You may be wondering how you’re going to share mashed potatoes with someone when you don’t even share a basic concept of morality.
So, hey, how much have the last few days sucked? A lot, right? Well, luckily, the election is over and we have a few weeks before the dystopian nightmare future takes effect—time to kick back, relax, and plunge headlong into the most stressful time of the year. Before the blissful relief of a clean new calendar can hit, we’ve still got to struggle through weeks of frantic budgeting, gift-buying, social gatherings with people we don’t know well (or know way better than we’d prefer), pretending to like gifts that reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of who you are as a person, shared meals with people who can never be bothered to remember you’re allergic to eggs, and, of course, discussing politics with relatives.
I have never seen such an outpouring of pre-Thanksgiving dread in my various social circles as I have during the last few days. If you’re planning to go home to a family who voted for Trump—or who didn’t vote for him but thinks protesters are “overreacting” and that we should all “give him a chance”—you might be gearing up for a stressful visit. This November, many of us are coming face-to-face with the very tangible consequences of ignoring our ideological disparities with the people we love. You may be wondering how you’re going to share mashed potatoes with someone when you don’t even share a basic concept of morality. Here are four possible strategies:
Option 1: The Placater
This is the person who smiles through gritted teeth, forces a joke, and changes the subject. The Placater refuses to discuss politics and instead asks for your stuffing recipe or shows you the pictures he took on vacation in Hawaii.
Benefits: You’re unlikely to face direct harassment, insults, or threats. You’ll get to eat your turkey and gravy in relative peace.
Drawbacks: Thinking about all the things you let slide, and the fact that your relatives might still believe you condone their regressive views, will make you feel gross later.
Option 2: Kind But Firm
The Kind But Firm Thanksgiving attendee doesn’t yell in their Trump-voting relatives’ faces, but she doesn’t let problematic comments pass unremarked either. She comes prepared (possibly with the help of the Showing Up For Racial Justice Thanksgiving toolkit) to discuss difficult topics with compassion, and she knows how to keep her temper in check, even when frustration and anger are incredibly justified.
Benefits: This is by far the approach that has the best chance of actually changing your loved ones’ hearts and minds. If you can define some common ground, you may be able to lay the foundation that could bring your friends and family on board for the difficult fights ahead.
Drawbacks: This is HARD. It’s exhausting and likely to feel thankless, as changing someone’s perspective seldom happens in one conversation. This is a huge amount of emotional labor to take on, particularly as someone who is personally endangered by a Trump administration. If you’re a person of color, an LGBTQ person, a disabled person, an abuse survivor, Muslim, undocumented, etc., weigh the possible benefits of this approach against the strain on your own emotional health.
Option 3: Full Speed Ahead
This person wears their “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt with a #NoDAPL pin to the dinner table, opens the conversation with “Why did you vote for a racist?” and doesn’t hold anything back. They’re aggressive and confrontational, but just like the Kind But Firm, they came prepared. They’ve got facts and figures in their pocket and they know how to counter misinformation.
Benefits: This approach is cathartic as fuck. It feels great to tell someone what you really think without holding back.
Drawbacks: You stand a very good chance of doing long-lasting damage to your relationships, and a fairly low chance of actually bringing anyone around to your point of view—no matter how correct you are, people tend to shut down when they feel attacked. They retreat into the ideology that feels comfortable and you end up screaming at each other across a chasm that swallows up your words. You’re also in danger of crossing the line from political disagreement into personal attack. If you’re going to go Full Speed Ahead, make sure you have a plan in place to leave (even if it’s just for a walk around the yard) if emotions become too intense.
Option 4: Fuck All That
If you’re Team Fuck All That, you choose to spend the day alone, or with people who share your views. You donate the cost of the plane ticket you didn’t buy to the Standing Rock water protectors, or you volunteer to spend the day serving food to refugees, or you simply binge-watch your favorite shows on Netflix and revel in your glorious solitude. You create a new tradition that reflects your own beliefs. You make the choice to only have people in your life whose values you respect, at least for this one 24-hour period.
Benefits: Instead of spending your holiday walking a tightrope between social expectations and your own morals, you can spend it pursuing activities that are meaningful and joyful.
Drawbacks: Some families take grave offense to not coming home for Thanksgiving, so you may damage your relationships even without being present (although it’s up to you how much you care about that). You also won’t have the opportunity to win your family members over to your point of view.
Whatever you choose, please prioritize your own emotional health and well-being. We need you strong and thriving so you can stay in the fight. I am so thankful for everyone out there doing what they can to make the world a better place—and, yes, keeping yourself alive counts. Hang in there, everyone, and remember that you deserve support and love and an extra slice of pumpkin pie.
Lindsay King-Miller is a queer femme who does not have an indoor voice. Her writing has appeared in Bitch Magazine, Cosmopolitan.com, Buzzfeed, The Hairpin, and numerous other publications. She lives in Denver with her partner, a really cute baby, and two very spoiled cats. She is the author of Ask A Queer Chick (Plume, 2016).