"Consider the disease that is Masonry and its unthinkable influence in the whitehouse and the Iraqquis civilians dying far from home in the name of the lodges right here in our backyard as satanisc rituals happen right under our noses Donald Rumsfeild a master in masonry still calls shots in the comission that oversees the world and yet you alow lodges to florish in boston there is one on Tremont street probably that funded Israel attacking lebanon masons love zionist propoganda and believe in Israels fascist state they mock Islam for this reason wit htheir hats and symbols Wolfowitz is still in power too and a lodge in Englalnd is where they oversee world events with secret rituals and believe it they are only getting more powerful you must open your eyes!!"
-from an anonymous email sent to my personal account on 12/29/06, verbatim and in its entirety
It's hard to believe that I once listened to deranged conspiracy theorists on my roomate's ham radio for amusement, or considered their more religious cousins an even better source of cheap laughs when listening to car/van radio down south.
Now, in the age of near universal internet access in the US, the novelty has long worn off. You can't check your e-mail or your band's myspace account without encountering some anonymous candidate for schizophrenia medicine who wants to "open your eyes" to the "truth".
While many of these sage revelations emenate from the far left there are also plenty of insights from white supremacists, Salvi-esque "Save the Catholics" millitants and even a few stray John Birch throwbacks. I'm not really keeping score as I have little interest in the politics of the insane.
I thought that the various 9/11 theories would have satiated them for a good, long time but I was way off. They always seem to come back to the classics, and fretting about Freemasonry is like their "Whiter Shade of Pale".
I knew little about the order itself growing up. As far as I was concerned the Masons were just another fraternal group for old guys like the Elks, K of C or the Rotary Club. When I was a teenager I went to a few all ages shows at Masonic lodges. I knew some kids whose fathers were Masons and who were in the Masonic DeMolay youth group themselves. That was pretty much my only exposure to Freemasonry.
When I was 26 I found myself living with, and eventually engaged to, a woman from the suburbs of Augusta, ME. Fraternal organizations as a whole are a lot more popular and less graying in Augusta than in Boston, and the reasons are pretty obvious.
Her mother had been involved, via The Order of The Eastern Star, with Masonry and everyone in her ex-husband's family was either a Mason or an Eastern Star. She was still on good terms with most of them. She also had an older, platonic male friend (also from Maine) who was actively involved in his lodge and she would sometimes accompany him to events there.
The whiskey and other intoxicants flowed pretty freely when we would spend time with the Masons of Maine. I'm a curious sort, and I can hold my liquor better than most, so let's just say I learned a lot about Masonic rituals associated with degrees and the allegories they represented. Some of them were even humorous and practical joke-like by design. My conclusion was that the big, dark secret about the order was that there was no big, dark secret about the order.
A couple of weeks ago this once exclusive club was seeking new, younger members by advertising on the Sunday football games. It brought to mind an old Groucho Marx quote about not wanting to join a club that would have him as a member.
In the end though I can't help but admire an aging and harmless group that does charitable work and manages to simultaneously enrage Evangelical Christians and the people who won't stop putting "Loose Change" up on YouTube.