Thanksgiving was opportune for awkward political discussion with relatives. Since many students at East likely spent time with extended family over the break, it is not inconceivable to assume that many students were faced at some point with the decision to brush aside a snide political remark from a relative, or to snap back with their own wisdom. For any students who encountered relatives living outside the “liberal bubble” of Chapel Hill, the likelihood of familial divide regarding politics was probably even greater – notably amongst elderly relatives, as they tend to see things slightly differently than their millennial descendants.
In any case, the prospect of these discussions is no stranger to many, as implied by the viral SNL skit from 2015 entitled, “A Thanksgiving Miracle.” However, the social apprehension that often accompanies this time of year is rarely caused solely by the presence of political differences amongst families. The real fear seems to lie with the prospect of confronting these differences. While vocalized disagreements such as these can certainly put a damper on the otherwise pleasant gatherings of the holidays and cause awkwardness in the spur of the moment, consciously avoiding political discussion altogether does not always prove to be the best course of action in the long run.
When it comes to the political spectrum these days, there is little common ground. Much of the “politics” of our time are no longer a matter of how to reach a common goal as they used to be, but a matter of what goal to reach for. Issues of basic human rights are debated like tax codes, and have become cornerstones in the platforms of each party. However, it is important to find whatever agreement we can with the family members we do not see eye-to-eye with, even if that common ground may not strictly lie anywhere on the political spectrum. Recognizing the bias of one’s own political affiliation goes far in minimizing hypocrisy, and as both parties are inherently biased, any two people could agree on this regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum.
As proven by what many found to be a surprising outcome to this year’s presidential election, one finds limited enlightenment by living in an echo chamber overwhelmingly populated by wealthy, white liberals. Real change can only be brought about once its custodians gain a proper estimate of their opposition, which can never be accomplished by pretending various pressing issues simply do not exist. More people would likely agree with this outlook with regard to strangers than they would with regard to their relatives. However, we feel much less obligation to speak cordially with and listen respectfully to strangers than we do our relatives. This diplomacy that we disregard in Twitter feuds with strangers yet cower at the thought of losing with our relatives is the backbone of bipartisan politics. Regardless of our own willingness to compromise on an issue, this diplomacy should never be tossed aside. It is the only way to gain someone’s open ear, and in the end it may just gain their open mind as well.
Suppressing our bitterness over the conflicting views of our relatives may help avoid an argument, but it will not allow us to forget those views completely. Unlike our friends we do not choose our family, so we may as well try and develop the best familial relationships we can. Moving past these political differences will go a long way in strengthening our bond with relatives, and allowing our political bitterness to well up will only inhibit our best perception of them. Besides, if we reach the point where we can mention a particular current event in a cordial manner to relatives with opposing views, we may be pleasantly surprised to find that their views on the given issue are not so different from ours after all.