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Chains That Bind

The Chains With Which We Bind Our Neighbor Will Someday Bind Us

The word "BIND" can have both a positive and negative meaning. On the positive side, the human family is and should be connected. Most people desire for a moral and compassionate world where we rely on each other, lift each other, and make a better world together. Economically, we rely on each other to produce the goods and services to not only survive but also to increase our combined quality of life, learning, and happiness. Spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally, we can and should learn and grow from each other, to elevate the human condition. In January 2021, I sat in on a virtual conversation with Wynton Marsalis at a Mesa Center for the Arts forum on race and culture. Wynton closed with a powerful statement: "Am I my brother's keeper? Yes!" He answered his own question with an exuberant and emphatic voice as strong as his gorgeous trumpet sound that left no room for doubt?

Well, is there any doubt? I know in my faith, and certainly in my heart, there is no doubt, we must lift with what we have been given! And, if we aren't our brother's keeper, we are certainly our brother's brother (source). See here a core principle in my faith where we aspire to a world where "there are no contentions and disputations among us, and every man deals justly one with another. And we have all things common among us; therefore there are not rich and poor, bond and free, but we are all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift." We really are bound together with a moral obligation to lift all with whatever gifts we have been given, small or large. So, in this regard, I gratefully accept the gift that I am BOUND to all my brothers and sisters of this world.

But, the word "BIND" can have a very dark, destructive, and immoral meaning as well. In my anthem to the Constitution, The Fortress Stone, the opening lyric says:

Since time began the greed of man, Has sought to BIND his brother's hand.

Unlike the word "BIND" above where we are morally bound to lift our fellow man, there is a deeply immoral, decrepit, evil urge in human nature to "BIND" fellow man through oppression, bigotry, slavery, dominance, violence, power play, elitism, apathy, abuse, a list that never ends. The words "BIND" and "BONDAGE" go hand in hand. Sadly, in conflict and opposition to those aspirations I mention above about a human family bound together in love and a purpose to lift each other, humanity is full greed, pride, hostility, and most of all, a hunger to control, to oppress, and to exercise Unrighteous Dominion. There are many ways and platforms through which this is done. Business, work, professional, and educational environments can be rank with greed and the barbaric mentality that you need to control and crush others for your own gain. Family relationships, marriages, friendships, neighborhoods, church and social groups, all these have social and power structures where some seek to control, abuse, or oppress others.

This human tendency to control others certainly happens in much more obvious and extreme ways that most of us see as toxic, wrong, and dangerous. Our world today and human history is full of power hungry tyrants, bullies, and narcissists. We must certainly push back on the most blatant and egregious abuses of power. However, we must also push back on the much less obvious, more seemingly innocent, inadvertent, and more common instances of the human tendency to "bind our brother's hand" in the daily struggle to balance power and control in our own lives, families, and communities. Anyone can say Hitler's desire to control others was pure evil. That's easy. It is much harder to recognize and push back this human desire to "bind our brother's hand" in the less obvious cases, especially when our own actions put us in the role of the oppressor. In family, social, and local government settings, it is easy to rationalize just a little excessive control of someone else in the name of a "noble cause" or "the greater good." No matter how extreme or innocent the intent, no matter evil or noble the cause, we must resist abuse of power at all levels and in all its forms. Abuse of power in the pursuit of "the common good" only leads to common bondage.

This march toward common bondage has been accelerated and amplified in a social media saturated world. We live in a constant barrage of everyone telling every else how to be, what to do, and what not to do (see mob rule). We use this modern form of digital torches and pitch forks to demand that our elected officials exert more and more control over our neighbors all the while not realizing the chains we have asked them to forge for us too. We seem to be trying to control each other to utter mutual bondage. You've heard of helicopter parents? We've become a helicopter society.

While this is a caution against common bondage in all types of human relationships, it is most of all a caution against common bondage in the form of human relationship that has the potential for either the most widespread good, or the most widespread harm: Government. Regardless of how extreme or "innocent," evil or "noble," the desire to control others, for those who hunger to BIND their brother's hand, human history has endless tragic examples of government being the most potent and far reaching access to power and means of oppression. To seek to control others is to break down the basic foundations of a free people. To do that by growing the reach of government breaks down one of the most basic values and aspirations of our Constitutional Republic: Freedom for All. The problem is that as government grows stronger in order to control someone else, it grows strong enough to control everyone, including you too. To rob freedom from one is to rob freedom from all. This brings me to one of my most fundamental quotes:

"The chains with which we bind our neighbor will eventually bind us."

What does this mean? Whether you are Hitler seeking domination over an entire world, or just a bossy, nosy, overbearing person seeking more control over your neighbor than you should, you need tools to bind others. You need chains to bring others into your bondage. Throughout history, when democratic governments were not as prevalent, this abuse of government was far more commonly seen by the brutal and violent dictators. Fortunately, we live in an age where democracy seems to have taken hold in much of the world, especially here in the United States of America. We have long aspired to create a government immune to being co-opted by power hungry people. Sadly, that is a long way from being real. And, we may be going backwards. That has been amplified to a deafening roar in recent years as all sides of the political spectrum have screamed and protested about abuse of power, corruption, and oppression from the "other" side. The reality is, we are all prone to this hunger to control and we all play our role in how much or how little we advance the noble ideal of being BOUND as brothers as sister in love versus defeating the toxic urge to BIND our brothers and sisters in bondage and hate.

Simply put, too many people want to tell others what to do. This is done from many platforms from social media and group shaming to elected office. As the sheer number of people grows who succumb to that drive to control others, we fall victim to populism and mob rule. We are becoming more and more governed by a lemming-like group rage than those sacred founding principles of freedom, decency, and Constitutional rule of law. We've traded the oppression and bondage of previous century's monarchs, dictators, tyrants, and autocrats for a growing tyranny and oppression of the mob. Democracy is being distorted and hijacked into a different flavor of oppression and bondage, but the result is the same. We are losing our freedoms.

Unfortunately, over time, people who love to tell others what to do and how to be have grown the platform of government bigger and bigger to give them more and more power to do just that. I have this quote that explains:

"If the desire of your heart is to shackle your neighbor, or to take from him for your own gain, government is the surest way."

But, that isn't the full quote. It boggles my mind that people cannot see the self-destructive path this incessant drive to grow government is taking all of us, including those screaming for more government control. Read the warning that comes next:

"If the desire of your heart is to shackle your neighbor, or to take from him for your own gain, government is the surest way. But be warned, by the same chains you forge for him, you too will be bound until you both are enslaved and impoverished. There will always be someone ready and willing to shackle and plunder you with the very tools of bondage you yourself made to shackle your neighbor."

Whether its the President of the United States, a local city council member, or just a bossy guy on the HOA Board, it is constantly lost on people that this quagmire of laws to control and bind each other, these rules that increase exponentially generation after generation, result in our own increasing bondage. We will eventually be choked out to where we are free to do nothing, bound and imprisoned by the chains of our own making. This was and is the tragic outcome of so many failed social and political catastrophes (Soviet Union, Venezuela, Cuba, etc.) that relied on increasing the binding chains of government control in the name of solving problems that big government only tragically exacerbates. See more here.

Democracy is one of the great achievements of humanity. By definition, it is rule of the people. It can and should be the ultimate repudiation of the autocrat, the dictator, the tyrant, and the oppressor. But, when a people, city, or nation decides to abuse the noble authority of democracy to rob the rights and freedom of the individual, then democracy itself becomes the tyrant and the oppressor. When democracy wantonly discards the moral authority of governing righteously and its fundamental duty to protect the rights and freedom of all, it degenerates into a decrepit mob rule and is no longer worthy of the name democracy. When the voice and freedoms of individuals are crushed, that is no longer rule of the people, therefore no longer democracy. This is why the American Constitution is such a monumental and essential document. The Fortress Stone of the Constitution protects the sacred ideals of democracy through checks and balances of a democratic republic.

It is for this reason I so passionately stand for limited government. Not no government. Anarchy is also evil and destructive (see more here). I want good and appropriate government. Just limited government. I don't want to trade my freedom for the great unachievable lie of the security and order that government can supposedly give me in exchange. This is why I constantly plead with elected officials to stop overreaching, stop trying to control us so much, be restrained in your use of power, stop thinking that the only solution is more rules, more chains, more control, more government. Please, learn the difference between righteous and unrighteous dominion and govern righteously. Stop forging the chains which will ultimately bring you and I both, and more sadly both of our future posterities, into bondage.

To my fellow brothers and sisters who constantly cry for more rules and bondage, to those who are constantly telling other people what they can and can't do. Stop! Please, stop! Dial it down. Even if you have a legitimate problem to solve, let's find a way to solve it without piling on more rules and squandering away our freedoms in the process. In the long run, you hurt yourself every bit as much as you hurt me. You only bind yourself to the crippling chains you've made for me and others.

To the elected officials that hear a never ending outcry from those people on email, social media, community gatherings, and public hearings, please consider this. For every constituent out there screaming for more rules to control their neighbor's lives, there are hundreds of other constituents who are far too busy living their lives, raising their families, and working hard at their jobs to even know that someone down at town hall is trying to bind their neighbor's hand. As an elected official, your sworn oath to the Constitution does not make you the hammer to take people's rights away. It makes you the defender to protect those rights. That means everyone's rights. Not just the ones yelling loudest at the moment. To abuse power and rob freedom is to betray your sacred oath to defend the Constitution. There are two kinds of people in this world. Those that want to control other people. And, those that want to protect against those that want to control other people. Which type are you?

Freedom is as essential to the human soul as breath itself. Freedom is messy. Freedom means mistakes, problems, inequities, and suffering. But, it also means freedom to use our minds, innovation, will, and choice to overcome all the messy stuff that is just the reality of life. The idea that if we can pile on enough government and rules we can get rid of all that messiness is as catastrophic lie. A people in chains and bondage to too much government also endures mistakes, problems, inequities, and suffering, but even far more so due to the exacerbating ineptitude and cruelty too much big government inevitably brings. Tragically and ironically, people in bondage to too much government must endure all that same messy stuff, just deprived of the freedom to act, overcome, and lift themselves and each other above it.

January 31, 2021

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Graphic: The Balanced Pendulum of
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(PDF Version)

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