Thanksgiving Table Tantrums

November 21, 2018

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Well, the season is upon us where many of you will sit around a Thanksgiving table and see relatives or acquaintances that you enjoy so much that you limit the time you spend with them to exactly once per year. And many of us will use this opportunity to celebrate family and give thanks to engage in heated discourse over politics, religion, or anything else that you can desperately seek to disagree with other people about and cause tension at the dinner table. The Sane One and I have actually been invited to a friend's place for Thanksgiving, and the really cool thing about it is that these friends are about as opposing to our viewpoints as you can possibly get. And yet, we strangely get along quite well. When I know that they will be at a function, I find myself looking forward to attending all that much more because they will be there. Our friend joked around that her daughter and son-in-law will also be there, and they are also liberals, so they might be outnumbered at their own home in regards to political ideology! Now that is a brave conservative if I have ever known one! Bill Maher said something that I completely agree with last week. He said to not talk politics or religion at the Thanksgiving table because you're not going to convince the other side of anything and there is a multitude of other topics to discuss. I am bound and determined to celebrate our commonalities and to strengthen our friendship through connectors, not dividers. 

 

What is it about human nature that causes us to take a moment that should be joyful and create additional stress? Do we identify so strongly with our identities that we have to broadcast them at all times? Saturday Night Live's Bobby Moynihan used to have a character that I enjoyed called Drunk Uncle. Now hopefully none of you can relate to Drunk Uncle's ridiculous statements during holiday dinners, but probably many of you can. It was always a secret goal of mine to be Drunk Uncle so that I would get invited to holiday family events as infrequently as possible. It turns out that I have plenty of other character flaws that achieved that goal without the need to be inebriated and say controversial things whilst stuffing my face with turkey. Drunk Uncle is the dreaded foe against which we gird our loins and brush up on current events so that we can display our moral and intellectual superiority and make sure the other family members know who is the better person. The problem is that Drunk Uncle really doesn't give a shit if he wins or not. So you're basically fighting someone who doesn't even know that they are in a contest. Drunk Uncle will play along until he gets bored, and then saunter off to the living room to opine his viewpoint on a football game, leaving you sputtering at the table, clutching your pearls, and castigating your partner for not being more supportive. Drunk Uncle will spend no time at all reflecting on the inane and ludicrous things he said, but you'll spend that night replaying the conversation and probably adjudicate it on Facebook asking your "friends" for validation that you were so brave to stand up for injustice and ignorance.

 

This year, don't do it. This year, of all years, just don't take the bait. It's just not worth it. One of my favourite sayings is "Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one. And most of them stink." I added the last sentence because I think it really just hammers the nail in on that point. If most of them stink, you have a very strong mathematical probability that your opinion stinks, too. Now, I don't know about you, but when I rip a particularly powerful fart at home, the Sane One doesn't try and top it with one of her own. She sighs and lights a scented candle or suggests we take a trip for ice cream while it dissipates. So if we don't try and outfart each other, why are we trying to out-stinkify other people opinion-wise? It's the same damn thing if you really think about it. Light an opinion candle. What the hell is that? Well, for example, when Drunk Uncle says that white lives matter, too, your opinion candle could be "Absolutely, especially during food eating contests. Speaking of which, please pass the candied yams." Drunk Uncle will look at you in utter confusion and probably pass you the yams in complete silence, frowning because he has no idea what the hell just happened. And then you can change the subject to what an absolute travesty Dancing with the Stars has become. 

 

I say this year especially because the divides that exist between Americans are as strong and powerful as I can recall in my lifetime. On this blog, I take every opportunity I can to jab at the opposition. But there are moments where that just isn't appropriate. At night during the Civil War, Billy Yank and Johnny Reb would meet in the middle, trade coffee for tobacco, and briefly, just sit around and just be normal human beings for a moment. The fighting would continue the next day, but just for a few minutes, they put aside their differences and just enjoyed each other's company. There will be plenty of time to go back to our normal ways of conduct, as soon as the next day, as you all fight each other over Black Friday sales. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, right and left, religious and atheist, adoptee and adoptor. Good luck with your opinion candles, I hope you don't have to use any. 

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