In this age of pluralistic families, we are likely to encounter at our family Thanksgiving dinners folks of all political stripes. Perhaps you have a very conservative uncle/nephew/father, who thinks Obama is a raging socialist. Perhaps your younger sister is coming back from college imbued with a new sense of what justice in the world means. Maybe your aunt recently came out and she is bringing her new "friend" over to meet the family for the first time.
In other words, Thanksgiving -- food and alcohol galore -- is a veritable powder keg. Add politics to the mix and you are likely to light the fuse. So here are some topics you might want to avoid this Thanksgiving.
5. The Catch-All: Obama/Cruz/Washington/Crooks/Tea Party/Socialists
This topic comes up after the alcohol has really started to flow later into the night. And it's not even a topic per se, it's just a drunken stray remark that, if even one person picks up on, has started a full-blown incoherent, drunken, neither side knows what the hell they're talking about argument. You just want to watch the frickin' Steelers-Ravens or UT play Tech, and now this.
Now, given the time of night, you have permission to raise your voice: "Guys, you [conservative/liberal family members] are not going to convince them that you're right about [insert issue here] tonight! Science has proven this! So let's just watch football, the end!"
You just saved Thanksgiving.
4. Guns/Gun Control
Newtown is coming up on a sad one-year anniversary, and there seems to be another "active shooter" story every month. But people feel very strongly about their guns, or lack thereof. So, over turkey, someone inevitably says: "guns don't kill people, people kill people." Now, over turkey and gravy and wine, is not the time to debate the metaphysical veracity of this statement and the causation of gun deaths.
Instead, stick the mechanics of guns. Talk about guns themselves. People who own guns love to talk about their particular gun or the gun they're going to buy. It's like asking a car guy about cars: "What gun are you buying yourself for Christmas, Uncle Gary?" "Why do you want that gun?" "What makes that gun better than the other ones?" Now, tune out for 10 minutes, nod your head occasionally and congratulate yourself for keeping the peace. 3.The Legalization of Marijuana
Marijuana use is closer and closer to becoming decriminalized or simply legalized (Colorado and Washington). Indeed, for the first time ever, over 50 percent of adults say they have at least tried marijuana once.
But your parents are part of the other 50 percent and your little sister, home from college for Thanksgiving break, wants to talk about how it's great that the marijuana laws are being liberalized. Mom is throwing eye daggers at your sister. Grandma is nonplussed.
Now, you could just slap her upside the head and call her an idiot. However, we're trying to keep the peace; what she needs right now is a conversation restart button. Quick, what will distract her? (1) A question about her high school boyfriend; (2) is it really true that college girls, her friends, not her of course, are just into hook-ups and don't want to date anymore? (3) Miley Cyrus or, finally, (4) Kimye. Your ADHD sister off on a new rant now and Mom is asking if you want another slice of pie . . . apple or pumpkin?
2. Gay Marriage
Last June, the Supreme Court bolstered gay marriage with two major decisions. Many celebrated, but not social conservatives. And now your recently out of the closet aunt wants to talk LGBT rights and you can just see that Uncle Gary, with each successive Jack and Coke, is getting more and more angry.
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SHOW ME HOW
Now, you want to be supportive of Linda (your lesbian aunt), but keep the family peace. So steer Linda into talking about her kids, how her ex-husband is doing (he's in Vegas with a stripper probably), the vacation her and the new "friend" have planned to Key West in February. Just stay away from the how great the Supreme Court decisions were.
Whether one loves it, hates it or doesn't understand it, it is here to stay. Yes, the roll-out has been a disaster, but it is likely that in a year the roll-out will be no more than a bad memory.
But what if your conservative uncle wants to bring it up: "So, how about that Obamacare? This is what happens when you have socialized medicine." Don't take the bait, you're a smarter fish than that. Here's a couple lines to try out: "Well, at least we don't live in Canada!" Or: "We'll remember to sic the death panels on you when you're in the nursing home, Uncle Fred!" Laughter ensues, you bring up Johnny Manziel's prospects in the NFL and disaster is avoided.