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.

Vote for the bananas

Today I clicked on a fox news story about a Senate bill that was sponsored by republicans and blocked in a vote. I clicked because I saw a tweet about checking out the comments. I scrolled down to the comment section and found something I’ve never seen – new comments were coming in so quickly that I couldn’t even read those that were already there. Keep in mind that my day job is to manage a website for a newspaper. I watched the sentences escape my line of vision with a speed that rivals an olympic sprinter.

It went on for about 30 minutes before I finally hit the x in the upper right corner.
It was a seemingly endless stream of nothing but hateful comments about liberals and threats to the President’s life. One particular commenter typed intermittent posts in all caps that read some variation of “JFK WAS KILLED FOR LESS”.
It was unbelievable and I couldn’t turn away.

There’s someone close to me I’ve regrettably sparred with over political commentary… on facebook nonetheless.

I don’t say I regret it because I believe debate over political differences is wrong. Healthy debate is exactly that – healthy. I say it because this particular person chooses to use hate speech and insults to rag on his opposition and I strive to be better than that. It’s not that I’m a better person. It’s just that my particular brand of failing to be good doesn’t come in the form of hurling insults. I don’t choose to use that kind of language, but I’ve found, in the disappointed moments after open discourse, that arguing with someone who uses hate speech doesn’t feed my best side.

I told you that what I saw was happening on Fox News’ website. It doesn’t matter that it was Fox News. It doesn’t matter that the commenters hate liberals, or claim to on the internet. It could’ve easily been posted by MSNBC and the commenters could’ve been spewing vitriol about “bigoted” Republicans.

The problem isn’t who is saying it or even what they’re saying, but how.
How we’ve come to accept this kind of behavior as normal.
How we got here from where we used to be.
When I was small I remember my parents barely even discussed who they voted for. I’ve often shared the story from 1996 Kids Vote when I, a second grader, voted for Bob Dole because without a reference for either candidate, I chose the one who shared a name with the bananas my mom packed in my lunchbox.
As a kid, I thought it was rude to directly ask someone for whom they voted.. I was taught it was private. Maybe this was just in my family. Maybe my parents weren’t even insistent that it should remain private, but that was my young brain’s interpretation of things.
I don’t know that there’s anything wrong with sharing which candidate you support. I’m sure they appreciate it, to some degree (particularly if your support is bolstered by cash).
I just don’t understand how, in less than three decades, we’ve gone from not really discussing it to blasting people we otherwise love and respect simply because their allegiance lies on another line.
I don’t know how we went from coming together over national tragedy to indirectly calling for the assassination of our current President.
The answer might be somewhere in those comments, but I won’t be able to find it until the hatred slows it’s roll just a little bit.
My friend George Patrick shared a similar story on his blog after reading this. Check it out & give him a follow! You’ll be glad you did.