Don't Shoot, We're Republicans! - Revisiting a Classic

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steve L. Harrison, 33˚, FMLR


Editors Note: This piece originally published quite some time ago by Bro. Harrison always struck me as absolutely unbelievable. It's worth reposting and your attention as it will assuredly make you chuckle and put you in a state of disbelief. ~RHJ

Brother Franklin D. Roosevelt, Holland Lodge 8 of New York City, crossed the Atlantic in November 1943, to attend a World War II summit. While the President was en route traveling on the USS Iowa battleship, the navy arranged a demonstration of firepower for its commander-in-chief. At the start of the trip the battleship William D. Porter joined the Iowa to show off its capabilities for FDR. While weighing anchor the Porter ripped the lifeboat mountings off of a sister destroyer, rendering the damaged ship un-seaworthy. The following day, a depth charge fell from the Porter and exploded, requiring all area ships, including the Iowa, to take evasive maneuvers. Two days later, during the demonstration, crew members inadvertently fired a live torpedo at the President's ship. Learning this, Brother Roosevelt asked to be taken deck-side so he could watch! Again forced to take evasive action, the Iowa barely avoided the live "fish."

After the incident with the torpedo, the Porter was quarantined and the entire crew arrested. Later, the ship's captain, Lieutenant Commander Wilfred A. Walter, and several of his officers were sentenced to shore duty. Lawton Dawson, who was responsible for releasing a live torpedo, was sentenced to 14 years at hard labor. Fortunately for Dawson, a compassionate Roosevelt gave him a presidential pardon.

The "Willie Dee," as it came to be known, and the remainder of its crew were "exiled" to Alaska, where most assumed it couldn't get into trouble. This held true until a drunken crew member accidentally fired a live round of ammunition into the base commander's house while amusing himself on one of The Porter’s big guns. The unfortunate incident was compounded by the fact that the commander was hosting a party and several surprised dignitaries were at his home when the shell hit.

By this time, the ship's reputation was so bad, whenever it pulled into port sailors from other ships would greet it by begging, "Don't shoot, we're Republicans!" The catcall implied the Porter’s crew shot at FDR because he was a Democrat.

The war in the Pacific required every piece of firepower the US could muster. Reluctantly, the Navy called the Porter into service at Okinawa where, not unexpectedly, it shelled another American battleship. After that incident, the Navy moved the Willie Dee farther out to sea where it could do no harm, but where it was also a sitting duck. A Kamikaze pilot spotted the isolated ship and set it as his target. Fortunately, the pilot missed the Porter badly and dove into the sea. Unfortunately, his plane exploded and the concussion capsized the battleship. In the end and true to form, a hapless Kamikaze pilot had sunk the hapless Willie Dee. Miraculously, however, every single crew member survived the incident when another Navy ship came to the rescue.

Somewhat ironically, the battleship was named for US Navy Commodore William D. Porter, who had a distinguished career. He commanded the Essex during the Civil War and was instrumental in several Union victories. Brother Porter was a member of St. John Lodge 11, Washington, DC.

Although the saga of the Willie Dee has its humorous side, historians agree Brother Roosevelt was in legitimate danger when the torpedo nearly struck the Iowa. Had the episode ended tragically, the war and history may have taken a different turn with Brother Henry Wallace in command.

~SH

Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft & Freemasons at Oak Island. Both are available on amazon.com.

Boots Across America

by Midnight Freemason Emeritus Contributor
Bro. Aaron R. Gardner, 32˚


Over the past couple years, I attempted to raise awareness to the number of veterans who were losing their personal wars after returning home in an effort known as “Brothers in Aprons for Brothers in Uniform”. The concept was easy, donate money to help other organizations that assisted in finding military personnel that were living homeless in our country and forward them a hoping chance at survival and becoming effective citizens in the United States again. For so much money raised, I would run a mile. However, the attempt didn’t go as according to planned.

The initial mission was to have as many lodges across the country raise money in their lodge and that money would go toward the efforts by individuals that would scour the homeless populations, searching for veterans. Understandably, many lack the confidence in what their money is actually going towards. However, over the time that this awareness mission was in effect the number of people liking the facebook page, “Brothers in Aprons for Brothers in Arms”, has multiplied. Forcing me to believe that all wasn’t lost; people still do care and want to help where they can, even if it isn’t in helping raise funds.

Therefore, I am attempting another mission that will still provide that sense of duty from our Masonic Brothers toward the brothers and sisters who have written a blank check to the defense of this great nation. This is titled “Boots Across America”. Yet, again the mission is simple. Raise money to help various organizations that make veterans, military members, police officers and other public service members, the main focus.

To help alleviate the issues that arise when raising money, the goal is to establish a location in every lodge across the country that members can give in their own ability to an organization that has been agreed upon by the lodge at the time the lodge has agreed to donate the money. This will help keep the rest of brothers who are unsure of what they are paying for. Below this article I have included a list of various charities that make an effort to help our military, police, firefighters and EMTs.

If the national level of charitable organizations is something your lodge is not interested in providing for, it is completely understandable. There are local organizations that are in dire need of your assistance. My local lodge has recently decided to take an old boot of mine and use it to collect any monies that brethren are willing to donate, and attribute it toward local fund raising money for monuments for the Gold Star Mothers and Blue Star Mothers in Genesee County, which I will be publishing an article on my “Off Topic” blog, as well as different newspapers in the local area.

If your lodge would like to help contribute to any fund that offers assistance toward our military, police, firefighters and emts; I would highly suggest you place a boot in your lodge that allows for loose change to be donated. Perhaps, you can use the boot at your monthly pancake breakfast or whatever else you use to help raise money for the lodge and your lodge’s endeavors. If you would like access to a boot, access to a public presentation of this event, or anything else, you may contact me via telephone or email (located at the bottom of this article, just before the chartiable organizations). I would be honored to provide an old combat boot of mine, or to come to your lodge to provide a presentation about what “Boots Across America” is all about.

~ARG

Aaron R. Gardner (aarongardner@aaronrgardner.com) (810) 423-3932

List of Charities
Military oriented: 

Police Oriented:
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund: http://www.nleomf.com/
Correctional Peace Officers Foundation: http://cpof.org/

Fire Fighter Oriented:
National Fallen Firefighters Foundation: https://www.firehero.org/

EMT Oriented
NAEMT Foundation: http://www.naemt.org/foundation.aspx



What Is Masonic Education: Part 2

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

Apron design by
Ari Roussimoff. You can see his works HERE.
There's a difference between education and instruction.

As I fully expected, the first installment of this series received a large number of cheers and a quite a few jeers as well.  Most of the readers of the last installment understood what I was saying.  Ritual is an important part of our Masonic tradition, and without question, there are aspects of ritual that are very critical to our education as Freemasons.  I don't think anybody expressed it better than my good friend and Brother Brian L. Pettice who said, "Learning ritual introduces us to the lessons that, if internalize, will help us to be the better men we want to be.  Learning ritual and floor work teaches us to be intentional in our thoughts, words, and actions."  He went on to say, "The problem is when learning the ritual becomes the end.  It is not the end."  Brian was making the same point I was.  Ritual is important, but it is only the beginning of what should be our ongoing and lifelong education and growth as Freemasons.

That being said, there is a lot in the ritual that IS education IF we teach it.  I've seen several presentations that take the ritual and explain it in detail.  They explained the history of the degrees and where they came from.  They explored the deeper meaning of the words by putting those words into the context of the time in which they were written--instead of being merely memorized words, those words took on a different meaning for me once the context was explained.  They explained why things are done in a certain precise way.  They went back into history to explain what each chair in the Lodge actually represents.  Likewise, I've seen (and given) many great presentations that go in much deeper detail on the ritual lectures, and explore the meaning of the symbols introduced in the ritual.  I give a pretty good twenty minute presentation on just one of the symbols we are introduced to in the 1st Degree, and believe me, I could easily go an hour.

So there is a lot there within our ritual that is education.  And as Bro. Pettice pointed out, there is great value in the patience and effort it takes to learn the precise movements and memorize word for word the ritual as written in an arcane English.  But the ritual is just the beginning of that journey  Masonic education is what comes next.

So what is Masonic education?

Well, there isn't just one answer.  One definition is that it involves teaching each other how to apply the principles of Masonry into our everyday lives.  It's about our history as a Fraternity.  It's about character development.  It's about leadership development.  I think today, that role in character and leadership development is more crucial than ever.  We aren't teaching values to our children as well as we once did.  They often don't learn them in the home.  Fewer and fewer Americans are going to church.  Our schools are far too busy teaching kids specific subjects so they can pass tests--there is no time to teach kids values that would be useful in helping develop their character.  I see Freemasonry filling that critical role.  Teaching young men positive character traits, ethics, and morals that they can apply to their everyday lives.

That's one area that our new Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter, is exploring.  We have a particular focus on education, and twice now, we've had some very in depth discussions with our members.  The first discussion was on the topic of civility.  We talked about what we thought that meant.  We talked about how we could improve ourselves in that area.  And we talked about how we could apply it to our everyday lives.  We followed that discussion up recently with another moderated discussion on honor.  That discussion was even better than the first discussion.  We talked about honor, respect, and tradition in that discussion.  Our members enjoy those discussions, and they take something away with them when we have them.  One of our members told me that he's thought differently about civility ever since that discussion several months ago--he's made changes to a couple areas of his life, particularly in his social media discussions, and in the way he reacts to opposing points of view.  That is Masonic education in the form of character development.

A few months ago, my Lodge hosted a Leadership Development Seminar put on by the Grand Chapter of Illinois.  It was open to all Masons, and we had a good turnout.  We had a couple excellent presentations, followed by some good questions, and meaningful discussion.  We all left that event thinking about where we're strong in leadership, and where we needed to improve.  I thought particularly about one comment made during that presentation about delegation--I tend to do too many things myself that others could help me with.  I've made a few changes there since.  Again, that's Masonic education in the form of Leadership Development.

I'm a student of history, and have been all of my adult life.  I've written books, I've written magazine articles, and blog posts, and give presentations and speeches--almost always involving in some way history and Freemasonry.  I'm fascinated with how Masonic values have influenced history.  I'm fascinated by how famous Freemasons have changed our world.  I'm fascinated by the ritual, by the symbolism, by the questions about where our Fraternity came from and how it evolved over time.  I'm interested in the esoteric side of the Craft.  And I love to share the things I learn.  I'm not an expert.  Not even close.  I know more than some, but not nearly as much as others.  I continue to learn, and I continue to share what I learn with others.  What I do is Masonic education in the form of historical perspective.

These aren't the only forms of Masonic education. There are many more.  Masonic education is a tool we share with our Brother than he can use in chipping away on that rough ashlar of his.  And as we all learn together, we also all grow together.  You'll find as I have, that Lodges and Masonic bodies that provide meaningful Masonic education to their members attract new members more readily than those that don't.  I drew a lot of criticism in the first installment when I said providing training and education to our members is the solution to most of the problems we have as a Fraternity today.  I stand by that.  It is.  Masonic Lodges are repositories of light.  They are places of learning.  If we're not going to teach those values we hold in such high regard then we're just a social club with a few ritual traditions.

So how do you get meaningful education started in your lodge?

Well, that's not always easy to do.  In the last installment, I'm going to tell you what we've done in my part of the world, and how we've done it.  And I'm going to give you some ideas I hope you'll be able to use in developing your own Lodge education program. 

~TEC


Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog.  He is the Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754.  He is a Past Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research. (FMLR) and a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org



Blue Lodge First

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB Scott S. Dueball

*Editors Note* This piece was first featured on the "Whence Came You?" Podcast and was read by the writer, WB:. Scott S. Dueball. Listen here


When it comes to the appendant bodies, I often hear the phrase "Blue Lodge comes first." In fact, before I can develop a well thought-out response to a new Mason inquiring about the appendant bodies, this line comes careening across the room. Every. Time. I am not going to argue with that point as it holds some degree of truth. However, when I hear this phrase, it is used to mean something different. What may sound like "Blue Lodge should always come first", progressively transitions into "Blue Lodge should be the most important thing to you" and completes its evolution as "You shouldn't do anything else if you aren't going to Blue Lodge". That's right, the Scottish Rite steals members. The York Rite steals members. The Shrine steals members. I take exception to this position. The problem is that this thought allows the individual Blue Lodge (or those espousing the aforementioned belief) to expect you to participate without providing you something in return. This belief is propagated in order to require you to come to stated meetings, participate in degrees, and perhaps to learn lengthy lectures. All of which, I admit, are laudable. You are admonished that your duty is to fill whatever needs your Lodge may have. These duties may include sacrificing church to volunteer at pancake breakfasts, sacrificing tucking your children in to perform the "charge" for the evenings degree, or sacrificing most of your Saturday off for additional ritual instruction.

Where this becomes unhealthy is that we, as individual members, lack the same expectation of our Lodges. We do not believe that our Lodges owe us anything in return. We do not expect that the Lodge should be providing us with some fulfillment as well. By saying that the three degrees (and a few pancakes) should provide you with everything you need, we assume that the only thing you could ever need is to watch the same ritual performed in the same way that it has been for over 200 years. That is not fair. You can make the claim that you learn something every time you see the degrees and I would agree with you but remain firm when I ask "That's it?"

It is unfair to Masonry to pit the Blue Lodge against those Brothers who enjoy the appendant bodies. We don't lose active Brothers to the appendant bodies because those Brothers have their priorities wrong. It's quite the opposite, we (the Lodge) have our priorities wrong. The appendant bodies provide opportunities to their members that Blue Lodge do not. The Blue Lodge teaches one set of philosophies and almost never expands on them. You don't become a 33rd, KCCH, KYCH, by exclusively attending Blue Lodge. The appendant bodies also offer occasions to interact outside of your our Lodge. These are likely flaws with the existing model of many Blue Lodges.

I am sure you have all heard this sentiment before but I assure you that it is not a part of every Lodge. Blue lodges with thriving membership don't hold this belief (they certainly do not verbalize it). Thriving lodges provide their membership with reasons to show up and be active. They do not need to guilt their members by suggesting that their first responsibility is to be present. These lodges treat Masonic Philosophy as living, progressing, and ever evolving such that it requires constant discussion within the tyled space. These lodges have a genuine expression of appreciation for those dedicated to the Craft and its teaching. These lodges are never short of diverse interactions among Brothers.

The appendant bodies know that they must provide you with something to justify your participation. Your time and your priorities belong to you. How you choose to spend time away from home and family is completely your decision. Sacrificing time away from your non-Masonic life should be worthwhile. If you are giving up time with your spouse and kids, you have every right to expect to get something out of it. I admit that I am a member of my Lodge because I wanted to be Worshipful Master. There is truly no more or less to it than that. This period has been extremely fulfilling. A time where I will no longer receive the fulfillment of being Master is on the horizon and I will be in search for new fulfillment. I constantly wonder if I will I find it in my lodge or someplace else.

To suggest that our lack of participation is anyone else's fault but our own is myopic. It appeals to our own insecurities but it is far from true. Craft lodges and appendant bodies should both seek to prioritize the fulfillment of their members. When we use guilt to force members to stay active rather than giving them what they are seeking, we do the Gentle Craft a disservice. My wife and I are expecting a baby girl in August; is the chance to deliver a lecture I have heard a hundred times worth time away from her? Will running a Facebook/Eventbrite/Wordpress campaign be worth diverting focus and energy away from her and my wife? There are Masonic organizations that make these trade-offs worthwhile. It's a matter of who can deliver them and, quite honestly, no amount of reminding me that 'Blue Lodge comes first' will factor into that decision process.

~SSD

WB Scott Dueball is the Worshipful Master of D.C. Cregier Lodge No. 81 in Wheeling, IL and holds a dual membership in Denver Lodge No. 5 in Denver, CO. He currently serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois on the Leadership Development Committee and as the 2nd Northeast District Education Officer. Scott is also a member of the Palatine York Rite bodies, E.M. Lambert Council A.M.D. and the Valley of Chicago A.A.S.R. - N.M.J. He is passionate about the development of young masons, strategy and visioning for Lodges. He can be reached at scott@wheelingfreemasons.org ​