Here’s why every American should be talking about politics and religion on Thanksgiving

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Of late, it has become a sad cliché to avoid talking politics at Thanksgiving lest Grandma be left in tears serving the pumpkin pie as yelling about Bidenomics, or wokeness or Trump echoes round the nicely decorated dining room.

It is not worth it, we are told, to risk the flinging of stuffing and turkey legs across the table because Uncle Joe said climate change is a hoax, or Cousin Tom’s new wife says Thanksgiving itself is a celebration of colonialism.

So just shut up about it all and talk about Taylor Swift, or football — or these days, both. 

This is terrible advice, not only for the individual Turkey Day gathering, but for the nation as a whole, because if there is any place where the deep divides of our body politic can be bridged, surely it is at a table of Thanksgiving with family and friends. 

Frankly, in the age of social media, we could all use the practice of ‘in real life’ conversations with people we love and care about, but disagree with, rather than the often anonymous targets of our political rage.

Earlier this month we saw a viral video of a Democrat Virginia voter on election day absolutely berating a volunteer from the opposite party, screaming every stereotype about the right you can think of.

There was something I couldn’t quite put my finger on about the video, so I watched it again, then again until it clicked.

This person was performing in the plastic of reality the exact kind of unhinged social media rants we see in our virtual lives, and once I saw it, I couldn’t unsee it.

For more than a decade, it has often been noted that people will say things online that they would never say in real life, but what if that has been a lie? 

What if our virtual personalities are quickly creeping into our actual human interactions?

That’s where a healthy dollop of political discourse addressing the topics of the day on Thanksgiving comes in. For many it is a rare chance to hear the other side and be heard in a trusting and loving environment.

This summer I attended my 30th high school reunion, one progressive classmate and I found ourselves in a corner, having a long talk.

We discussed the trans issue and children, pretty much the highest voltage third rail that exists in our society today.

It was respectful, thoughtful, and made me examine my own ideas more closely.

This was possible because we had known each other as children and young adults and knew that the motivation we both had was to protect kids, put another way, we both shared the same ultimate goal, but had different ways of achieving it.

There are those on the left who will tell you that anyone on the right is a white supremacist neanderthal. There are those on the right who will tell you that everyone on the left has a woke mind virus and that they are evil.

These are useless positions to hold, unless, of course, those promoting them have a financial or political interest in a deeply divided America, thankfully, the vast majority of Americans do not. 

The key to the high-minded political conversation, one that young people in attendance will keenly observe, by the way, is that the goal is not to win.

Unless your family is very weird, there is no straw poll after coffee.

No, the goal is to take stock of where we are as a family, as a community, as a nation, and nothing could be more appropriate on Thanksgiving.

After all, the 52 Pilgrims and their Native American counterparts were beginning to create a new thing in the world, a thing that today we call an American. 

It is the creation story not of the United States of America, but of the American people as a people. 

There they feasted in thanks to God, knowing so little about the grand, vast stretch of rolling America that we inherited from them and that now resides in our care.

Isn’t it appropriate and good for us, when commemorating the first Thanksgiving, to discuss amongst ourselves how well we are handling this sacred compact they bestowed on us back through the fog of centuries?

And you know what? If you listen to those you disagree with while keeping an open mind and heart, you might just be surprised, we might be doing a lot better than you think.

And wouldn’t that make for a Happy Thanksgiving.

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