The elephant and the donkey in the room: Avoiding political battles at the dinner table

You sit down to a chaotic Thanksgiving dinner. Your uncle, seated at the head of the table, is passionately teaching your 6-year-old nephew the best technique for polishing a gun; even having him practice on his Nerf gun. On the opposite end of the table, your 20-year-old cousin is making plans with the ‘cool aunt’ of the family to attend an upcoming rally in D.C. over New Year’s. You glance at the watch on your wrist and calculate that you have about eight minutes before their annual political match. Is it really too much to ask to eat in peace?

Simply put, talking about politics is one of the few topics that should be left off the table. Instead of focusing on such a controversial genre of conversation, families and friends should give attention to the meaning of the day: giving thanks for everything they have and enjoying a day with the people who are the most important.

There’s nothing more tense and awkward than a couple of family members, whom are both loved dearly but one might not agree with, going at it, especially over the holidays. While one may not agree with all of the views and beliefs at their Thanksgiving table, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and there is certainly a time and place for a (hopefully) civilized disagreement. The holiday season is not such a time.

Most children, from a very young age, are taught by their parents not to talk about someone behind their back. As adults, this can be easily implemented into one’s holiday dinner with the rule of “If they’re not invited, they’re not a topic of conversation.” Unless guests find themselves sharing a bloodline with Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, the party should be in the clear.

Many families or groups on Thanksgiving come from near and far to share a meal and take part in tradition together. Personally, my family drives almost two hours and 30 minutes for our annual event. Others that join us drive anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours as well. With many different views and perspectives reflected by the range of those attending, a political war could easily erupt. Everyone takes great effort in making Thanksgiving happen, so everyone should adopt the mindset of not spoiling the night by getting into a fight.

If everyone makes such an effort to get together, the last thing anyone wants to deal with is harsh words or offended family members and guests who feel awkward. It’s similar to the feeling of being at a friend’s house and they’re getting yelled at by their parents. Unsure of what to do, an unpleasant vibe drifts into the room. This wave is exactly what every family should aim to remove from their November feast.

It is certainly no one’s goal to hurt or upset another person, but unfortunately it is relatively easy to do. The easiest way to keep the calm, cool and collected atmosphere of your get together? Withhold opinionated comments that could be harshly disagreed with, taken in a way that wasn’t intended meaning or create a cloud of intense awkwardness over an otherwise sunny 4p.m. dinner.


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