Thanksgiving was “yuge” for some, “low energy” for others. The first Tuesday (after the first Monday) in November tends to affect the fourth Thursday in November like that. At least, it does every leap year.
Once for football and family and food, Thanksgiving increasingly evokes a day when a table’s seats become soap boxes. The turkey makes us sleepy. So do the bores.
Miss Manners demands we leave politics off the menu. Dear Prudence advises that we respond with regrets to a host that may cook a delicious turkey but casts repulsive ballots.
“I’m a liberal black woman who has been in a relationship with a conservative white man for more than a year,” a letter writer asked the agony aunt in asking out of a bipartisan turkey table. “The day after the election, I cried all day and was unable to dress myself or leave my apartment.” She petitions the advice columnist to grant her imprimatur to disinviting herself from Thanksgiving dinner.
“There are matters of political difference where I think it is important to look for compromise and common ground,” Dear Prudence points out. “This is not one of them.” She advises the letter writer to boycott the feast.
Scott Heins at The Gothamist gives very different counsel. He encourages his liberal readers to evangelize their message instead of condemning their conservative relatives. Rather than provoking quiet contempt, this strategy, Heins imagines, transforms blue-collar Trump voters into Chris Hayes progressives. “Trump’s call to white nationalism caught the ear of my father and millions like him across the country,” Heins writes. “We will have their ears at the Thanksgiving table. That’s a good place to begin.”
The impulse to politicize the dinner table comes from the same total-politics mindset that uses sports as a bully pulpit or conscripts stage actors who don’t vote to lecture Americans and its vice president-elect on how they vote. People obsessed with politics, frustrated by citizens ignoring their rallies and harangues, salivate, not over the food, but over the fools who can’t flee out of politeness. Some people can’t help themselves. And others can’t escape even when engaged in escapist, apolitical pursuits.
That’s the story of this election. Over-eager journalists, activists, and celebrities self-righteously dismissed Trump supporters as bigots, sexists, and worse. Not quite the captive audience in our living rooms prior to Nov. 8 that some were in their dining rooms on Nov. 24, Americans nevertheless quietly resented the CNNMSNBCPBS lectures. Trump’s victory rebutted this sermonizing strategy, but some people double-down rather than correct mistakes.
The Hillary Clinton voters I dined with smartly avoided politics, at the dinner table. Any response, given the election’s outcome, would necessarily put them emotionally in the red, no matter how therapeutic the initial zinger. Conversely, decent conservatives, quadrennially on the receiving end of sore-winner table tantrums after recent presidential election cycles, delivered an example rather than comeuppance. The catharsis that comes from a ha-ha-we-won-in-your-face spiel inevitably proves counterproductive. And who wants to divide what blood brings together?
The focus of so many fights made Thanksgiving great again. He did so by not only disarming the dining-room bombthrowers by winning but by urging Americans to come together on a day of unity, as well.
“It’s my prayer that on this Thanksgiving, we begin to heal our divisions and move forward as one country strengthened by shared purpose and very, very common resolve,” Donald Trump said on Thanksgiving eve. He conceded that “emotions are raw and tensions just don’t heal overnight.” But surely they can dissipate somewhat over stuffing and potatoes and cranberry sauce.
Hopefully his supporters dished out grub rather than grief to guests. They came to eat turkey, after all, not crow.