|The Illustrious Brother Ernest Borgnine, 33° and Frank Sinatra fight in "From Here To Eternity" (1953)|
We've all seen that scene in a movie. Some army sergeant challenges his superior officer by saying "if you weren't wearing that hat, I'd teach you a lesson." Of course, the captain takes off his hat, and the two wind up in a fist fight--just two equal men settling a quarrel between them.
Symbols of rank and authority are respected because they represent something larger than just the one individual. They represent the values of the military or of the law enforcement agency in which those individuals wearing the symbols belong. Those individuals are still human beings, but while they wear the rank and insignia of their office, they represent everyone involved with that organization. They often have to suppress their personal feelings while they are representing the entire group.
The same is true of Masonry. When we wear our hats, lapel pins, rings, or have that emblem on our bumper, we are out there in the world representing ourselves as Masons. We are still human beings, but when we make that choice to represent ourselves publicly as a Freemason, we need to act like one. We should work very hard to make sure we are demonstrating the core principles and values of the Fraternity that more than 6 million Freemasons belong to world-wide.
The same is true on social media. I couldn't tell you the number of times I'm disappointed by the way Freemasons behave on social media. A couple weeks ago, I unfriended and blocked a number of Freemasons because I didn't want to be associated with the things they were posting, saying, and doing on social media. I'm not a prude, but I was embarrassed. I don't want our Fraternity tarnished by the poor judgement of a few of our Brothers that seem to lack the good sense to conduct themselves appropriately in a public setting.
If you're wearing the red fez in your profile picture, then act like a Shriner--that fez represents us all and you should conduct yourself accordingly. And if you display the square and compass on your homepage, then don't get into ugly debates and call people names and generally act like an idiot--again, you represent us all. Part of being a Freemason is learning to subdue our passions and keep ourselves within due bounds. Likewise, if you see that behavior and say nothing to your Brothers that are involved in it, you're contributing to it yourself. When we see our brothers acting foolishly, we should gently try and correct their behavior because it reflects badly on us all. We are, after all, our Brother's keeper. Right?
Now people will criticize me for saying this. That's a given. They'll say that just because they're a Mason doesn't mean they shouldn't be allowed to express an opinion, post what they want or get into a debate on social media if they feel like it. You're right. We live in a free society that values few things more than free speech. I'm just saying that if you're going to do that, and you can't keep the discussions civil, then do so as an individual, not as a member of an organization that holds in high regard values like tolerance, equality, and harmony. An organization of men from many ethnic, religious, political and educational backgrounds. If you can't represent the best values of the Fraternity, then do us all a favor and don't represent yourself as a Mason.
In other words, take off your hat!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org