Should Be a Fun Thanksgiving

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.


    1. So far I am not concerned and as long as Mattis is in charge a serious incident is not likely. Mattis said he is not going to violate the Posse Comitatus Act and the rules of engagement will so reflect that. So far the federal troops are not significantly armed, the engineers and signal forces are protected by MPs who are not heavily armed. Combat Engineers are trained to operate under difficult conditions and perhaps under fire. That is less so for Signal units, but those units with missions requiring them to operate close to front lines are also appropriately trained. They are disciplined and many are vets of Iraq or Afghanistan. So under the present situation I do not see significant potential for problems.

      However, I can see some creep or situation
      developing where a engineer or signal company has access to heavy weapons, particularly a national guard unit, and has some rocks thrown at them, then responds with heavy weapons fire and kills many refugees creating an international incident. That is considerably less likely with active duty forces, but perhaps some national guard unit with inadequate training or lacking clear lines of command and control might overreact. That is what happened during the Kent State Massacre and generally that was the case with the Abu Ghraib situation. Both units were national guard, were not adequately trained, had poor lines of command and control and were not well disciplined.

      Of course effectively there is no difference, the damage is done. That is the difficulty with Trump relying so heavily on people like Steve Miller and the the President of the Border Patrol Union. Miller and the like are hot heads, are young and not seasoned with life experience and are ideologues. Those are the people who can set off major conflicts, such as happened at Fort Sumter. I do wish tRump was much cooler and calm, but he is so racist and intent on satisfying his base, that he is frequently manipulated.

  1. My family decided long ago that talking politics at gatherings like Thanksgiving is off the table. My wife and I, along with my sister, are all liberal-leaning independents (strongly on social issues, with more conservative fiscal leanings but certainly not cut-throat, every person for himself Randian-style), while my parents are both lifelong Republicans. While my mother is not very vocal about her political beliefs (I don’t think she actually has any, just that she pulls the “R” lever every election regardless of whether it’s for POTUS or local dogcatcher), my father is an overly-opinionated racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobe who thinks America would be better if we were all magically transported back to that perfect utopia of the 1950s (perfect for straight, white, Christian males, but not so much for everyone else). He and I had a come-to-Jesus meeting a few years ago when my daughters were very young and couldn’t understand what he was saying, and we brokered an understanding that if he spouted off his crazy opinions about women, minorities, or anyone else around them as they grew older, he would not be able to see them any longer, and to his credit, he’s kept up his end of the bargain for the most part.

      1. Thanks for sharing this article. I too live in Pittsburgh as does the author, and my sister lives just a few blocks from Tree of Life synagogue (which is the same neighborhood where our father grew up as one of only a handful of Gentile kids in an overwhelmingly Jewish community, so one would think he might have learned something about being a minority, albeit not one easily identifiable by skin color or ethnicity).

  2. We are lucky, in that the entire family are progressive democrats, any political discussions are more like preaching to the choir. Though my partner’s daughter’s father-in-law will be there at age 80 and is also progressive, my partner and I are both the second oldest at 74 and 73, respectively. I do not expect any MAGA confrontations.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all and we can rejoin the battle afterwards.

  3. In a way, I’m lucky in this regard. I’m the old guy in the family at 75, yet I’m the most progressive of the lot. (Except for my wife, who’s the old gal at 75, and stands side-by-side with me at the ramparts. I have one son-in-law who is in the thrall of the NRA, but we just don’t talk to him about guns, so our family events are pretty calm.

    I hope all y’all who are at the end of a see-saw where there’s significant weight at the other end are able to create a safe place for Thanksgiving, and remember they’re all family, and we all want the best for each other, and enjoy being together for the holiday.

  4. Tip: Make sure the MAGA in the family isn’t in charge of the alcohol or carving the turkey (-:

    Happy Thanksgiving to all and may you find joy in whatever group you join. If things get ugly, have enough sense to leave. Life is short. Of course, if you are able to set some ground rules in advance, and everyone follows them, you should make it to the desserts. If not, you’ve learned a valuable lesson for Christmas.

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