Ballots Not Bullets

Jerry Marsengill

There is a regrettable tendency shown in this country at the present time to use almost any method to silence the voices of those with whom some particular group does not agree. The recent assassination attempt on Governor Wallace of Alabama is a case in point. Many of us do not agree in the least with the views of George Wallace. Others probably think that his political philosophy offers the only hope of salvation for the entire United States. Regardless of whether or not Governor Wallace presents views which are alien to many points of view, he had, and has, the right to express his views without fear of some demented assassin's bullets.

Governor Wallace is a Freemason. This has no bearing on the case whatsoever. John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy were Roman Catholics. Martin Luther King was a Baptist minister and not a Freemason. The unfortunate thing about the tendency to assassination in the United States is not the mere fact that we have a few trigger happy idiots running around loose. This is something which we have always had. Certainly most of our supposed heroes of the old west were paranoid types who would kill for the sake of killing and then try to make it look as if it were self-defense. This is something we have to endure as all nations at all times have had to endure the same fears.

The worst possible thing that can happen is something that has already happened. Many of our prominent, respectable citizens have tried to rationalize the shooting of Governor Wallace with the philosophy which he preaches. They suggest that, had he not favored very light controls on firearms, that his attack need never have happened. In other words. they are trying to say that he brought it on himself. We saw the same thing happen with the assassination of Dr. King. Some of the respectable elements tried to explain the shooting by making Dr. King look as if he were an agitator, who stirred up the climate in which the murder occurred.

Freemasons, and thank goodness these are a very minute minority of the craft, have even been guilty of these rationalizations. One brother even stated: "I hated to see Kennedy get shot, even if he was a Catholic." What type of attitude is this? Even if he were a Catholic? Even if he were a Jew? Even if he were a Baptist? These are not cyphers or figures of which we are speaking. These are human beings, each of which according to our obligations, has a claim on our kind offices. We do not need to agree with what a man says, but we need to defend his right to say it.

Freemasonry has always been the gentle craft, taking no part as a body in wars or rebellions nor has it ever taken a political stand. Even during the American Revolution when, as some of our more zealous brethren would have us believe, the army was composed mainly of Masons, truth compels us to admit that there were as many, if not more, Masons on the British side of the conflict than on the American side.

As Freemasons, men who have been charged to be quiet and peaceable citizens, true to our governments and just to our respective countries, we should take a stand to see that such actions as these are observed as being the cowardly, despicable, detestable acts which they are. Under the Constitution of the United States we have a system of checks and balances upon the power of any particular branch, be it legislative, executive, or judicial. Certainly there have been a few, and a very few — all things considered — abuses of the power with which a particular branch has been invested. However, we have a weapon in our hands more powerful than any armament, any guns, any bombs, or any bullets. We have the power of the ballot and of a free election in our hands.

If we do not agree with the views of any particular person, then we can work to see that that person is defeated at the polls. No matter how repugnant the political philosophy of any particular group may be to us, and this includes all of the fringe, radical, and reactionary groups both of the right and of the left, we have been given the power by our form of government to accomplish their downfall. We have the best form of government which has ever yet been devised. It is not perfect, and none of us would claim that it is. Yet, we have the right to choose our leaders, and each of us can have a hand in determining the policies of our government. If we do not use that right and privilege we can blame it on no one but ourselves.

The ballot is a sacred trust and should be so regarded by each of us. And certainly, when we go to the polls to cast our ballots for, or against, some particular form of political philosophy, we are exercising the rights which the wisdom of the founding fathers of our country guaranteed to us. We cannot lock up every irrational person in the hope that we thereby will detain the one who might be the potential murderer. We cannot guard every candidate for public office so closely that there will be no violent attempts made on his person, but we can, in our daily lives, in our relations with other people, and in our private thinking, promote the principle of the proper way to change our form of government. We have been given the right to free elections. Let us always consider the ballot, never the bullet.