Terre Haute Tribune-Star
If you still have leftover turkey in your fridge, it’s way past its expiration date.
How about your relationships with family and friends who gathered with you on Thanksgiving? Did arguments over politics, culture wars, presidents past and present and divisive cable TV personalities sour your fondness for those relatives and chums? As a result of heated outbursts, are you now dreading, and rethinking, more holiday gatherings as Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day approach?
Welcome to “the most wonderful time of the year,” with a toxic 2021 twist.
Such drama is not unique to this year. The year-end holidays have long involved anxieties over encountering overbearing uncles, simmering feuds with in-laws, teasing cousins and rekindled sibling rivalries. The past few years have ratcheted up the turmoil. Friends and family are, like most of America, split among Republicans, Democrats and those ever-dwindling independents, reflecting the political divisions from Washington, D.C., to the local school board.
And, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has sadly become political, dividing us all over the acceptance or rejection of the life-saving vaccines, face masks to prevent sharing the coronavirus and mandates for both in schools, workplaces and other public settings.
Most folks apparently do not want the conflict and confrontation in a setting intended for, ideally, food, fun and companionship.
Days before Thanksgiving 2021, a national poll conducted by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut found that 66% of American adults responding said they hoped to avoid discussing politics with visiting family or friends during the holiday.
The more unsettling statistic came on the flipside of the question. Twenty-one percent of people responding to the university’s poll were looking forward to talking politics over turkey and all the fixings.
Christmas is three weeks away. New Year’s Eve arrives in 27 days. Parties, dinners and reunions may feature more disputes, threatening to break friendships and unravel family ties — perhaps for years.
Suggestions of ways to avoid fractured relationships are available. The National Catholic Register recommends a personal prayer before holiday encounters, asking God to tame our own tongues; or asking a loved one how they came to believe what they believe; or doing some research to find data to bolster your opinions; or telling personal stories that exemplify your side of an issue.
That approach may not work for everybody. Louisville Courier Journal contributor Maggie Menderski advises people to set rules about which dinner-table topics are acceptable, and then designate a senior family member to enforce those rules. Better yet, Menderski reminds folks that these debates do not have to happen on the day of a holiday gathering; save it for later. And, if voices get raised and feelings get hurt, remember that families and friendships are seldom like a Hallmark movie.
Be good to each other. Reminisce about nostalgic family outings or beloved relatives who have passed on. Rate your favorite Christmas films, and recite a few lines. Life is short. Give peace a chance this season.