Thanksgiving: A Time for Pie, Pandering, and Perspective - America's Future Foundation

November 26, 2019


Thanksgiving: A Time for Pie, Pandering, and Perspective

By: Lydia Pitea

I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about Thanksgiving, as I’m sure we all do.

Thoughts on which leggings to wear to accommodate the food baby I am about to have and what foods I definitely will have to fight my dad and cousin for.

Feelings of excitement followed by guilt at how much I manage to consume.

And of course, the infamous feelings of dread at the conversations that will transpire around said gluttonous feast.

We all have likely had to sit through the awkward family holiday questions:

“Why aren’t you married?”

“Did you get fired?”

“When will you two have a baby?”

“Did you mean for your hair to look like that?”

And a personal favorite, “Did you see what that whacko [insert famous libertarian of the year] did?”

(Judgment included with all as a side dish!)

But really, the Thanksgiving table is a minefield of conversations from the frustratingly personal to the awkward and aggressively political. Now I don’t know what to tell you when grandma asks why you are still single. Trust me, I’m in that same sinking ship, but I have learned a little about how to talk to family about politics. It can be daunting, but I don’t think it necessarily has to be this way. Here are a few things that have helped me:

1. Use your judgement.
Sometimes you just have to avoid it. Now, this isn’t my recommendation in principle, but only you know how truly bad that conversation could go. If it could come to blows, I might suggest leaving it alone. On the other hand, consider it a unique opportunity. Truly aren’t we grateful to have this holiday where we can sit around the table eating exorbitant amounts of food and talk openly about freedom and critiquing the government? It’s a trait unique to America for a holiday unique to America. So while I do believe you know your situation best, I’d encourage you to gird your loins and be ready to lean in to these difficult conversations!

2. Keep the peace.
This includes a few different tricks. I have mentioned once or twice about not yelling in bars at those who disagree with you, and that also means not yelling across the table and getting spittle on the meal your mom spent half the day preparing. It also means no name calling and certainly no belittling. The purpose of the day is to give thanks; no one will thank you for treating them poorly.

3. Know your audience.
If good ole Uncle Joe is always looking to start some political discussion because he really wants to belittle you or name-call, just tell him, “No.” You do not have to engage him. But, if you know others in the room can and will behave respectably, go ahead, and if Uncle Joe tries to join, lay down the law. Also, remember that speaking with different family members will require different messaging and verbiage. Don’t try to sell grandma on marijuana legalization if you already know she thinks it’s a scary hippy drug. It’s called barking up the wrong tree. But, perhaps you can change her mind on tax policy or education reform because she was a school teacher. With this warning, also know what your audiences’ boundaries are. Know when you have pushed too far and ought to take a breather or stop the discussion entirely. It may also be that certain topics are off limits to some and should be respected. The goal isn’t to hurt our families, it’s to help them by showing them the wonderful ideas of liberty!

4. Know your message and listen to theirs.
Debate only works when you really know what you’re talking about. It also only works when you are willing to listen to what others have to say. As with any political discussion, you can gain more ground and respect with others by genuinely trying to see where they are coming from.

5. Set boundaries.
One good rule my mom set when we hosted Thanksgiving at our house was that these discussions ended once the food was served and we moved from the living room to the table. It allows those of us that want to participate a space to do so, and those that wish to abstain that option as well. It also keeps the table focused on the family and gratitude. Once we moved into the next room, the tone shifted. We could leave behind the excitement, angst, and possible frustration of our debate in the other room and return to the joy of simply being gathered together. This also creates an organic time limit so that the entire day doesn’t become one long and arduous debate – that isn’t the way Thanksgiving ought to be spent!

Hopefully with these tricks, you can navigate your political discussions with family a little more easily and maintain happy relationships with all, even amidst disagreement. But if and when things do go south, remembering these few things can help you not angrily yell back and possibly ruin a relationship, or at least prevent you from getting banned from eating any pie by your mom.

Now go forth and gorge yourselves my friends and may you have a day filled with happiness, gratefulness, and freedom.