Thanksgiving is almost here, and ironically arrives just after the election. This year, things are going to be a little more tense, a little less thankful, and a lot more painful and heated if the subject of politics comes up while eating some turkey and pumpkin pie.
What do you do when you visit your family and you are divided in your political beliefs? Should you even talk politics at Thanksgiving?
Some might be celebrating a victory and others still mourning the loss of the election. While it’s difficult to come together as we have in the past, considering there’s such a division between red and blue and such polarizing candidates, maybe it’s time for a different approach.
Personally, I will have a really hard time talking to my conservative family members. Not all of them voted for Trump, but they contributed to his win by not voting for Clinton or not voting for a President at all. To me, this means they contributed to the current fear-mongering climate, to racial and religious and civil rights injustices, to a new conservative agenda that threatens millions in our country.
Since it’s Thanksgiving, I don’t want to spend my time in uncomfortable silence or defending my beliefs, because I want it to be a peaceful time. But I can’t sit back and pretend it’s all okay, either.
Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: I have to search for compassion and empathy, especially among those with whom I disagree.
There are some commonalities among voters on both sides whether we admit it or not. People voted because they are scared. They want a better economy, a more secure job. They want roads and bridges to be repaired, a good healthcare system, and good schools. Most importantly, they want a change.
I know what it’s like to be scared, to want security, to feel passionately about something. Ultimately in life, we all want the same things – love, peace, compassion and understanding. We want to be heard, and we want to protect our families.
But we also have different perspectives on how these goals will be accomplished.
Make no mistake: I’m fighting for what I believe in. The hate, intolerance, and bigotry that erupted as a result of this election is alarming. Many people in this country don’t feel safe, including your neighbors and friends who are fast becoming victims of racial and religious intolerance (whether you believe the reports or not). The hate crimes, especially those targeting children, are unconscionable.
Your family members deserve to know how you feel and what you believe if you want to express yourself. But you also owe them the courtesy of your attention. Let them talk and explain how they came to vote the way they did, how they see the world in general. Chances are, you both want some of the same things, and you both have similar goals in life (love, family, prosperity). But you have different views on how to accomplish these goals.
Here’s your challenge (and mine): it’s time to muster some compassion and reflection for those who disagree, even if you don’t get any in return.
Remember what you like about family members who disagree with you. Aunt Sally might have voted for the other candidate, but she still took you into her home when you were little and helped you get into college. Uncle Rick might have voted against you but he taught you to play baseball and has always been there for you through hard times.
Look for the love. That is what is called for right now. Martin Luther King said,
“…love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals…And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive…”
We don’t have to agree with or even like family members right now, but we must try to have compassion and understanding when we communicate. As Leonard Cohen says,
“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
That crack is love.
I’m not saying give up the fight, or your beliefs. I’m not saying you can’t be disappointed or angry. But I do believe that you owe it to others, especially family, to listen and try to understand. This is the only way forward. This is the only way to invoke change.
Happy Thanksgiving…make it a loving one.