Page 8 - MFM MARCH 2015
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Russ Charvonia
                                                              Deputy Grand Master
                                                            Grand Lodge of California

  I believe we have a problem in today’s                      It does not silence those who wish to be heard.
  society; the world about us is becoming increasingly      Instead, civil dialogue allows all voices to be valued.
  Polarized and hostile speech dominates the news             And it can be achieved. We can restore civility back
media, our political arenas, and our everyday lives.        into our society.
This behavior has become epidemic. It is costing us
money, our health, and our dignity, and is putting our        Uncivil behavior often triggers a physiological
democratic heritage in jeopardy.                            response in us that perpetuates this dangerous cycle.
  We tolerate being talked at instead of talking with       It limits the ability to have complex conversations and
each other. Listening has become an endangered skill.       stops learning in its tracks.
We have allowed divisions to grow into chasms so            Masonry is different.
deep that simply getting people into the same room           • The world is politically divided and antagonistic;
to talk has become difficult, and at times impossible.       Masons are taught to be good citizens and to welcome
We have allowed ideological intolerance to evolve            the opinions of others.
into self-righteousness, condemnation and, ultimately,       • The world is often dominated by factions that are
persecution---and we all know that’s wrong.                  hostile, confrontational and rude; Masons learn how
  And let’s admit it: This incivility even makes its way     to be civil and respectful.
into our lodge rooms. I have to believe that each of         • The world is fractured by religious intolerance and
us has been witness to situations where brothers have        bigotry; Masons respect all religions and welcome all
disturbed the peace and sanctity of our lodges by            believers in the The Great Architect of the Universe-
bringing inappropriate and undesirable behavior and          --in whatever form that belief may take.
attitudes across the threshold.
  I believe that if we don’t address this state of affairs    So if society hungers for a return to civility, and
now, incivility will soon become our “new normal”.          if we, as Masons, have the common language, tools,
And when this happens we may be within just a               values, and desire to create a better world, isn’t it our
single generation of it becoming so ingrained in our        duty to do all that we can to bring civility back into
collective psyche, that our children and grandchildren      society? Aren’t we uniquely positioned to tackle this
may not know any other way. Do we really want to            problem?
imagine such a world?
 “These are the times that try men’s souls,” Thomas           While it is perfectly acceptable, and even encouraged,
 Paine said in his 1776 essay.                              that we debate policies where we have disagreement, we
  When we are uncivil to one another, we take his or        must always respect the office that our representatives
her voice away. This is not a Masonic value.                hold. The demonizing of others is the lowest form of
  As Masons we are about allowing and perpetuating          human behavior.
alternative voices and ideas. Masonic lodges have long
promoted the democratic habits of generous listening          Thomas Jefferson said to William Hamilton in 1800,
and civil discourse.                                        “I never consider a difference of opinion in politics,
  My brethren, civil dialogue is the cornerstone that       in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing
allows us to see things from a more enlightened             from a friend.”
perspective. This is not about avoiding difficult
and complex topics. It is not about just “being nice”         And we can go further, my brothers. The need for
and keeping the dialogue on a superficial level.            safe and open dialogue about difficult and complex
                                                            subjects has certainly not diminished. There just are
                                                            fewer places and opportunities for this to occur. We
                                                            need to communicate in more than 140- character
                                                            sound bites and we need to return to real, face-to-face
                                                            conversations; and we can provide the forums to do

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