We’ve grown used to describing our political divide in terms of Red v. Blue, or urban v. rural, but Thanksgiving reminds us why politics has become so miserable. To an unusual extent, our political fault lines cut right through the middle of families. Cousins who moved to the city live in a completely different world from those who stayed in their hometowns. Relatives old enough to remember (or delicately forget) Jim Crow walk beneath a different-colored sky from their nieces, kids or grandkids who married that guy from Mexico. Politics divides families in fundamental, morally-powerful ways. We haven’t been this deeply divided inside our families since the Sixties, if ever.
So, Thanksgiving should be nice. If you thought it took patience and restraint to deal with your obnoxious uncle in better times, just wait till he shows up in a MAGA hat. Is there a graceful way to navigate family events loaded with political tension? How did relatively reasonable Germans in 1935 deal with their Nazi relatives? Whatever the Germans did to get through family events in peace, don’t do that.
With that advice in mind, a lot of people are skipping the big family gatherings altogether. Where those gatherings happen, many are declining to play the doormat and inviting contention, consequences be damned. A lot of us beginning to realize that the quiet patience we afforded to ignorant bigots for decades help get into this mess.
Whatever path you choose, I wish you luck. These are trying times. If bridges must be burned, I wish you comfort and the regeneration that springs from the ashes. For those who find ways to preserve healthy relations across these divides you have my congratulations.
The New York Times has built a training bot to prepare you for the demands of an usually challenging season. It may not help, but at least it’s amusing. Happy Thanksgiving.