Marquis de Lafayette, several Supreme Court Justices and (gasp) Edwin L. Drake.

Other Masons include Duke Ellington, Bud Abbott, Irving Berlin, Ernest Borgnine, Gene Autry, Bronson Pinchot, Red Skelton and Col. Sanders. So if they’re really trying to conquer the world, they perhaps need to become a bit more selective about membership. Though as world conquering secret organizations go, the Masons have many flaws (which may help explain why after 300 years, they’re still not in charge).

For one thing, they need to close down, “Your Masonic superstore with 3500+ items on sale.” Secret world-conquering organizations do not set up super stores to sell caps and belt buckles with their logo affixed.

In general, the Masons stink at secrecy. The vast amount of charitable and service work they’ve done over the last three centuries keeps putting them in view. Locally we’re well aware of the Shriners Hospital in Erie, but that hospital is just one of a network of over twenty Shriners hospitals providing health care for children. For free. Free. Clearly this is no way to be sneaky.

Masons have a long history with entertainment and parades (John Philip Sousa, also a Mason), and really, what could be better than watching grown men wearing funny hats and driving giant motorized tricycles (unless it’s watching grown men drive motorized bar stools). The best-known wing of Freemasonry in Venangoland may be the Zem Zem Shriners.

Now maybe this is just double-clever sneakiness. Maybe we’re supposed to be lulled into a false sense of security and think, “Those cute guys on the giant tricycles couldn’t possibly be part of a giant conspiracy to rule the world.”

But after looking at the record, I’m inclined to think that the Freemasons, in all their shrines and lodges and clubs and other component parts are just what they claim to be—America’s first fraternal organization, dedicated to the notion that some men, who believe in God and are willing to ignore the differences that might otherwise separate them, can get together and make their world a somewhat better place.

Saturday night’s parade looks to be one big fat party, and any local organization that can exist for 150 years deserves one. We should come enjoy the fun and help celebrate. Or, if you’re still afraid of the vast conspiracy, put on your best tin-foil hat and come keep an eye on them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for an enlightened approach to the Masonic heritage story. There are far too many who just want to trash this fine organization for their own purposes. We have no world domination least not this week. LOL

From my Flickr