How to survive Thanksgiving

I keep seeing these posts about how to survive Thanksgiving with relatives who have different political views from yours. I’ve seen tweets and Facebook posts echoing the same concern. And I want to ask ARE YOU KIDDING?

Is this an honest concern people are having? I’m seriously asking this question, because I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around it.

This election was monumental. It changed the course of politics. Many voters on both sides were left wondering ‘how could ANYONE vote for ______?’

It’s that very refusal to try to understand the other side that got us into this divisive mess in the first place. But we’ve been here before. We’re America. We had a civil war, for goodness sake.

How am I going to survive Thanksgiving with relatives whose opinions are different from mine?

I’ll tell you how – like I have every. other. year.

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Last November, a dozen or so of my uncles and cousins came together to help us start building a barn from the ground up, to be used for our wedding reception. For several months after, they popped up to Pickens County on weekends or holidays and sometimes in the middle of the week to help us build walls, a loft, a roof, etc. It was one of the best displays of community I’ve ever witnessed. Russ and I learned new building skills side-by-side and watched as all of these men and women who, at times, couldn’t be more different put a building together piece by piece. A year later, I’m still trying to find words strong enough to suit my gratitude.

I find myself in the middle on many issues. I like to try to understand all sides, because it’s my job and because I’ve just always been that way.

Still, I have an uncle whose political opinions are often very different from mine, which honestly seems pretty standard in any family of more than… I don’t know… two people.

He’s the same uncle who was the first person to see me when I arrived home on the morning my papaw (his father) died. He had to break the news to me when I wondered aloud why he was visiting on a random Saturday in April “Are we having a party?”

He’s the same uncle who was driving me home when we found my dog dead on the road. He helped my dad scoop her off of the asphalt, in the dark, and bury her in our backyard.

Am I supposed to block out these memories in favor of fighting about which Presidential candidate was worse while we pass the turkey?

Get yourselves together, people. You’re about to share a meal with people who held you as an infant. They’ve cleaned off scrapes after you fell while running on the concrete at your grandparents’ house and they’ve celebrated your achievements through the years.

Stop asking yourself how you’re going to survive Thanksgiving with people who think differently from you.

We all *should* know someone’s 2 minute decision on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November didn’t make transform them into anyone other than the person you already know them to be.

Challenge yourself to disengage from conversations that make you forget that.

Or, better yet, have the conversations and challenge yourself to remember why that person’s opinion matters to you in the first place.

Oh, and enjoy the pie.

 

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I don’t care who you’re voting for

I’ve watched news stories that are not even remotely about politics turn into political fistfights on television station and newspaper Facebook pages. I’ve seen comments on a blog post about coupons become a laundry list of what’s wrong with Hillary Clinton.

I’ve felt my blood boiling as I saw my own words twisted into a politically charged skirmish and I’ve bitten my tongue.

I’ve leaned back, taken a few deep breaths and reminded myself that people see what they want to see.

This is the world we live in. Things entirely unrelated to politics still become jabs at Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. The great majority of us are assuming everyone’s heads are in the political game. We’re three weeks ahead of the most heated presidential election of our lives – how could we be thinking or talking about anything else?

But we can and we are.

I’m thinking about the people I love. I’m thinking about how I’ll spend my next weekend and when I might see my friends who live far away again. I’m thinking about what I’ll cook for dinner and where I’ll get my next story idea. I’m thinking about what I can do on a small scale to help make Greenville a better community. I’m wishing I was at the beach and dreaming of a nice, long hike through fall colors.

To think that I’d reserve valuable space in mind for petty politics where I could fit poems or books or song lyrics to terrible early-2000s pop songs is ridiculous.

I’ve never wanted to change anyone’s mind when it comes to politics. If I ever ask(ed) you questions about your preferred presidential candidate, it’s because you were open with me and I wanted to learn more. It’s because I know you’ve given your decision serious thought and I believe there’s value in the opinions of someone I respect.

But I don’t actually care which box you’ll check on the ballot.

I care that you’re kind. I care that you’re happy and healthy. I care that you have all of the things you need and some of the things that you want.

None of these things is changed by which name you choose on Nov. 8.