Most people I know are patriotic Americans who care deeply about what is happening in our nation today. Naturally, they tend to talk about the problems and try to find solutions for them. They can do this because in most social situations the people they talk with are like-minded.
Unfortunately, the United States is probably more divided at this time in our history than at any time since the Civil War. We see it daily on the television, in speeches from our political leaders, and even on the streets. Politicians compete to say the most outrageous things possible about their colleagues. They call them liars, corrupt, and even suggest that they should be arrested as criminals. And that’s when they’re in a good mood!
We have seen disagreements over politics in bars and restaurants turn into bloody fights, and a few have even died. Peaceful demonstrations have been met with “counter-demonstrations” that have turned violent. Windows are smashed, cars overturned, fires started, and some who just came to peacefully express their views have ended up in hospitals.
Currently, we are faced with an impeachment process that has the potential to magnify everything I have described many times. The House, which is controlled by Democrats, has the votes to impeach the President. This is the equivalent of accusing or indicting someone, and does not indicate guilt or innocence. That is left for a trial in the Senate to decide. There is no way the President will be found guilty in the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans. Even if a few Republicans voted against the President, there are a number of Democrats who see the damage even the talk of impeachment has caused the nation, and who will probably vote to acquit.
The harsh political divisions, the push to remove a duly-elected President from office, the fights over abortion and special privileges for homosexuals, and the divisions over foreign policy and the role of the United States as the “policeman of the world,” have spawned not just disagreements. We are living in a time in which millions of people literally hate anyone who disagrees with them.
So, what does this have to do with a “peaceful Thanksgiving?” you might say. Aren’t we supposed to have feel-good articles around the holidays? Isn’t this holiday supposed to be about giving thanks to God for all His many blessings, rather than arguing about politics and policy?
Yes, and yes. It is
supposed to be about giving thanks for our blessings, part of which are our family members. Unfortunately, that is not the case in many homes.
Far too many American homes host bitter arguments, sarcastic or belittling comments, and even fistfights. How can we avoid these?
Basically, avoiding conflict at Thanksgiving (and Christmas) gatherings is the same as keeping the peace at any other event. It all boils down to rules.
OK. Then who makes the rules? I believe it should be the host. They should send out an email ahead of time saying – in a nice way – “My house, my rules.” Every family is different, so you might want to consult with other family members before deciding what the rules will be.
Here are a few suggestions, not necessarily in order of importance.
- Start the meal with a beautiful tradition that millions of families follow every Thanksgiving. Ask everyone at the table to share briefly something they are thankful for. This can set the tone of the gather, and head off potential conflicts.
- Some families can handle discussions about politics or football in a reasonable way. Most cannot. If yours is the latter, simply say that Thanksgiving is going to be a politics (or football) free day. If you can’t handle that, don’t come. If you start trouble, you will be asked to leave. Harsh? Perhaps. But what is worse – asking one rude person to leave, or ruining the day for everyone?
- If you decide not to make politics off-limits, insist that discussions be about policy; don’t let them become personal. If someone is in favor of abortion, don’t call them a “baby killer.” If someone mentions the war on terror, don’t tell them that they are an “imperialist warmonger.”
- No phones at the table. This is just common courtesy. Unfortunately, courtesy has become anything but common these days. If they can’t do without their phone for a few hours for the sake of family unity, why come to a family gathering at all?
- Don’t wear clothing that is likely to spark fights. No hats – MAGA or rainbow. No football jerseys if you know that Uncle Joe hates your team and will make a big deal out of it.
- Insist that everyone sits where you place them. If your spouse and your grandfather have had knock-down, drag-out fights for the last four Thanksgivings, what do you think will happen this year? Seat them at opposite ends of the table.
- Don’t let tradition ruin a beautiful tradition. Some people literally hate turkey. (And no, it is not a fact that turkey was served at the “first Thanksgiving.” No one even knows when that was.) The best tradition is having a great day with a loving family. So have another option – perhaps a roast or lamb.
- Don’t forget the vegetarians and vegans in your family. Don’t just throw a bowl of salad on the table and expect them to make a meal out of it. Call them up ahead of time and ask what you can prepare that will make them feel welcome.
- Don’t invite trouble into your home. There are some people who simply don’t know how to be civilized. “But we have to invite everyone in the family.” Actually, you don’t. If you know one or more people are going to cause problems, simply don’t invite them. If they call to ask why they weren’t invited, you may have an opportunity to guide them. “Remember last year…?”
- You can’t go wrong by putting God first, starting with giving Him thanks for the meal. Then family comes next. Do all you can to create a safe, loving environment. If you are the host, your family is looking to you to keep the peace.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving Day.