Thanksgiving 101: Talking politics at the table

Thanksgiving 101: Talking politics at the table
Seinfeld, "The Butter Shave": "Hey, buddy."

Everyone knows it's Bad Idea Jeans to discuss politics at dinner, especially holiday dinner, because, when your guests are people with whom the only thing you have in common is DNA, things have a tendency to GET MESSY.

The problem is, politics are on everyone's mind right now. The world is going to Hell in a shit basket. Everyone has opinions about how things should be handled. And there's not a lot of gray area, ideologically. It's black or white. Religious Freedom or actual religious freedom. Not to mention, the candidates are invading popular culture. Donald Trump was on Saturday Night Live. Ted Cruz is (doing a miserable job of) quoting The Simpsons. The conversation is inescapable.

So how do you navigate the situation with the grace of a thousand Martha Stewarts and fifty-six Gwyneth Paltrows?

1. Do not engage. This is how you should deal with internet trolls and it's how you should deal with your drunk/high uncle who likes Bernie Sanders just because WEED. When he starts spouting off, take it as a cue to pass him what he really wants -- the bowl of chips and a heaping slice of apple pie.

Other deflections:

  • Children! They're there, so use them. Pull them into the room and force them to perform the latest piece they're practicing on piano. Have them show Grandma their latest artwork/report card. If they're young enough, tickle them until they vomit all over the floor. Vomit = Nature's subject changer.
  • Travel! Has Cousin Billy just come back from a trip to Alaska? He's been dying to show you those pictures. Get him to shut up about the media's attacks on Ben Carson by asking to see pictures of the narwhal he almost caught on camera.
  • TV! Your relatives probably love Blindspot. Catch up on Blindspot before Thanksgiving for an instant conversation starter and deflection away from the political discourse.

2. Pander. If you can't get Grandpa Jim to stop talking about Rand Paul's teeny, tiny government, take a cue from the political candidates and make Grandpa feel like the smartest guy in the room. Agree with him. Everything he says, nod and says, "You're right, Grandpa." It's one day. Keep a glass of wine nearby. Or a bowlful of pie a la mode. You do you you.

Examples of nice things to say about the candidates:

  • Carly Fiorina's a woman.
  • Ben Carson was a really good neurosurgeon.
  • Martin O'Malley is a thing that exists.
  • Ted Cruz kind of looks like that guy who won the Oscar for The Artist. Good for him.

3. Fight! I don't recommend this, but if you can't bite your tongue the whole day and you want to use the opportunity to school your family on politics over the canned cranberry jelly, make sure you come prepared. Have notecards. Make PowerPoints. Learn every single argument for or against your candidate of choice, as well as ALL THE OTHER CANDIDATES in the race. Leave no stone unturned. Read the regular newspapers. Read the online only journals. Read all the wingnut sites. Be prepared for any and all eventuality. Know all the rumors and accusations.

Bonus: You'll probably be so worn out from all the studying, you'll pass out and forget to show up for Thanksgiving dinner.

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