Thanksgiving is known for food, football and — most infamously — uncomfortable political discussions with family. This year, it is more important than ever to not shy away from those conversations, even if you have every year up until now.
No one should enter Thanksgiving with the intention of sparking an unruly argument over President Donald Trump’s impeachment or the Democratic primary field, but if those topics arise, as they often do, this is not the year to keep your mouth shut for the sake of maintaining the peace.
Some apples don’t fall far from the tree, but some fall miles and miles away. Ignoring that in an attempt to remain amicable is completely unproductive.
America is arguably more polarized than ever before as people on both ends of the political spectrum close their ears to any discussion that does not exist within their respective echo chambers.
These conversations are not a vehicle to tell your relatives they’re wrong or try to win a debate. Political discourse does not always mean shouting and bitter grudges — it can also foster a mutual understanding of where another person is coming from.
There are, however, notable exceptions to this call to action. Being able to confront your more conservative or liberal family members comes from a place of privilege. Many cannot voice their opinions around the Thanksgiving table out of fear their families will not respect their very existence.
For example, LGBTQ people may not be able to have a well-rounded conversation about their own rights if they have not come out yet and, even if they have, may not be respected by their relatives. Some people are too impassioned to separate their emotions from politics and may be threatening in the face of disagreement.
There is no obligation to embark on a self-destructive path if your opinions may endanger you and make you susceptible to legitimate harm from your family.
But if the worst consequence you will face for your thoughts is an argument and a few dirty looks once a year, you have no excuse. There is a difference between not feeling safe and not feeling comfortable.
It’s okay for the conversation to get intense — it likely will. But it is fully possible to separate heightened emotions from personal relationships and, in today’s climate, it is essential to do so.
All of this being said, we must err on the side of caution and not enter these discussions with a sense of moral superiority over relatives. Instead, it is essential to try to genuinely understand an alternative perspective, while remaining firm in your own when you must.
Skirting around politics, which affect all of us greatly, will never create a connection with family. Fully understanding each other means also understanding your disagreements.
This Thanksgiving, whether spent with family, friends or anything in between, we cannot let another apathetic dinner pass us by. On Thursday and every day, it is our job to stand up for ourselves whenever we can, even if that means your grandma refuses to pass you the mashed potatoes this year.