10 Things You Didn't Know About Freemasonry

10 Things You Didn't Know About Freemasonry

From a Masonically-affiliated teen
1960
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Freemasons. That's a name or title we hear quite a bit. Are they Illuminati? A cult? A secret society? As someone who has worked closely with the Freemasons — a member of the Order of the Eastern Star and the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls — and has seen some things that many people haven't, I can tell you a little bit more about them.

1. Freemasons love charity work.
What? How could it be? How could a society of men behind closed doors love to do charity? These men are involved in so many things without getting recognition for them. The Shriner's Hospitals are run by Freemasons. Freemasons spend time and effort working for different charities as well as fundraising for them. On top of that, many masonic lodges sponsor local troops of boy scouts as well as host masonic youth organizations in their buildings. A big charity that many lodges work with is actually the American Red Cross!

2. Freemasons are goofballs.
Honestly! Masons may take things more seriously when it comes to running their businesses, but at their public events, they are fun people to be around. As a matter of fact, at nearly every Masonic "installation" I've been to, the outgoing Master, or leader, of the lodge gets "reintroduced" to his wife because he has been so busy taking care of lodge matters. I once received a bobble head of Benjamin Franklin from a lodge for helping them paint poles.

3. There are so many branches of Freemasonry.
As previously mentioned, Freemasons run the Shriner's Hospitals. That's because, in order to be a Shriner, you must first be a Master Mason. One of my close friends is a member of so many masonic organizations that I lose track of them all. He may be at anywhere from seven to 13 different organizations. One of them being (and I really kid you not) The Grand and Glorious Order of the Hillbillies. Really.

4. Freemasonry is not a rare, exclusive organization.
Any man over the age of 18 can become a Master Mason. However, the Freemasons are a respectable organization, so they will run background checks to make sure that a man trying to join isn't a criminal, and they'll call you for an interview to make sure you'd be a good fit in that lodge. It's a lot like getting a job, and some will say that with the work you put into Freemasonry, it IS a job. At least my Freemason friends love it.

5. The Freemasons are family friendly!
The lodge that I meet in for my organizations hosts a family potluck dinner once a month in order to get to know all the groups, and the people involved, as well as their families. Not only is it a ton of fun, it's also a great way to raise a little bit of money for the expenses for the lodge. Our building gets used a LOT. Anywhere from 2 different masonic youth groups, OES, Masonry, Clockmakers, and even a Dungeons and Dragons group meet in our lodge. Never on the same day, of course.

6. Freemasons take pride in their work.
I can't stress enough how incredible it is to see work performed by the Freemasons. Attending their public events, such as Installations of Officers, gives a glimpse of the oldest and largest fraternity in the world. Their traditions are well loved, and it shows in their floor work (the way they walk) and the way they recite their "ritual", which is a speaking part, like a script in a play.

7. The Freemasons are a band of brothers.
And they do actually call each other brothers. In OES, we call the ladies "Sister" and the men "Brother". That is no different in Freemasonry, but because Freemasons are all men, they are all "brother". They can not stress enough the importance of brotherhood in masonry, and it is that brotherhood that keeps them as close-knit and successful as they have been. They are a fraternity, remember.

8. Each Freemason is entitled to his own opinion.
From what I've seen, all masons have the right to think and believe however they choose. Masonry is not about brainwashing you to believe in one specific God. Masonry is also not its own religion, though they ask each member to be religious in their own way. Masonry does not discriminate against religion, political ideas, race, sexuality, or anything like that.

9. Masonry is not a cult.
At least, in the typical idea of a cult. Technically, according to Merriam Webster, a cult is a system of religious beliefs and ritual. If you would consider the joining of all religious faiths under one ritual (again, similar to the script of a play) in order to celebrate brotherhood, then yes, Freemasonry is a cult. Unfortunately, many see it as a dangerous thing. Many see it as a group of people who are potentially sacrificing animals or people to the devil in order to gain power, or something. Though I myself don't know what goes on in their regular meetings, I have a fairly good idea that it isn't that.

10. Even though a woman can't be a Mason, they are important.
I have seen many things saying that behind every good Mason is a strong woman. To the Shriner's, the ladies are hugely important because it's their support that allows the Shriner's to do so much. That's why there are so many Masonic organizations for women. Though now not every Mason is a straight man, who may have a boyfriend or husband backing him through his travels, women are a hugely important part of Freemasonry. Women help prepare refreshments for the men, help plan events, and even "donate" her husband or significant other to the lodge, as he serves a year as the Master of the lodge. Masonry is a family affair, and so the women of the family are included in that.

I hope this helped a little to shed some light on this great fraternity. The Masons are incredible men, who work hard in their community to bring charity and brotherly love to the area. I have never met a Freemason who I was uncomfortable to be around, I have never gotten an "evil" vibe from them. Watching their work has been an incredible journey, and working with them has been even better.

Cover Image Credit: Rae Kaiser

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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To Fix Taxes, We Have To Rethink 'Wealthy'

"Wealthy" doesn't mean the same for everyone.

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When discussing taxes today, so many politicians are quick to rush to the adage "tax the rich." Bernie Sanders has called for the rich to be taxed higher to pay for Medicare for All. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has called for a 70% tax on the wealthy.

However, all of these proposals are missing a key thing: a true definition of rich.

When thinking about what counts as rich, it is important to distinguish between the "working wealthy" and the "investment wealthy."

The working wealthy are the people in society that get paid highly because they have a high skill set and provide an extremely valuable service that they deserve just compensation for. This class is made up of professionals like lawyers, doctors, and CEOs. In addition, the working wealthy are characterized by another crucial aspect: over a long term calculation of their earned income over time, they don't come out as prosperous as their annual incomes would seem to suggest. This is because this set of the wealthy has to plunge into student debt for degrees that take years to acquire. These jobs generally also require a huge amount of time invested in lower-paying positions, apprenticeships, and internships before the big-money starts coming in.

On the other hand, the investment wealthy is completely different. These are the people that merely sit back and manipulate money without truly contributing to anything in society. A vast majority of this class is born into money and they use investments into stocks and bonds as well as tax loopholes to generate their money without actually contributing much to society as a whole.

What makes the investment wealthy so different from the working wealthy is their ability to use manipulative techniques to avoid paying taxes. While the working wealthy are rich, they do not have AS many resources or connections to manipulate tax laws the way that the investment wealthy can. The investment wealthy has access to overseas banking accounts to wash money though. The investment wealthy can afford lawyers to comb over tax laws and find loopholes for ridiculous prices. This is tax evasion that the working wealthy simply does not have access to.

That is why it is so incredibly important to make sure that we distinguish between the two when discussing tax policy. When we use blanket statements like "tax the rich," we forget the real reasons that the investment wealthy are able to pay such low taxes now. Imposing a larger marginal tax rate will only give them more incentive to move around taxes while squeezing the working wealthy even more.

Because of this, in our taxation discourse, we need to focus first on making sure people pay their taxes, to begin with. Things like a tax of Wall Street speculation, capital gains taxes, a closing of loopholes, and a simplification of the tax code. These things will have a marked improvement in making sure that the investment wealthy actually pays the taxes we already expect of them now. If we stick to the same message, the only thing we will be changing is the rate that the uber-wealthy are avoiding.

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