Two weeks and two days after what many are calling the most divisive election in U.S. history, most of us are going to be sitting down with our families for Thanksgiving dinner.
And for a lot of Americans, the probability of unpleasantness is high. Very high indeed. As one friend said to me, at least it won’t be dull.
She’s probably right. Problem is she’s hosting her family’s Thanksgiving so beating a hasty retreat in the event that fireworks erupt is not an option. She explains, “There are two in the family who drank the Trump Kool-Aid and online conflict has erupted within the family. My solution is I’ve declared our mountain to be Switzerland and is a politics-free zone.”
She’s not sure her peacekeeping efforts are going to be adequate. “I’m ambivalent about my efforts to ensure the day is conflict free, as I’m having a hard time balancing ‘family is more important and we should rise above our differences’ to feeling like I’m compromising my morals just to make peace with folks who are okay with the horrible philosophies and behaviors of Trump.”
If maintaining the peace fails, she is reserving gin and tonic as a backup plan. And she has set the bar for success very low. Making it through the day without bloodshed is all she asks.
In my own family, we have the interesting situation where our host and hostess are on opposite sides of the political divide. They’re ordinarily both the nicest people in the world but in this year where the normal rules of propriety have been declared null and void, there is the real possibility they could go all George and Martha on us. But at least the rest of us can skedaddle if the side dishes start flying across the room.
Balkanizing the situation is one way of solving the problem, albeit not a particularly good one. In one family, I’m told most of the Trump supporters aren’t showing up and in another, they were disinvited. One of my good friends told me that her friend’s mother was told by her daughter in California she couldn’t come for Thanksgiving because the mother voted for Trump and the daughter is absolutely sick over it. Whether daughter dearest is absolutely sick because Mommy voted for Trump or because she had to be punished for it is a little unclear to me. I suspect both, but mostly the former. The friend who told me this story thinks it’s “such a fine example of love for diversity.” My friend’s capacity for sarcasm can sometimes exceed my own. It’s one of the reasons I love her so much.
The folks who have not taken the extreme step of disinviting dissenters seem to basically have two strategies, avoiding the touchy subject and booze. In a world that seems to be hell-bent on pulling a “Back to the Future”and going back to 1955, it is touching that at least two American values from that era are being honored by so many.
A half century or so of embracing our feelings have left many of us woefully unable to avoid any elephant in any room, especially a big orange one. I suppose that our ancestor’s finesse in dealing with unpleasant topics was enhanced by the cocktail culture of the olden days. A good martini buzz should make it a lot easier to suck it up and just get along. At least until it doesn’t. And then you’ve got a houseful of drunk uncles.
Some of the strategies I’ve heard for avoiding unpleasantness are not all that helpful. “Just don’t talk about it,” is a good idea but without a strategy for implementation, it’s useless. “Eat, say a few pleasantries and leave,” is a little more detailed but not much.
“I’m talking about dressing being not salty enough and cranberry sauce that I forgot to put sugar in last year. Yep, that’s all.” If you’ve got enough of those and can talk over the screaming, this could work.
My favorite avoidance strategy and the one I feel has the highest chance for success comes from someone who says she is basically walking into enemy territory at the holidays. “My solution is to take the dog for a walk each time it comes up.”
Then there’s this very high-minded solution from someone whose family is apparently more highly evolved than most of us. “You do this in the same way you’d talk about any other political subject. State your views, allow them to state their views, and listen to each other. Don’t go into the conversation trying to convert them. And be open minded about the entire process. Who knows, you may realize that you’re the one who is wrong. Be prepared to lose such a debate. In other words, talk *with* them, don’t talk *to* them.” Of course, if we’d all been doing this all along, we wouldn’t be in this mess.
Combining an avoidance strategy with booze as a backup is the plan for a lot more folks than my friend on the mountain. “We have many opposing views but Thanksgiving is a no politics zone. And there’s wine.” Another friend put it more eloquently, “Thanksgiving with a bunch of blood-relative Trump voters in my future. Solution, alcohol. Liquor. And avoiding speaking of the election. Then more drinking.”
“Nothing orange on the table or I may forget my manners,” said one friend. That’s going to get interesting when the pumpkin pie is served.
Bill Colvard is Lifestyles writer for the Mount Airy News and can be reached at 336-415-4699 or on Twitter @BillColvard.