Afraid that your gun-worshipping, racist uncle is going to make your blood boil? Here's how to handle the situation
22 Noviembre 2018 16:18
Thanksgiving: a holiday sold to millions of Americans as a time to sit down with family, share food, and show gratitude for whatever version of history you were taught at school. But, let’s be honest, for many it is a time of forced family time, sitting across the table from your uncle who thinks climate change is good because summers will be warmer, and your grandmother who is “alright with the blacks” but wonders why “there are so many living around here”.
If you happen to hail from an extended family where absolutely everyone shares the same political views, then kudos. Your fellow Americans, however, will have some uncomfortable conversations over the dinner table this year. It’s coming up to two years since Donald Trump was inaugurated and the United States - and the world - is a very different place. Usual tensions that run high in any family will be at boiling point if a ‘leftie liberal’ Bernie Sanders stan and Trump devotee break bread today.
The Thanksgiving table has long been a battleground for the everyday American. It can start with a celebration about how the US is a better place for its forefathers from different cultures coming together (supposedly) to share their first feast together, and end with a shouting match about building a wall to keep Mexicans out. Welcome to the irony of 2018, people. If America has always been in a flux about what its core values are, Trump’s presidency has shot a poison-tipped arrow right through the heart of polite civility. It’s no longer time to “sit down and shut up because it’s making your grandparents upset (respect your elders)”, because overlooking bigotry in favour of courtesy can no longer be the answer.
America is more polarised than it has been in decades. Trump and his administration have emboldened some of the country’s worst traits - racism, conservatism, misogyny, ignorance, the list goes on - and so-called liberals are in despair about the the turbulent path their country is sleepwalking down. Although the government’s brand of xenophobic nationalism more acutely affects the most marginalised in society, it will also have far-reaching consequences for nearly everyone. And a cold, hard fact is that white people could have prevented Trump’s presidency. If you’re white and disagree with Trump’s unashamedly regressive rhetoric, it is your job - nay duty - to oppose the prejudiced views of those around you. Including your family.
So, how to do it? There are useful ways of having the conversation, and there are those that will just end with bitter words and spoiled food. I have written a guide to help you get through your Thanksgiving dinner without being kicked out of the house, but that might help you reach across the abyss that separates you from your Trump-supporting relatives.
First and foremost, listening is probably your most powerful ally. It is so easy to get irate when those shoveling turkey into their mouths spew some “alternative facts” about immigrants stealing jobs or that white rights are being attacked. However, take a deep breath and wait to hear them out. As horrendous as these things sound, change the discourse and ask questions that might actually require reflection. Momentarily escape from your echo chamber. Ask what policies they voted for, if they voted for Trump because they are having personal problems themselves and thought this would be the answer. This will allow for some emotional connection and that you are hearing them. You’re not just some “elite” that thinks they know everything. This leads onto the next point...
There is nothing that any of us hate more than feeling patronised and being talked down to. You might have the right to if you actually know your shit, but being condescending is a sure-fire way to stop those you’re talking to from listening. Not everybody who supports Trump is (an overtly) racist, bigoted twat; although it is difficult to understand the cognitive dissonance of those who say they aren’t but who vote for the Racist Bigot-In-Chief . People are scared, poor, can’t find work, misguided about his promises to resurrect industries that have torn communities apart. Attempting to understand this position will better equip you to tackle the specific issues plaguing people and point out that Trump is not going to wave a magic wand and solve these problems. (If your relative is a racist, bigoted twat, then I see no problem with condescension; throw in some swear words too).
Mistrust of the media is one of Trump’s most vital lifelines. Never before has journalism in the US been so demonised, so hated, and been labelled “the enemy of the people”. It is a worrying time. So, if your Trump-supporting family member keeps shouting “FAKE NEWS!” over your pecan pie, hit them with some facts from neutral sources. Think government websites, nonpartisan research groups, NGOs, science papers, even try Fox News if the situation calls for it. Truth is truth.
You are basically never going to get a long-time Republican to change their mind over one Thanksgiving meal and admit that they should have voted for Hillary. Party affiliations run deep, and it can be a sticking point for levelling with those around you if you put all focus on the party you support. Instead, appeal to humanity, to basic goodness, and point out the fact that Trump is really fucking weird and even he is proving too unlikeable for the Republican Party.
This could mean telling them about how minority groups are being targeted. It might include telling them about a friend you have who fits into one of the categories Trump has targeted throughout his campaign, and explaining to them how the election has affected them. It could be you or someone around the dinner table that feels attacked also. If you’re a woman, Trump’s “grab them by the pussy” ideology feeds into rape culture and makes you feel more insecure about your safety. Or, you might have a young cousin who is gay but too afraid to come out. The possibilities are endless. And studies have shown that family has a huge influence on political outlook. Your second Amendment-worshipping grandfather may be able to chastise the faceless, anonymous “liberals” coming for his guns, but it is harder to ignore your grandchild telling you that they’re scared to go to school because they might get shot and killed.
You deserve it. Thanksgiving is tough. Any family gathering is tough. Often it’s people thrown together who have almost nothing in common and who are expected to make nice and smile and nod. There is a good chance things are going to get a bit tense - especially if alcohol is involved. Take a deep breath, and excuse yourself for a bit of space. Then get back in the trenches.