matt solin

A Call to Move Forward


In light of the election day events, I feel compelled after a few days of reflection to think of a plan to move forward.  Not to rationalize, not as a Democrat or Republican, but a way to try to keep in mind a bigger picture, as an American who cares about our country.  I imagine most people reading this would consider themselves the same.  The way I will do it is the same way that I open every trial: documenting everything about which both (or all) sides can agree.  In law, we call them stipulations, but here they are just basic truths.

  1. WE’RE STILL AMERICA: Although there seem to be two Americas with two different perspectives on a lot of things, in the end we still agree on more things than not. I’ve found this while talking to people with whom I disagree about nearly everything politically; they still have many of the same ideas in common with me, which I summarize as follows:
    1. America is an amazing, unique country that has been a beacon to the world through its history;
    2. Everyone who lives here is seeking to have a good, productive, healthy, happy life for themselves, their families and everyone they care about;
    3. Despite different approaches, everyone wants to be free from crime, poverty, joblessness, and oppression;
    4. We all agree that we need to be prepared to intervene in world events, by force if necessary, and be prepared to rebuild those lives we destroy (here and abroad, especially our soldiers) when we do; and most importantly
    5. We need to maintain the rights and privileges that make our country special while seeking to do all of the above.
  2. DISCONTENT REIGNS: Regardless of who won the popular vote or the electoral college, it’s clear that there is discontent on both sides. This discontent is with the candidates, with the system, and the media.  There was a lot of voting from fear and anger, and that’s a message that we need to hear loud and clear.  From the violence at rallies prior to the election to the violence occurring at the protests after it, it has become clear that this is a very emotional election.
  3. WE NEED TO LISTEN TO EACH OTHER: Even if my preferred candidates had won, there were enough votes against them that ignoring those votes is not an option for moving forward together.  Half of the country disagrees vehemently with the other half, and the razor-thin margins don’t give anyone license to write anyone else off.  I am pleased to say that the President-elect has, so far, done an admirable job (especially in light of his tone before he won) to let American knows he wants unity.

Even if we disagree about things, we need to listen to others’ perspectives in order to engage, and fighting about issues is not the same thing as arguing.  So long as we can approach these conversations assuming that the other people are working for the same things we are (see #1), we can disagree about the means to those ends while creating an environment more conducive to actually solving the problems.

Hillary was the first to concede the election, which we all must admit was as fair and open as an American election can be.  I am positive that in her heart, she hopes that Donald Trump will guide our country in the right direction, even if it is at the expense of the Democratic Party in the future.  Let me be the next to say that I will be the first one in line to vote for his second term if he is doing what’s best for the country.  Country must come before party, and that goes for my party as much as the others.


[Ed. Note 5/27/17: I am leaving this up, but I was wrong.]

The Correct Answer


It has been a busy week for murder, religious intolerance and fast food.

First, there were the reactions to the shooting in Aurora, Colorado last week. Some of these were thoughtful, engaged, and reasonable while simultaneously sympathetic and angry. Some were partisan, litigious, and self-serving. Also, Obama went to visit the families of the victims. As the Onion points out, this is all par for the course. Alas.

Then, there were the comments from Dan Cathy, the founder of fast food chain Chick-Fil-A and the reactions. Mr. Cathy, whose business is making delicious chicken fried in peanut oil, decided to venture into the business of pontification. His statements to the Baptist Press were that the company was “guilty as charged” for backing “the biblical definition of a family.” This is a little surprising, as there are plenty of people who are very vocal about their support for traditional marriage. It seems as though Mr. Cathy, whose 1,600 stores are mainly located south of the Mason-Dixon, doesn’t have a lot to lose by making these comments, but I don’t really understand what he has to gain. All it seemed to do was rile up us Northerners. And it was extremely effective. You can see examples of this in Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago, to name a few. I personally will not be eating at Chick-Fil-A anymore. Luckily there, are plenty of copycat recipes for their nuggets.

What all of these things (besides the copycat recipes) have in common is the idea that the speaker has the RIGHT ANSWER. I will let their own words speak for themselves:

“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.'” – Dan Cathy

“They no longer believe that Jesus is the only way of salvation, they teach that God is OK with homosexuality, this is just increasing more and more. It is mankind shaking its fist at the authority of God.” – Bryan Fischer, of the American Family Association

And, for good measure..

“I don’t think [the Constitution]’s a living document, I think it’s dead. More precisely, I think it’s enduring. It doesn’t change. I think that needs to be orthodoxy.” – Justice Antonin Scalia

Don’t even get me started on the Vatican’s treatment of American nuns lately.

What these things have in common are men who have decided that there is one right answer to any question being asked. What is marriage? What is the right way to live? What does the Constitution mean? These things have no correct answer, but only our best guesses. And these people, with a straight face, look the camera in the eye and say “I know what God/Thomas Jefferson/the Bible thinks/wants/believes/says, and what you’re doing is wrong.” It is we who are shaking our fists at the heavens, while they are only trying to point us in the right direction. Is it fear of uncertainty that makes them talk and think like this? Is it the thought that there may not be an objectively correct answer to their most burning questions? They seize a document, a book, or the words of long-dead men so they don’t have to face that we all are meandering through life, doing what we think is right with no thumbs up or thumbs down from the sky?

Whatever the reason, the kind of gall that these people have is breathtaking. By speaking for God, you make yourself into God.