2016-11-17 / Viewpoint

No fear at the Thanksgiving dinner

Sam Tunningley — Staff writer

Ah, it’s my turn for the column right after the election. So be it.

After an endless, surreal spectacle of an election season, America now has President Trump. That is a reality. We can contest the results, debate about the legitimacy of the Electoral College or the failures of the Democratic Party, but one thing remains certain: Trump has a secure spot in the White House.

Another certainty: almost any person walking the streets of America has an opinion on the result of this particular presidential race. Some are celebrating; others are mourning. The match-up has been met with extreme vitriol, and for good reason, considering how divisive each candidate proved to be.

So it goes, every four years, families across the nation get together for a Thanksgiving dinner knowing well the likelihood of a peaceful meal devolving into a series of shouting matches.

Before writing off relatives as annoyances this year, I beckon all to remember this: politics is not a game. The outcomes of elections have real-world consequences. If you ask me, staking out positions on the most important issues of our time ought to be a priority, if it is not already, in everyone’s life. But how do you stand your ground on such topics when you are afraid of upsetting your own flesh and blood?

My advice: confront.

Do not sick back in the chair, holding all of this in because it feels unnecessary to vocalize what is gnawing on the inside. Yes, even if it “ruins” dinner.

Part of being a human and growing in to oneself necessarily means developing a worldview. It is productive to have these conversations; even if what you decide to say upsets the company you keep. In these times, it is OK to feel angry, defensive or sad.

I am not using this space in an effort to sow division in families, although I understand it being read that way. It can be painful to say something at all when the risk of losing respect is so high. But consider it practice — these next four years will be filled with righteous fury from both sides. It is not the time to be apathetic toward the state of our country.

Plus, debate is healthy. It can be empowering, and even moving, to find out why family members voted the way they did. I am never one to dismiss a person outright, nor should I be. Somehow, it has been labeled a milquetoast tactic to actually hear the other person before deciding said person is wrong.

Maintain an open mind and heart for as long as possible, try to reason, but if your efforts prove futile, let your political passion be a guiding force. Come in to your own as a well-informed speaker. It is a test of one’s own knowledge to go long on subjects. Make it known this is how you feel, what your reasons are and why you disagree with the other side.

If it calls for it, get political for this Thanksgiving season. A heated dialogue could pay off in unexpected ways. stunningley@mihomepaper.com

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