Thanksgiving is a day to give, not to talk politics

Caitlyn Dieckmann

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What is your favorite part of Thanksgiving? Is it the sweet smell of turkey baking in the oven? The extra whipped cream you add to the top of your pumpkin pie? Sitting around a table full of family, talking, laughing, maybe even a little bit of crying?  

     Just thinking of Thanksgiving fills me with the warming charm of fall colors, the glow of the fireplace and an overcrowded kitchen. I can happily say that I am lucky to have a traditional Thanksgiving, something that too many of my friends lack. But what I find within this holiday spirit is the kindness that my family gives to these friends.  

     So many times, in the past, my family has graciously taken in friends and family to engage in the same holiday festivities that we hold every year. Everyone deserves a piece of turkey and pie, and I promise you, my table is yours too.  

     Nothing in my mind is clearer than the principle on which this holiday is built: giving.  

     This year, however, is quite different. Between the throes of a pandemic and political upheaval, the chances of a “normal” Thanksgiving are slim.  

     If your family trusts each other enough, and does not have at-risk individuals, or if the members of your large family tend to quarantine before big functions, then the pandemic may not be an issue. However, inviting your 90-year-old grandmother to dinner may need more thought these days.  

     But let’s say Operation Turkey Day is a go, and everyone can safely join at the dinner table, what’s next? If you are my family, then there is a chance you are walking into a pit of polarized political views. Opposition will look you right in the face on either side of the green bean casserole.  

     While many of my family members can usually hold their tongues and pop a deviled egg in place of political views, others tend to openly voice their opinions between their first and second helping of mashed potatoes. This can be a problem when I am sitting between my very liberal best friend from college and my big sister’s devoted Republican husband.  

     Needless to say, politics are a hot topic at family events, and because my sister and I are both political science majors, things can get even more heated than the turkey stuffing.  

     What could be a more perfect year for this type of Thanksgiving than the historic election we as the American people just witnessed? Luckily, I have set a standard for my family, something that I hope holds true to this Thanksgiving: no political talk at the table.  

     For me, this holiday remains hearty because of family, fun because of friends and meaningful because of the principle of giving. Take away the massive amounts of food, and what do you have left? A group of people gathered … for what?  

     We should all be focused on giving each other peace of mind, giving each other a break from school and work, giving each other that chance to remember the things that make us happy. Last time I checked, knowing who Uncle Larry voted for didn’t make me or anyone else happy.  

     What does make me happy is hearing stories of how my sister almost ran into her “future husband” after class, but narrowly missed the chance because she is too shy and tripped in the courtyard of her college trying to hide behind a tree from the guy in question that she has never actually met. Random stories like these ones are what should be shared at holiday events while passing the gravy boat, instead of which propositions should and shouldn’t have been passed.  

     Something else that brings me joy is the kindness my family exhibits when they tell me to bring my roommates home with me if they don’t have a home of their own. This is the spirit we should all join in on over the holidays. 

     We shouldn’t allow ourselves to get caught up in the motions of politics and other topics that cause negative discourse during family gatherings. Instead, after the whole year that has been 2020, let us use Thanksgiving as a time to escape into a bubble of family, giving, kindness and, most importantly, food.  

“Freedom from Want” 1943 painting by Norman Rockwell.
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