Thanksgiving is upon us again. That means turkey, crowded airports, traffic, and seeing loved ones whom we may only get to see once or twice a year.
But in the age of Trump, it also means that it’s time for patronizing “think” pieces that tell people how to deal with their POTUS-supporting relatives while passing the cranberry sauce. Case in point: this post over at Salon that encourages liberals to politically convert their family members with “radical empathy.”
While condescending and eye-rolling, that piece is a far sight better than other such how-to guides that were published in the wake of last year’s election and the anxiety of the transition period. And anything is better than trying to get people to talk about over-regulated health insurance over the holidays, circa 2013.
But trust me: None of these how-to guides are necessary.
Are the people this post is trying to help so fragile that they can’t handle their own family members who, gasp, disagree with them? And is this so common that it merits a post in a national publication? The answer is obviously yes. It’s tragic, but that’s just where so many are right now.
But why must we worry about things like this? Are we really so impoverished as a society that we have to have manuals for how to navigate talking toxic politics at a time that really ought to be for other things and other conversations?
More importantly, is membership to our political tribes more important to us than membership in our own families? Do we have nothing better to talk about?
As if it weren’t obvious, politics is a dismal business, though unfortunately indispensable. If all men were angels, as Madison said, no government would be necessary. If only.
Yes, how the republic is run and what it stands for are very important subjects that merit discussion, but they aren’t the most important ones, especially on a day set aside to give thanks for the important things.
If we care about our republic, we will tend the gardens of family, faith, community.
These things make life worth living. These are the things that give life meaning in the first place. They ought to animate how we look at politics, not the other way around. When that system is inverted — when political conflict starts to drive wedges into these areas — the result is misery.
So, trying to politically evangelize over candied yams might not be the best use of the only time that you’ll see Uncle Bruce and Aunt Tammy this year. If they force the subject, be the bigger person and change it. You’ll all be glad in the long run.
So how do you deal with your relatives who may not agree with your brand of politics? It’s a shame that the question must be asked, but here goes:
Love them. Commune with them. Ask about their kids, their churches, their gardens, their latest hunting trip, what’s going on in their lives. Give your mind at least a day off from the machinations of politics and politicians. It’s good for you, and good for your relationship with Uncle Bruce and Aunt Tammy.
Let there be peace among the tribes for a moment. Then see if you can keep that peace going for longer than a turkey-laden Thursday.
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