By Gideon Feit
Thanksgiving, the nostalgic holiday that has come to represent the ultimate family gathering, is now less than a week away. This holiday is time for a small respite from work and school, and an opportunity to reunite with close family and friends back home. It brings back fond memories of childhood and simpler times. Yet, in the hyper-charged political climate we now live in, I’ve noticed a new, nuanced elements in this time of family gathering.
And this brings me to some vital questions: should we keep divisive political topics away from the family table? For the many people whose family dynamics make this utterly impossible, how can we still enjoy the holiday without delving into contentious discussion? And lastly, is it possible or right to preserve relationships with family members and childhood friends by overlooking their opposing political views?
In many cheesy holiday movies, there are cringe-worthy scenes where the protagonist has to introduce his new love interest to his embarrassing family over the holidays. And in these movies, there is always that one aunt or uncle who gets obnoxiously drunk on eggnog and engages in provocative religious and political commentary. These awkward moments usually garner a few laughs. But now for many of us, as this scene unfolds in real life over the holidays, it is lacking all the laughter. On the contrary, it represents the extreme divisiveness that has come to plague our country in these troubling times.
Many of us struggle with biting our tongue when that obnoxious uncle or aunt veers into the realm of politics and shares controversial viewpoints that make it impossible to withhold judgement. In school, many of us are taught that silence in the face of wrongdoing is a grave sin. But in our households, many of our mothers have also taught us to avoid confrontation over special family gatherings. The moral quandary of sitting down and breaking bread with people who stand for beliefs so contrary to your own only seems to intensify nowadays.
Before this election it seemed that everyone had that childhood friend whose contentious political beliefs they would begrudgingly ignore when reuniting with them over holidays. After all, the night before Thanksgiving is actually the biggest daily source of revenue for bars across America – meaning everyone is back home on Wednesday night with no work the following day. So what used to be a very celebratory time has now gotten more complicated. I’ve spoken with many people who no longer have an interest in seeing “Bob or Jane from down the street,” now that their outspoken political stances on Facebook or Twitter are so contrary to their own.
I believe this is one of those multifaceted topics for which there is no true resolution. Some families are so cohesive that this divisive time will only be a small blip on the radar. But for many others that I’ve heard about firsthand, this political climate we now are forced into has caused fractures so deep that family reunions are forever changed.