How To Get Through Thanksgiving With Your Trump-Loving Relatives

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Thanksgiving can be a stressful holiday for many people, it’ll be especially difficult if you’re spending it with relatives who voted for Donald Trump.

For many people around the country, Thanksgiving is when families come together and gather around the table, put aside whatever fad diets they’re on and indulge their gastronomic fantasies.

This year the usual fabric of family dynamics is bound to be stretched beyond the usual limits. In the wake of Donald Trump’s shocking — read terrifying — victory, nerves are understandably frayed.

For many people it’s the first time they might find themselves sitting across the table from relatives who voted for President-elect Trump.

Here are some ways you can survive the holiday unscathed:

Drink and Keep Drinking

The first and obvious defense mechanism would be to dull the senses by hitting the sauce. This is already a go-to method for many people to get through Thanksgiving dinner with their sanity intact, but 2016 might require that little bit more.

On the other hand, it could also be a recipe for disaster. While an extra glass or two of wine may help you ignore your obnoxious uncle’s tasteless jokes, this year it could be the match that lights the fire. Politics and alcohol rarely mix and we all know how alcohol can weaken our filters that help us resist the urge to voice our every thought.

Avoid Politics At All Costs 

Avoidance is rarely a solution to a problem, but this year it’s possibly the smartest way to get through the holidays. It would be wise for families to set ground rules about refraining from talking about politics at all. Given how long and emotionally exhausting the election campaign has been it’s likely that many people — regardless of who they voted for — are feeling a little fatigued.

It might be a good idea to switch off Fox News or CNN for a day and make room for conversations about other parts of our lives. Work, romantic relationships and friendships, the vacations we’ve taken or are planning to take, books we’ve read and movies we’ve seen are usually uncontroversial conversations which can be had without the risk of crockery being flung in someone’s direction.   

Have The Conversation

Given how personal and emotional this election has been, it might be difficult to ignore the elephant in the room.

The vitriolic tenor of the campaign season has made it nearly impossible to have a mature and sensible debate where different points of view are heard and respected.

In an age when we are all guilty of picking and choosing news and opinions that usually reinforce our own beliefs, we’ve reached a point where we talk past each other rather than having an honest conversation.

Many on the left have derided Trump supporters as uneducated, racist and bigoted people because they voted for a candidate who they feel holds racist and bigoted views.

Similarly, people on the right feel that the left has largely talked down to them during the election, even though the candidate they supported is allegedly corrupt and part of the establishment that has failed to solve the problems faced by average Americans.  

CNN contributor and the inarguable star of the 2016 election season, Van Jones, had some comforting and important words to say on this topic in a Facebook video posted on Nov. 22.

“I want you to be able to enjoy your family, even if they voted 100 percent against you,” he said to his Facebook followers. “If you want to have the conversation … listen empathetically. You don’t have to try and win the debate — you don’t have to prove anybody wrong. See it as an opportunity to really do some research and understand where people are coming from.”

People are generally multi-dimensional. Just like you may have voted for Hillary Clinton for various reasons, and despite genuine flaws in her policy positions, Trump supporters likely hold views that may surprise you and make you think about things differently.

Accept, Learn, and Move on

It’s likely that if you voted for Clinton on Election Day, you’re going through what the Kübler-Ross model calls the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

While the thought of spending Thanksgiving with relatives who voted for Trump might be our worst nightmare come to life, perhaps it’s time to accept the outcome and learn from it.

As President Barack Obama said, “Democracy is messy,” and sometimes the other guy wins.

The fears and concerns about a Trump presidency are real for many people, but that’s not an excuse to demonize the more than 60 million people who voted for him. Perhaps Thanksgiving is an opportunity to learn why some people in our own family, who we know to be largely honest, kind, and sincere people, could have voted for someone like Trump. And while their reasons may not be rational to us, they are rooted in genuine hopes and desires that have not been addressed.

If All Else Fails... 

A nonprofit group Showing Up for Racial Justice, which organizes “white people for racial justice,” wants to help you get through the holidays, and it’s offering tangible support in the form of an actual helpline.  

SURJ is encouraging people, especially white people, to send a text message "SOS" to 82623 if they are having issues dealing with relatives who are comfortable with Trump’s racist remarks and policy positions.   

The group will actually send talking points to help “break white silence” and facilitate constructive conversations about racism and the election. It has also published a Thanksgiving Discussion Guide that people can read to prepare for the conversation beforehand.

The group believes that it’s necessary for white people to have the necessary conversation with other Trump-supporting white people to help them understand how Trump’s views and policies would affect people of color, women and the LGBT community.

In that spirit, here’s to hoping that everyone has a happy Thanksgiving.

Banner Photo: Flickr Dianne Rosete

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