Worried About Thanksgiving Fights with Right-Wing Family Members?
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Oh, Lordy. It is that time again. Thursday is Thanksgiving -- the official kickoff event of the 2008 holiday season. For a lot of progressives, these festivities also mean that we're about to spend more quality time with our conservative relatives over the next six weeks than is strictly good for our blood pressure, stress levels, or continued sanity.
Personally, I'm not a wholehearted fan of turkey -- probably because the mere smell of it instantly slams me back into memories of several decades of Thanksgiving dinner arguments with conservative kin that took a turn for the ugly. We all know we're supposed to stick to "safe" topics like the kids, college football, and the weather; and avoid controversial issues like religion, politics and whether oysters belong in a proper bird stuffing. But the afternoon is long, and after the approved topics have been exhausted and that third bottle of Cabernet vanishes and the tryptophan torpor hits, decorum and discipline are at high risk of going all to hell. After that, things can and do get contentious, usually in ways that make everyone wish we could all just go back to fighting over oysters in the stuffing.
These family gatherings were hard enough to stomach through the appalling years of the Bush Adoration -- but this year, it's likely to be even worse. Our beloved family wingnuts were insufferable, in a grotesque Mayberry-on-acid surreal kind of way, while crowing into their succotash about the manly Godliness (or was it Godly manliness?) of Our Divinely Ordained Commander-in-Chief. But this year's different. This year, they're on the way out of power -- and they're scared witless about it. Which means big steaming heapin' helpings of liberal-bashing are likely to be featured prominently on the menu next to the mashed potatoes, as they put fresh vigor into every paranoid anti-liberal fantasy ever spouted by Rush, Reverend Pat, or their new darling, Sarah Palin.
The black guy won. Armageddon -- or, at the very least, socialism, atheism, gun control, and a national epidemic of erectile dysfunction -- must certainly be at hand.
As you prepare to head once again into the family fray, it might be useful to note that most of the right wing's favorite anti-liberal slanders are rooted in some deeply-held -- and deeply wrong -- assumptions about who liberals are, and what we believe. If your relatives, God bless 'em all, insist on going down that road, your best defense this year might be to listen closely for these underlying myths and fables at work -- and be prepared to challenge them head-on when they surface in the discussion.
Here's a basic set to get you started. Tuck it away in your bag with your Xanax and Maalox, and apply (liberally, of course) as needed.
1. Liberals hate America.
For the record: Liberals love America. In fact, what makes us liberals is that we actually read and believed all those pretty words in the Declaration of Independence about "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," and in the Bill of Rights about freedom of speech, religion, assembly, privacy, and all the rest of it.
We're idealists that way. We want to live in the country the Founders described. We believe that the nation's founding documents expressed a uniquely powerful moral contract between the people and their government, and an audaciously positive vision of people's ability and competence to shape their own future. When we get annoying and whiny, it's usually because we believe so much in America's astonishing promise -- and our own responsibility for realizing it -- that we're sorely disappointed when the country falls short of that standard. We really want to believe we can do better.