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Don’t Let Politics Ruin Thanksgiving

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The holiday season approaches, and politically divided families gear up to fight the presidential election all over again

As Americans prepare to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday come face-to-face with distant family members who committed the crime of voting for the wrong candidate on November 8, the National Review looks back to a more innocent age when cynical politicians did not attempt to divide families along partisan lines or turn every last social occasion into a teachable moment in favour of their own pet causes.

Jim Geraghty writes:

The idea that Thanksgiving is now a massive, stressful, unavoidable occasion to litigate our national debate about party and philosophy over family dinner represents the insufferable hyper-politicization of American life. Some of this may reflect growing cultural differences, partisanship, communities segregating themselves along ideological lines, and so on. But there’s an unavoidable fact that only recently have we been subjected to political leaders explicitly calling for these holiday arguments.

Back in 2013, Michelle Obama wrote on the site of the White House’s political arm, Organizing for Action, that, “as you spend time with loved ones this holiday season, be sure to talk with them about what health-care reform can mean to them.”

Then in 2014, Mike Bloomberg’s anti-gun group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, offered a placemat entitled “Talking Turkey About Guns.”

In 2015, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest concurred, suggesting that families should discuss why members of Congress are too afraid of the NRA to pass a gun-control bill: “As people are sitting around the Thanksgiving table talking about these issues – as they should and I’m sure they all will across the country – I hope that is a question that will be raised and asked by members around the table.”

This year we get “How to Talk to Your Family About Planned Parenthood This Thanksgiving.” Pass the gravy, and let me tell you more about the organization’s commitment to STD testing.

What is wrong with these people? Since when is it a national obligation to subject your relatives to the conversational equivalent of push-polling? Everybody’s gotten together to express thanks, say a little prayer, maybe drop off some canned goods at the soup kitchen, watch a parade and some football, eat way too much, and scoff at the lunatics camped out on shopping-center sidewalks in anticipation of Black Friday. If a family wants the main course to turn into The McLaughlin Group, it will happen naturally. We don’t need government officials and interest groups to coach us on our dinner conversations.

More importantly, there’s a lot more to our relatives than their voting histories and political perspectives.

Take a good look around the table this Thanksgiving. Even when your family members drive you crazy, you’re lucky to have them. You’ll miss them when they’re gone, and they’ll miss you when you’re gone. Do you really want to spend Thanksgiving arguing with them about their vote, or the fairness of the electoral college, or Trump’s latest Tweet, or what the cast of Hamilton did? Must we say every thought that pops into our heads? Is it really so impossibly hard to find things to admire in our relatives beyond their political beliefs?

My American family has not been immune to the online partisan warfare, with several colourful and highly passive-aggressive Facebook conversations unfolding in the days immediately before and after the US election and Donald Trump’s remarkable victory.

We are not all assembling together in Texas for Thanksgiving, but will be doing so at Christmas, when we will be confronted by the same problem. And while the New York Times would have us print out and follow a tedious 19-point checklist walking us through the process of talking to our relatives about contentious political issues while maintaining an atmosphere of mutual respect, we know an unrealistic proposition when we see one.

Our current working solution: to hang a basket outside the house with a sign instructing people to “Please leave your political opinions inside this basket before you enter, and collect them when you leave”.

 

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