Talk About the Bird, Instead, Colltalers
Suddenly, there’s another reason to feel jittery about Thanksgiving. Aside a shift in public perception about Americas’s most beloved holiday and how it reflects both a changing culture and degrading economic conditions, there’s a new fear this time around: the fear of speaking up.
Or rather, of arguing about politics with people you love, at the turkey feast. Americans feel dread that it may all escalate and further the split between the liberal wing and the conservative aisle of those who share DNA or upbringing, or at least used to enjoy each other’s company.
Blame it on one of the most divisive campaign leading an outsider to the White House, and the deep resentment and fear that it awoke among race, gender, and religious minorities. And on frustration and dismay overwhelming a voter majority whose candidate did not win.
Some of these are always present in contested elections. What’s different now is that, with changing demographics of the group arguably most identified with Thanksgiving, working families, one of the few annual occasions to get together and be merry may be ruined for good.
It may be hard for the world to understand how this particular holiday soothes the American soul. But its myth of cooperation and peace among invading foreigners and soon to be conquered natives, even as it’s unlikely to have happened as such, is a recurrent redemptive dream, one etched on the idealized view of the nation by its Founding Fathers, and one that still appeals to every resident of this big land.
As it congealed into a celebration of hard-earned emotional connections, timed to coincide with ancient pagan feats hailing the first harvest, Thanksgiving became a national symbol for overcoming harsh conditions and getting together to prepare for the long winter ahead.
The passage of time, though, has dramatically eroded this sepia-tinted view. The last Thursday of November has come to be known as an excuse for confrontation among angry relatives, thrown to different latitudes of the economic ladder, and their mutual dissatisfaction and distrust about the fairness of the system. Many a carved turkey wound up wasted on the floor at the end of these now common battles.
Still, millions will travel thousands of miles this weekend, spent over $4 billion, and eat about 45 million turkeys, just for a
chance to spend sometime in what used to be the safe environment of their family home, hoping against sense, that no one will get too upset over anything.
An almost panic feeling has set over social networks, with psychologists, professional counselors, even hostage negotiators, offering advice to would-be quarrelers, in articles titled ‘How to Survive Thanksgiving When My Family Voted for the Other Guy?’ or ‘Should I Kill My Bigot Uncle If He Corners Me & Gloats About the Election This Thanksgiving?’ Advice is, of course, cheap; moderation, however, is not.
That’s a word not usually associated with the holiday. People stuff themselves with food – didn’t you know that a side dish is called ‘stuffing?’ -, arguably out of anxiety, and drink too much too, but heaven forbid if one should tell an American to avoid drinking in a date like that.
Arguments, and there’ll be a lot of them, won’t be over the election’s result. They would, had Hillary Clinton won. For months, Donald Trump told supporters that it’d be rigged and to prepare to fight. But he won, so nothing happened; it was never an option for Democrats.
Instead, people will get worked up over nominations to the new government, the lobbyists and Washington-insiders he’d promised to fire, who’re already flooding his transition team, and clear signs that he was serious about his Tweeting, dissent, and preferred views of reality.
Republicans are elated, jubilant, outspoken, and why not? hopeful that this will be a period of exceedingly optimism, and reaffirmation of a fictional America, where everyone is white, wealthy, and self-entitled to do as they please. The rest of the country is having nightmares.
Likely issues to arise over the dinner table will concern climate changing, income equality, foreign policy, immigration, civil rights, women’s reproductive rights and respect, even specific topics such as the Black Lives Matter movement, Trump’s own (undeclared) taxes, and more.
The general rule is to state your own position, if you may, but refrain from preaching. You’ll have to listen to a lot of unpleasant, fact-free things about President Obama, the economy, the Clintons, NATO, Muslims and Mexicans, and possibly safety net government programs.
Don’t take the bait. Once voices reach a certain level (you set your own internal dial of tolerance), there’s no point to try to add anything, let alone winning the argument. That, actually, is out of question: the GOP won following the rules its candidate dismissed, but they still won.
If it’s impossible for you to understand why people make the choices that they do, even when you, and everyone else, can see the contextual reality and how it makes them the wrong choices, then you can’t call yourself tolerant, willing to see what’s better for everyone, not just you.
It’ll be a humble lesson of humility, and a stretched-to-the-point-of-rupture test of your ability to live through a democracy, not an idealized view of it, one no one is up to it, anyway, but a flawed, dirty, unfair, liable of manipulation regime that sometimes may call itself a democracy.
More than the many religious holidays clogging the American calendar, including the biggest of them, Thanksgiving still welcomes people of all colors, credos, genders, and nationalities. Once distilled to its basic concept is still a powerful example of what we can accomplish together.
As broken up as the very concept of modern family may be, we still depend on it for identity reassurance and emotional reference, even if it’s less than blood, or stronger than fear, what connects us to them, even as, all things considered, there shouldn’t be ‘them’ in family.
So we do have a mandate to fulfill this week, and that has nothing to do with the ever changing political allegiances of a group of wealthy individuals, who don’t actually need our hate or love to thrive. Our mission is simpler and yet more meaningful: heal ourselves.
On this or any other Thursday, we won’t be able to change anybody’s minds. Or history. Or the fact that we still kill millions of animals just to prove to each other that we’re celebrating. One thing, though, you’re still capable to do: show love and respect. Happy Thanksgiving. WC
If this U.S. election follows the course of the post-Brexit hangover, they’ll be family punch-ups till Easter and beyond. Though I haven’t experienced anything firsthand, my sister informs me that she still doesn’t who to say what to. Thank God I’m in Spain, but even here the few Brit ex-pats I know all assume I must agree with them, whatever they think. I nod my head. Fact is, I wasn’t eligible to vote, and even if I had been I don’t know which way I would have tipped.
I expect a lot of British families will be waiting to get at their families over the Christmas turkey. It’s a popular time for a alcohol-fuelled ruck.
Whether in the U.S. or U.K. I suggest plastic cutlery, paper plates and disposable cups to play it safe at both Thanksgiving and Christmas. And perhaps we should both drop the ‘U’.
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So true. Wise advice too. We’re lucky because only the ‘liberal wing’ of our family resides in NYC. We’re all depressed. Xmas is another story, though, but hopefully we’ll be better prepared (or angrier) by then. Well well. Cheerio
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