It's that time of year again. Time to come together with loved ones and give thanks for our many blessings. But for many of us, when we look back over the past year, it’s understandably difficult to be thankful.
Since this time last year, we’ve witnessed outlandish governmental policy and blatant displays of multiple forms of bigotry from many of our elected and appointed leaders. We’ve grieved in the wake of multiple tragic acts of violence and innumerable displays of hate.
During this short work week before Thanksgiving, you might be bracing yourself for the ever-painful experience of partaking in Thanksgiving dinner with relatives who hold dramatically different social and political views than you. Views that might actually align more closely with the hate, bigotry, and violence you’ve witnessed this past year than they (or you) might like to admit.
Because that experience is often unpleasant, you may be thinking, “Can't Thanksgiving be the one day we enjoy time with relatives we don't see very often, and leave politics at the door?”
Simply put, the answer is no. Here are five reasons:
1. Your Conservative relatives should know that many of the policies and legislation their party's politicians support actively harm you and/or people you care about. In fact, they should know that many of the issues on your mind aren't even "politics," in the true sense of the word: demanding that all people—black, brown, or white—be afforded the same rights, privileges, and protections under the law isn't a political desire—it's a moral one.
2. Your Conservative relatives should know that you love them. Likewise, if they truly love you, they shouldn't want to support policies that directly harm you or the people you love.
3. While your Liberal relatives may actually be more closely aligned with many of your views, they should be reminded how important these issues are to you. They should also know that you hope they are plugged in to their communities, volunteering time, donating money, and actively pushing for change not only on an institutional level, but in the hearts and minds of those with whom they interact daily.
4. You need to practice. In order to be the most effective social and political ally you can, you should be able to effectively engage those who support harmful policy. You must be able to articulate not only an accurate description of our most salient political issues, but also your strong policy reasoning opposing related harmful policies/legislation. That type of dialogue is often difficult, but becomes easier with practice. Who better to practice on than people who love you? Apply what you learn, in the weeks and months to come.
5. Spirited political discussion is as American as the apple pie you'll hopefully be enjoying. Relatives from all political stripes, particularly (and perhaps fortuitously), those who also happen to be of reliable voting age, love to remind us how brilliant America's founding fathers were and how great America is as a consequence. If residents of this great nation can't speak our minds and actively engage one another in advocacy for love and against oppression, what are we even doing here, drowning in all this freedom?
Americans often say America is the greatest country on Earth. Let's prove it.