Tomorrow you'll gather around the Thanksgiving table with your family—those precious few souls that walk this cold Earth draped in the same flesh and blood that coat your weary bones. Invariably, they will say something that makes you want to murder them or, at the very least, ruin dinner in the process of setting them straight.
Here's our suggestion: Don't.
Earlier this week Vox put together a current-events Cliff's Notes to cram and memorize in order to emerge victorious in The Thanksgiving Fight that future generations will cite as a major factor in solving the conflict between Israel and Palestine. It's meticulously researched and nicely packaged, and if you best express your love and affection for your family by engaging in a spirited debate about politics and culture for which you have studied and prepared—and for many people this is true!—we highly recommend it.
But if you are like the many other people for whom family fights are miserable, predictable re-stagings of ancient battles from which everyone emerges hurt and frustrated, don't bother.
Your cousin wants to talk about Ferguson? Fine. Your cousin is a dumb asshole. You muted your cousin on Facebook for a reason. You understood then, from the comfort of the city in which you chose to live, that although you were obligated to remain friends with him on social media, you were in no way obligated to witness or respond to his ideas and opinions. You knew, back then, that no amount of links towards helpful information could persuade him, no amount of energy extended on your part could change his mind. Nothing has changed. Don't fight. Not for his sake, but for your own. Deep breath.
Your aunt wants to talk about Bill Cosby? Who would've thought something this ignorant would ever fall out of your sweet Aunt Lin's mouth? Rather than take her through the timeline and explain that, no, this isn't the first time we're hearing about the accusations against Cosby, and rather than explain to her how difficult it would be for a victim of sexual assault to accuse and confront her rapist even if we lived in a world where those accusations were taken seriously, and even if their rapist weren't a beloved symbol of traditional family values, which we do not, and which he is—rather than waste your breath and time and blood pressure—don't!
Your grandfather wants to talk about immigration? Give him one of those pursed-lip smiles. Relax. Have a sip of wine. Yummy yum. Have another. Mmm, mm.
Your family members are not opponents in a scored debate. Like everyone else, including you, they are terrified of the world and struggling through life. Their toxic opinions and ideas are not your responsibility. There are circumstances that might call for passionate debate with your uncle. Your uncle's drunken post-dinner attempts to provoke a reaction because he was never properly socialized to display explicit emotion but wants to interact with people he cares about is not included in that list of circumstances.
You know your family very well. Unlike with a friend's new boyfriend—whom you have to at least pretend to attempt to like—you feel very comfortable showing anger towards them on your face, and then showing it very loudly with your mouth. You slip back into the same unfortunate conversational patterns of your youth, except this time you're not fighting with your brother over who gets shotgun in the Honda—you're fighting with your brother over Darren Wilson, and also Gamergate, and also gay marriage, like, how are we even having this argument, holy shit, WHO ARE YOU?
You might, as you trudge home through holiday traffic, stew in the idea that your family is somehow more difficult than everyone else's. You might envision your uncle's misinformed opinions and—thrilling a small amount over your right-thinking heroism—think: "My family is the worst. It's so annoying that I have to take time out of my Thanksgiving dinner to correct their facts, tell them the real truth, and call them idiots."
But let me be the one to tell you, buddy: You don't have to do that!
And, look, more to the point: Your family isn't the worst. They're normal. You have a normal, sucky, argumentative, loving family, and you're just one dumb part of it. I'm sorry.
[image by Jim Cooke]