Avoiding politics at Thanksgiving can help heal political wounds

Published 2:43 pm Tuesday, November 26, 2019


The Advocate-Messenger

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, the holiday best known for bringing families together. It’s also best known for causing family arguments.

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Thanks to ever-increasing politicization and polarization, it’s easier than ever to stumble onto topics where family members disagree. And those disagreements are more extreme and intractable.

As a result, some people just try to avoid politics entirely during Thanksgiving with relatives of a different political persuasion. That may be the easiest path to a peaceful holiday dinner, and we don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

In fact, we think it might be a good first step toward healing our political wounds.

Spending quality time with people we disagree with reminds us that we are all human, that we all have good traits that are worth celebrating and enjoying.

It’s tempting to think that discussing politics, rather than ignoring them, could help heal divisions. It sounds good to talk about addressing problems head-on and not shying away from difficult conversations. We like to think that we could talk out our political differences and resolve them.

But today’s radicalized political atmosphere has made such conversations exceedingly rare if not impossible. More than ever before, we all know what we believe and why. Essentially no one comes to a political conversation today with any open-mindedness or desire to broaden their understanding of another point of view. Think about it — which of your political views are you truly open to changing, based on the opinions of your conservative uncle or progressive niece?

The reality is our political well has been poisoned. We can no longer start healthy, friendly conversations by talking about politics. We have to start somewhere else, in friendlier territory where everyone is still willing to view the other’s opinion as legitimate and valuable.

Talking about our own lives with family, laughing about funny things that happened to us, playing games together, watching a parade or football — all of it helps us build (or rebuild) positive relationships with people we would just yell at all day if we talked about politics.

We need a shared understanding of each other as valuable and good people before we can even think about trying to come to political understanding or agreement. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to lay that foundation.

Cable news channels and many politicians would rather not see that happen. They’ve built their profits and careers on exaggerating division and fueling fear. Friendliness with and respect for the other side threatens their continued success in dividing America.

A lot of people avoid politics at Thanksgiving just because it’s easier, or they’re afraid of awkward or angry conversations. That’s fine, but we think you could also avoid politics with a better, higher goal in mind: To regain friendships and replace hate with love; and to take the first steps toward restoring political sanity.