So, you’re going home for Thanksgiving. You’ll be seeing all of your extended family for the first time since the election. You’ve been dutifully ignoring1 your relatives’ Facebook posts all summer and fall, as they post link after link supporting some political candidate you find loathsome. And next week you’re going to be sitting next to them at what may well be both literally and figuratively the longest meal of the year. All the pumpkin pie in the world might not be enough to balance out the bitterness of this prospect.
Let’s be honest. The election is probably going to come up in conversation. You’ve got a few options in determining how to respond.
A.) Pray fervently that nobody mentions the events of and following November 9th. If the topic never comes up, nobody will need to acknowledge they disagree with each other. For better or worse, praying to avoid adversity might not be your best bet2, so instead your better bet is to pray for strength for what could be a challenging conversation.
B.) Let the election come up, but either ignore it or pretend that you don’t disagree with what your relatives are saying. I like to call this the Obi-Wan Kenobi option. Bad news though, you aren’t a Jedi.3 Trying to obviate a serious disagreement through a wave of the hand, temporary deafness and muteness, or polite smile/grimace isn’t going to help anything.
C.) Engage in honest, charitable, forthright dialogue.
What the heck does that mean? If, or when, one or another of your relatives starts singing the praises of a politician you simply can’t stomach, don’t fill your mouth with another forkful of stuffing, no matter how good it is. Instead, if someone shares their support for a politician with whom you have objections, ask what makes them support this individual. What attracted them to this candidate? It would come as a surprise that someone supported Donald Trump because of his xenophobic and misogynist language. I would similarly doubt that anyone voted for Hillary Clinton because they think her handling of her emails shows great decision-making. For the sake of these conversations, let’s presume that people had reasons for supporting their particular candidate, even if we might disagree with those reasons or their final choice of candidate.
That being said, it would be a disservice to avoid these points of disagreement. Between passing the mashed potatoes and pouring the gravy, take some time to ask your relatives how they were able to overlook the issues you find problematic or even dangerous about their chosen candidate.
At the same time, be willing to share why you disagree, how you made sense of your own candidate’s shortcomings, and what you might find concerning about the results of the election. You have the right to ask your relatives questions, they have the right to ask you questions, and everyone has the right to be heard out.
Let’s be clear though. The goal of these conversations doesn’t need to be universal agreement or the abandoning of your beliefs. As a friend of mine recently put it, “Jesus didn’t call for cheap unity and fake positivity…He called for justice, love, and mercy.” There are real, genuine disagreements to be had, and the many groups put at risk by the campaign promises of our President-elect deserve not only to be heard but to be supported and protected.
Instead, we share our views, ask questions, raise issues, and desire to better understand the perspectives, concerns, and hopes of those who voted for someone else. Even if it’s uncomfortable, even if it’s difficult. Maybe we don’t come to agreement, maybe we don’t leave the conversation any more satisfied by our relatives’ political views than when we started. But if we don’t give ourselves the chance to more meaningfully engage those with whom we disagree, what path forward is there?
Ask bold questions. Listen openly. Share honestly. Pass the cranberries.
Image courtesy FlickrCC user Phillip Guyton.