The North Carolina Mason

July/August 2020

North Carolina Mason

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Page 2 The North Carolina Mason July/August 2020 ■ see BRADSHAW, page 8 Most Worshipful Brother DT explained a little bit about why we are here today, and he and I addressed our thoughts on the important work Freemasonry does to foster peace, understanding, and goodwill for all humanity in our Joint State- ment released earlier this week. One of the earliest lessons we are taught as Freemasons is that we should abide by three Prin- ciple Tenets: Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. Today, I want to address Brotherly Love. Our ritual explains to us that, "By the exercise of brotherly love we are taught to regard the whole human species – the high and low, the rich and poor, as one family; who, as created by one Almighty parent, and inhabitants of the same planet, are to aid, support, and protect each other. On this principle Masonry unites men of every country, sect, and opinion, and conciliates true friendship among those who otherwise might have remained at a perpetual distance." You'll notice that no exceptions are mentioned. We don't say brotherly love is reserved for those that look like us, talk like us, think like us, or act like us. No. Our ritual is clear. As we say in our Closing Charge, every human being has a claim on our kind offices. is is what our ritual says, but the reality is not always as beautiful as the words. As brethren in our respective Grand Lodges, our history is shared. You see, St. John's Lodge No. 213 and Royal White Hart Lodge No. 403, (2 of the lodges which formed our Grand Lodge) and African Lodge No. 459, the lodge from which PHA grand lodges were formed, were each chartered by the Grand Lodge of England. However, despite our shared origins, our shared rituals, and the admonition that our fraternity should "unite men of every country, sect, and opinion," cultural and racial divisions pervaded and our two Grand Lodges were not as close as we are today. It wasn't until the mid-90s when the light of Brotherly Love finally began to dawn and the long process of recognizing our commonali- ties more than our differences commenced. is process came to fruition on November 21, 2008, in the Capitol building just behind us, when the Compact of Mutual Recognition was finally signed — when we lived up to our ideals and finally recognized one another as brethren.. I was here that day. Masons are fond of their lapel pins, and I happen to be wearing the one I received at that historic event. And I'm so proud to be back here, at the Capitol, for this historic occasion - to share a few thoughts on the impor- tant example Freemasonry can and should set for the rest of the world in these trying times. Few, if any of my brethren, come into this fraternity demonstrating true brotherly love as described in our ritual. Sometimes we aren't even consciously aware of it. We all have some implicit biases we operate with. It's part of our human experience. Let me illustrate this with a brief story of my own implicit bias. In 1989, my freshman year of college, I took Sociology 101. I thoroughly enjoyed the class and felt that I really got a lot out of it. At the time, I believed I wasn't racist in the least. I had "Black friends" – still do – and tried my best to keep an open mind about people I met regardless of their color, creed, country of origin, political or personal persuasion. But then reality slapped me in the face. You see, part of my final exam for that class included a Bloom County Comic, with the question of how it demonstrated the idea of institutional racism. For those of you not familiar with this comic strip, one of the main characters is a talking penguin and another is young Black child. In this particular strip, the young Black child was coloring a picture of himself and asked for the "flesh colored crayon". When the penguin handed the child a crayon labelled "flesh," the next panel simply showed them both looking at each other confused and sort of shrugging. Here's the thing. I didn't get it. I did not recog- nize "the joke." e child asked for a flesh colored crayon, and the penguin handed him one. What was the joke? Where was the institutional racism? I skipped the question and moved on to the next one. Finally, as time on the exam was coming to an end, I returned to the question. And perhaps the pressure of time running out got to me and it finally clicked. I'm white. e flesh colored crayon was closer to the color of my skin than the Black child's. I felt horrible that I didn't see it imme- diately. e "joke" was clear to me then, and the revelation of my own implicit bias has stuck with me to this day. Now let me bring that back to Freemasonry. ere is a certain part in one of our degrees when we are told we will have a dark and difficult path to travel. And we are later challenged by three obstacles. Some Masons interpret these obstacles as Political Ambition, Religious Fanati- cism, and the Ignorance of the Mob. Others see them as Pride, Fear, and Anger. But the key is to understand that the obstacles you are overcoming are NOT those presented by the outside world, rather they are the obstacles of your own making – your own ambition, your own pride, your own fanaticism, fear, ignorance, and anger. As Free- masons, we strive to overcome those obstacles within ourselves, and by doing so we become transformed men. Or at least that's the hope. I challenge my brethren to think about your own obstacles, your own assumptions, your own implicit biases. To contemplate our rituals and symbols in a way that allows you to confront who you truly are – to travel down that dark and difficult path, to bury yourselves in the rubbish of your own temples, so that one day, the angels of your better selves can come help raise you to a new understanding of who you are. Not perfect, but a little smoother, a little more level, a little more upright. And the hope is, just like my revelation during that Sociology exam, we will each come away transformed in a way that allows us to appreciate the bonds of our humanity with one another, more than the petty divisions too many in society concentrate on instead. While the transformation improves us as men, it also improves us as citizens. It gives us the courage and capability to be open to others who aren't exactly like us, who don't always agree with us. We rely on the stronger tie, the fraternal bond that unites us, to acknowledge that there are differences between us, and yet to see beyond the color of a man's skin, the dogma of his religious belief, the opinions and persuasions he holds – to see another spirit, another man, like us, attempting to improve himself by the virtues of Comments of A.F. & A.M GM Shaun Bradshaw

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