Let’s start with the usual litany of disclaimers: this doesn’t represent any Grand Lodge, Lodge, Appendant/Concordant body, Brother, Sister, cousins ____________(fill in your own here) viewpoint except the authors.
So now with that out of the way, let’s begin…
I read a lot of varying viewpoints from an even greater number of Masonic authors. You read about “the working tools” and their importance to both the personal as well as their greater application in the masonic and/or profane world. You’ll read about the importance of one tool over another or its application in unison with another et cetera.
Many of these points I completely concur with, especially how it’s originally presented in our catechism. However, with that now said, I believe the most important masonic “tool” is rarely ever mentioned, if at all: The voting box.
Sure, we all hear how important our duty is to fulfill one of our most honored and sacred responsibility, right before we cast. But does anyone really listen? Worse, does anyone dare vote against the grain?
Here’s where I believe many, if not most, of our current issues, are developing from. i.e., A yes vote placed in favor when they have absolutely no clue on the who, why or anything else pertaining to a candidate. It’s all just…
Be presented with the voting box; select the appropriate marble (i.e., in-favor); then sit back and continue the side discussion; check your social media pages, or all three simultaneously. Rinse, repeat.
Here’s why I know the above - I’ve both observed it at every single voting matter I’ve attended, while also following much of that script myself before I knew any better. e.g., Was presented the box; selected in favor; went back to the prior discussion.
I’ve also done the: was already in discussion; was presented the box; kept on talking, albeit at low volume; selected, and never missed a syllable.
I did this because I observed that was how the “old guys” were doing it, and since I was a newly minted MM, I figured this was the accepted way. It wasn’t until via my own research and self-edification into such things I found, to my horror, just how much it is not.
We read and hear complaints about just how low the bar has been set for one to become a Mason, and I freely admit to being one doing precisely that. However, what separates people like myself and the others that stand on this side of the fence, is that we are willing to both call “a spade a spade” while also voting with that other “tool” known as our own two feet. And not partaking in what should be sacrosanct acts of Masonic protocols with a “just going through the motions” attitude for enablement.
Now, what is going to be said from this point forward is going to both tick off, as well as send a few into a bout of hives and who knows what else. However, before I start let me make this point abundantly clear…
I am not proposing willy-nilly to disrupt or to cause mischief into any of our most important obligations concerning the Craft.
What I am saying, is that for those that complain about the quality or many other concerning aspects of the Craft, resulting from the candidate process. Vague to no answers concerning candidates are now demanding to be questioned for the good of the Craft. i.e., Why are they really petitioning? What are they expecting once accepted, etc., etc., etc.
Now with that stated, let’s continue…
There is a moment in the entire process that either allows or disallows the process to begin in the first place. And no - it is not the investigation.
It is - the voting process.
I’m not sure of the rules from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, heck, let’s just say I don’t even know the rules for my own. This will allow my points to be made without the “That’s not the way it’s done!” crowd possibly having blood pressure issues. But then again, that alone might be too high of a bar, but I digress.
So in that vein, let’s forget “the rules” for the moment and think about my overarching premise, which is…
If you believe your Lodge is ruining itself, along with possibly weakening the fraternity as a whole by accepting candidates via the only stipulation they can fog a mirror. Then the absolute ultimate tool to stop it is - at the voting box.
It is, by far, the single most powerful “tool” available to any Mason committed to bringing about change, bar none. That’s why it should also be seen as something not to be toyed with in any way, shape, manner, or form.
So the obvious question now comes: How does one use this process without casting no votes and ruining both the process and is it being injurious to a possible good candidate but poorly presented?
Here are my thoughts…
Remember, I am not advocating this be done willy-nilly. Anything concerning the voting process must be done with very deliberate and conscience forethought. To use an analogy: You’re playing with nuclear fuel and a functioning atom smasher. Bad things happening here are not going to be something known as “trivial.”
How many times have we heard, “The investigation committee has returned a favorable report. Let’s vote!” Then we do, and it’s really nothing more than a going through the motions formality.
I propose doing something different from now on, again, for those that truly understand what the current issues facing the fraternity are; are dedicated to helping in the quest to doing the right things; and have the wherewithal to both articulate their viewpoints and the fortitude to back those viewpoints with sensible, constructive actions. Regardless if they’ll now be relegated to “That guy!” status.
Next time the investigation committee is said to return a favorable report. I propose raising one’s hand immediately and asking…
“What were the specific questions asked? And what were the specific answers of response?”
Or: “Before we vote can the committee or WM share the notes on such with the brethren before we cast?”
If there are no “notes.” Ask, “Why not?” And, “If there are no notes, then surely we can have the investigation committee take questions as to try and illuminate the brethren on who this man is and why he wants to join. Sounds reasonable does it not?”
Here’s what it’ll probably raise: Eyebrows that hover over eyes filled with daggers of disdain. Like I said, this is not something for the timid.
Yet, why is this not asked? Why is this not freely given anyway? No, the most common thing for entry is: we sent a committee and all three concurred - he fogged the mirror. So let’s vote!
Formalizing the investigative committee process as to have pertinent questions and notes taken on the answers given, along with the committee itself addressing open forum questioning from the brethren before the “Get the box!” order is given, I believe, should now be a prerequisite. And if not? (Again, this is not for the timid.)
I believe someone needs to stand up and say, “With all due respect to the fraternity, the Lodge, and my brethren. I can not in good conscience vote to accept someone into our ranks blindly. Therefore, I shall abstain from voting.”
And do just that. Every. Single. Time.
At some point, others are going to start remembering precisely why they’re voting in the first place, and you may be surprised how many others might join your stance once they do.
At a minimum, it will open the conversation for possibly fixing the “west gate” issue before the “horse” as they say enters the barn rather than after.
Another stark reminder it also forces back into the spotlight is with someone (or more than just one) verbally making the arguments as to why they can not vote for such. Every time there is a call for one?
A going through the motions process immediately gets upended into the serious business that it is. Because all it takes is just one “No.” And no one knows who that one maybe. But what everyone will know is that the possibility for it now needs to be seriously contemplated.
So getting those answers in the beginning now becomes just as, if not more so, as important as getting the petition to begin with.
Think about it.