Thanksgiving, while it can be a wonderful time of feasting and fellowship, can also be stressful if you have relatives who disagree with your political views. It can certainly be stressful if you are the stand-alone liberal in the family. For me, it was also hard not to gloat about my candidate winning the election. But anytime I am tempted to start ranting about the myth of the welfare queen or about how Rick Santorum is an actual crazy person, I try to keep a few things in mind.
First of all, don’t antagonize. I do this too often; wanting to show off my intelligence about a certain topic, I launch into an explanation of why Paul Ryan’s budget plan is actually horrible for 95 percent of Americans. This is usually a bad idea. Once I get going, it’s hard for me to stop, and usually escalates until I storm out of the room and have to pretend that I’m not going outside to angrily huff on a cigarette.
On the flip side, don’t let them get under your skin. For example, if you’re playing Apples to Apples, and your uncle keeps referring to Obama as a tempermental socialist who hates white people, just try to keep your cool. Even though you feel like leaping out of your chair and beating him over the head with a nearby object.
Understand that you probably are not going to change his or her mind. If your uncle, or anyone else for that matter, has believed that birth control = baby killings for 40-plus years, a college student like myself has little to no chance of changing his or her mind. It’s pointless to argue yourself purple in the face and will usually only result in making that person even more firm in his or her beliefs.
Realize that your actions don’t just affect the person you’re arguing with. Even though I couldn’t care less that my uncle doesn’t like me, I love my grandmother with my whole heart and I know how it upsets her when her family fights. So when I’m debating about whether or not to bring up Obamacare at dinner time, I force myself to weigh the options: fire the opening shots of World War III, or just keep smiling and nodding like I actually care while my family gives me their opinions of each of the nice single boys at church.
And one final piece of advice: you don’t have to be BFF’s with your uncle, but you don’t have to hate him either. Even if he did tickle you so hard that you fell and permanently chipped your tooth when you were seven. But Thanksgiving doesn’t just have to be about politics. It can be about giving thanks for your family, even the ones you don’t agree with.