November 23, 2016

17 Better Alternatives to arguing about Politics over the Holidays.

Flickr/Amanda Wood


Aunt Nelly sits across from you at the Thanksgiving table, her husband and teenage son flanking her protectively on either side.

You already don’t like these people. You do everything you can to avoid seeing them in between Thanksgiving dinners—but she is your mother’s sister, so you smile.

The smile goes away when she mentions the subject. You know, the one—besides religion—that nobody’s supposed to mention when they get together for family events. This one’s as big as an elephant—or a donkey, depending on Aunt Nellie’s persuasion. It sneaks up and sits right in the middle of the room.

I’ve been there before, and can feel it now.

A lead ball made of turkey is stuck in your throat. Your hands begin to tremble slightly as you butter the homemade pull-apart roll. There’s a shrill in your voice when you say, no thank you, I don’t want any of Aunt Nellie’s special—may it give her food poisoning—pumpkin pie.

You think to yourself, do I have to just sit here and take it? Can’t you just tell her once, just once, to shut up? Wait, are you effing kidding me? You really believe that sh*t!


Is it time to be quiet about your opinions, to smile, to try to draw Aunt Nellie out, to respectfully listen to her and to not form retorts in your own head so that you can empathize with her instead of demonizing her?

Is it time to be above it all?

Maybe not.

Maybe it’s time to arm yourself with a plan of action. Maybe if you “do something” instead of just sitting there and taking it, or swallowing it, you’ll feel better.

Instead of trying to change Aunt Nellie, you’ll know that you’ll be doing something to mitigate, in some small way, all of the damage you think her candidate is going to do over the next four years. If you do that, deep down inside, you can just smile benevolently and quietly at Aunt Nellie and let her ramble on.

Here’s a list of things that we can do instead.

I was initially inspired to write this by this wonderful story by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times.

1. Call or write your member of Congress and express your opposition to mass deportation, to cutting 22 million people off of health insurance, to nominations of people who are unqualified or bigoted, to reduced access to contraception and cancer screenings.

2. Attend a town meeting.

3. Sign up on the Council on American-Islamic Relations website and volunteer to fight Islamophobia.

4. Call a local mosque to offer support, or join an interfaith event.

5. Sign up for an “accompany my neighbor” program to be an escort for anyone who is now in fear.

6. Eat Chobani yogurt.

7. Give blood and register for organ donation.

8. Support groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, an immigration rights group, the A.C.L.U. or Planned Parenthood.

9. Subscribe to a reliable, respected newspaper as a way of resisting efforts to squelch the news media.

10. Donate to your independent news media.

11. Support refugees through the International Rescue Committee’s work for refugees.

12. Follow smart people on Twitter or Facebook that you disagree with.

13. Enlarge your social circle to include people with different views.

14. Do what you can to make sure that the needy aren’t forgotten in the next four years.

15. Support Reach Out and Read, an outstanding program that helps at-risk kids learn to read:

16. Volunteer to be a Big Brother or Big Sister, help through iMentor or volunteer to do something for children on a regular basis.

17. Volunteer at an agency or organization of your choice that you feel best expresses the matters that concern you.

Finally, just to make sure your Thanksgiving dinner is digested well,

“[Do] not lose hope. [Keep reminding yourself] that politics zigs and zags, and that you can do more than shout in the wind. [You] can fight for your values even between elections, and even at the micro level [you] can mitigate the damage to your neighbors and attempt to heal a social fabric that has been rent.” ~ Kristof 



Author: Carmelene Siani

Image: Amanda Wood/Flickr 

Editor: Catherine Monkman


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