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How to handle politics during Thanksgiving
Plus Rosalynn Carter and a Thanksgiving break
There’s an ongoing Thanksgiving trope in which articles offer advice about how to react to the crazy MAGA uncle or the loopy progressive aunt who brings up politics at family get-togethers over Thanksgiving. Maybe my life is a bit sheltered, but it’s a bit hard for me to believe that this problem is as serious or widespread as its coverage would have us believe.
I live in Georgia and most of my family is from there. Most of us tend to be conservative, but in my extended family, I do have some Bernie Bros and pro-union liberals. I also have some pro-Trump family members, but the majority of my family has been skeptical of Trump all along. Some of the skeptics did overcome their caution to vote for him, but most of these swore (or would have if they were the swearing type) that they would not do so again after January 6. They seem to be standing firm in that position.
Granted, we don’t get together with the full extended family on Thanksgiving and even Christmas is usually a series of smaller gatherings, but we generally manage to avoid politics over the holidays. And that would be my advice to you.
Everything is too politicized, from the beer we drink to the razors we shave with. We don’t need our holidays politicized as well.
The urge to use the holidays to preach politics isn’t new. Way back in 2013, the left introduced an ad featuring “Pajama Boy” that urged Democrats to “wear pajamas, drink hot chocolate, [and] talk about getting health insurance.” What better way to get into the Christmas spirit than to talk about healthcare reform? No thanks.
Then Republicans did worse, ruining the entire holiday season of 2020. That year, on top of the pandemic, which spread like wildfire when people refused to eschew Christmas get-togethers resulting in a post-holiday viral spike that left tens of thousands of Americans dead, we had Donald Trump’s refusal to acknowledge his election loss. The post-election battle dominated Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year before it came to a head on January 6, 2021 (a date that will live in infamy).
In those previous years, we were prodded into political discussions or simply had politics thrust upon us, but that is not the case in 2023. Whatever your opinion of Joe Biden, the fact is that there is no crisis currently being thrust upon us. At least not until early next year when the next government shutdown looms. Under Biden, the crisis du jour atmosphere that permeated the Trump Administration is gone.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t crises in the world. The Ukraine war is ongoing, but that has been true since 2014. Russia’s large-scale invasion is nearly two years old. The Gaza war is also underway and also isn’t likely to end anytime soon. But those crises don’t directly involve us and will keep until 2024.
There are other problems as well, such as Chinese imperialism, the rise of AI, and the federal budget deficit. None of those problems are going to be solved over Thanksgiving dinner, and the election is almost a year away. There is really no reason that they have to be discussed at a Thanksgiving get-together.
My proposal is this: Just say “no” to political discussions at holiday gatherings. Or rather, don’t say anything. Don’t bring up the topic yourself and refuse to engage if the crazy uncle or loopy aunt starts off on a rant. You could try to change the subject or ignore them or walk away.
It may be the internet that has given us the idea that if we don’t like something we absolutely must register our disapproval. In older times, that was known as lacking impulse control or simply being obnoxious. It used to be that such behavior was discouraged, now it is all too often accepted or even encouraged.
We need to get past the notion that not confronting someone means that we agree with them and that not getting the last word means that we lose face. Rather, choosing not to engage can be a victory in itself.
Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese military philosopher, wrote, “If a battle cannot be won, do not fight it.” And starting a political fight over Thanksgiving dinner is a fight that probably can’t be won. The result will more likely be that everyone loses.
An applicable Bible verse is Romans 12:20 which tells us, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.”
I want to stress that this is figurative language. Do not literally put burning coals on the head of your enemy. Instead, the Bible tells us that being nice to your enemies, the MAGA uncle or Bernie Bro aunt, will metaphorically burn them up. Of course, being nice to get under their skin isn’t the best motive for being friendly, but it is preferable to starting a fight over the turkey.
Let’s go back to a time when people didn’t feel the need to express every thought that popped into their heads. When Democrats and Republicans could have a civil discussion about politics and then shake hands and go about their business. When we realized that both sides love America but just have disagreements on how to make it better.
I have a dream. I dream of a day when Never Trumpers can sit next to a man in a MAGA hat and not make a snarky comment. I dream of a day when Trump supporters can break bread with a transsexual liberal without being judgmental. I dream of a day when our political factions are united in love for America and don’t try to find a way to turn every news story against the other team.
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
A nation can’t live on politics alone. We need a breather. Let’s take a timeout.
This Thanksgiving, go spend time with your family and friends. Go worship at your preferred meeting place. Go take a walk outside and enjoy nature. Watch the Georgia Bulldogs destroy Georgia Tech (or some other football game if you prefer). Do some Black Friday shopping to get ready for Christmas (or to reward yourself).
This isn’t an occasion for political diatribes or haranguing your kinfolks. This is a season for reflection and thanks and overeating.
We may find that if we consider how much we have to be thankful for, partisan politics will take on diminished importance. That will be a very good thing.
ROSALYNN CARTER PASSES: One bit of news over the weekend was that former First Lady Rosalynn Carter passed away at the age of 96. Carter was the wife of the 39th president, Jimmy Carter, for 77 years, the longest of any first couple.
While I can find much to disagree with in the Carters’ politics, the couple were both very good people. (And, to be honest, I’ve found that some of the conventional wisdom about the Carter Administration is flat-out wrong, but that’s a discussion for another time.) The Carters single-handedly disprove the theory that one cannot simultaneously be a good Christian and a Democrat at the same time.
The former president entered hospice care back in February.
"As long as Rosalynn was in the world, I always knew somebody loved and supported me,” President Carter said.
THANKSGIVING NOTICE: Steve and I have decided to take our own advice and take a much-needed Thanksgiving break from the Racket News. We may pop up with a piece if something big happens, but we are planning to take a breather and recharge our batteries as we spend time with our families.
I do plan to reprise a Thanksgiving piece that I did for Resurgent back in 2017, and I’ll toss up some memes on our social media accounts, but if you want to make sure that you don’t miss our next article, subscribe below to get it delivered straight to your inbox.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you from all of us and we’ll see you next week!
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