If You Need a Thanksgiving Conversation Guide…


Roland Dodds

Roland Dodds is an educator, researcher and father who writes about politics, culture and education. He spent his formative years in radical left wing politics, but now prefers the company of contrarians of all political stripes (assuming they aren't teetotalers). He is a regular inactive at Harry's Place and Ordinary Times.

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23 Responses

  1. Avatar Maribou says:

    I thought, aw, c’mon, probably these authors are just trying to help people enjoy Thanksgiving more… let me take a look at the guide itself and see what I think…

    and then I got to this line: “You can play this disturbing video about whooping cough or show these photos of kids with polio.”


    Then I started wondering if the whole thing is tongue in cheek? Maybe? But it seems earnest.

    This is why I don’t visit political sites other than this one, The Economist, and VERY occasionally HuffPo’s political stuff. (Well, and 538 from time to time, but usually only because I am curious about some poll or other.)

    I would adopt your approach, Roland, but Jaybird and I will be spending Thanksgiving in airports, with a four-hour layover for our very own Thanksgiving a deux. We’ll be visiting family on Friday, but said family has 11 cats, so I think I know what our common ground will be :D.Report

    • Avatar Roland Dodds says:

      Now that sounds like an awesome Thanksgiving @maribou! Maybe you can just play cite videos of cats rather than the whooping cough one?

      Even better, maybe you can be the “annoying opinionated uncle” to the people lucky enough to sit next to you on the airplane.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      Seriously. The only place I ever talk about any of the topics listed is on the Internet. Why would you waste real-life time talking about vaccines?Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        You are perhaps lucky enough not to know significant numbers of anti-vaxxers, about whome you care personally, who have children you also care about, and who are part of an extended network of friends with sub-50% vaccination rates.

        Communicable disease outbreaks could cause real harm among my friends. If I can sensibly and calmly discuss risk management, assessing the reliability of source literature, I might actually be able to help them. The ‘calmly’ part is a challenge for me.

        Mind you, I wouldn’t likely discuss the topic at Thanksgiving specifically – unless I’d had too much wine to discuss it productively…Report

        • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

          I have to admit that I don’t know if I know anyone who doesn’t vaccinate. It’s something I assume everyone I know supports either because that is the actual truth or those who don’t vaccinate are wise enough not to mention it to me.Report

    • You can play this disturbing video about whooping cough

      Afterward, someone starts choking on a piece of white meat, and instead of helping him, everyone runs away so they don’t get exposed.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    My favorite comment on this topic came from Popehat:

    Last Thanksgiving my niece told me that I was a microaggressing hypocrite. Her Christmas present was a Salvation Army donation in her name.— Thankful Hat (@Popehat) November 23, 2015


  3. Avatar Damon says:


    If I go hand out with my ex SIL and her husband’s family, I’ll just comment subtly, “There is no such thing as a social contract.” and “Voting is violence.” Drives him nuts. But his father and I see things similarity, so there’s that fun. 🙂Report

  4. Avatar Kim says:

    Why not just have a Kraftwerks thanksgiving and be done with it?
    “Can’t talk, listening to music.”Report

  5. Avatar veronica d says:

    I’m having Thanksgiving dinner with my ex-g/f and her ex-g/f, who happens to be a professional chef. So I expect a generous combination of lovely food and sexual innuendo, followed by me having to fend off weird, desperate advances from my ex.

    Which is to say, a dumb fight about Donald Trump would probably be less awkward.Report

  6. Why have any conversation at all? Just play Kinks albums.Report

  7. Avatar Miss Mary says:

    I’m in charge of bringing wine and cocktails to both of the Thanksgiving dinners I will be attending. Without me, there is no Thanksgiving. Well, I’m in charge of the booze *and* rolls, so… I’m pretty much the most important person at that party.Report

  8. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    There is a reason there is and all truism about not talking about religion or politics with people especially strangers but including family members. I find that you can get along and like almost everyone until politics and religion comes up and then it becomes “DIE HERETIC.”

    I would say this is a two-edge sword. There are plenty of conservatives out there who seem legitimately gob-smacked when people disagree with them. I don’t think they should be held to a different standard than liberals, urban or otherwise.

    Yes people have different opinions and yes I realize that I am not going to change the minds of everyone. There will always be liberals, conservatives, socialists, monarchists, etc. I don’t see why I should necessarily give deference to people who are right-wing (not that I have right-wing relatives). I am not necessarily inclined to see country people as being more “real” and “downhome” than urban people and am tired of this myth. Same with the South and Midwest being more “real American” than the NorthEast and Pacific West.

    The general meme is that the Democratic Party spent the 80s and 90s in a fetal position and saying “please don’t kick me.” Now liberals, especially young liberals, are getting mad and fighting back.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Yeah but they don’t have to do it at the Thanksgiving dinner table. And their FOX News-watching uncles don’t, either.

      “WTF is wrong with the Bears these days?” is okay.

      “WTF is wrong with [the Republican Party] these days?” is not. (You may substitute “Hillary Clinton” or “Barack Obama” or “Ben Carson” mutatis mutandis.) Either everyone agrees and you get harrumphs, or someone disagrees and feels re-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-eally uncomfortable. Worse, that person vocally disagrees and then everyone else feels re-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-eally uncomfortable too.

      This should really be considered along the lines of “WTF is wrong with Black people these days?” I mean, come on. If your racist uncle busts out with that, just let it lie and gently steer him towards some decaf instead of another 7-and-7.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        I agree that liberals don’t have to raise the issue and probably shouldn’t.

        I don’t agree with the idea of letting a right-wing uncle rant without pushback.

        My theory of assholes is that they get away with it because they know everyone else is just going to try and be a decent human being.

        There used to be a gent on my bus route that self-styled himself as a rule enforcer and would tell people whether they should sit or not and where based on his judgments. Everyone on the bus would just exchange nervous and sympathetic glances when he got into one of his enforcement rants. My theory is that the guy knew that most people would be too decent and prudent to call him out in public (and risk an altercation) and he used this to full advantage.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        Oh I see what you said about Fox News watching uncles, I apologize for my aggressive tone in the last reply.Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko says:

          No worries. The racist uncle probably is an asshole and most everyone at the dinner table will realize that without being told. The point here is to sidestep or defer such a confrontation for the sake of peace and relief from tension, during an important and supposedly happy family time.

          When the racist uncle blurts out something like that, and won’t take the hint to change the subject, one of the heads of the household needs to quietly but firmly state, “Look, let’s not talk politics at the dinner table and have some family time instead. There’ll be plenty of time for that sort of thing later. Right now, I’m more interested in what Jamie is doing off at college anyway. Who’s your best professor, Jamie?” Something like that. “Is that new Star Wars movie going to be any good?” Anything that isn’t political.

          Besides, the kind of racist uncle who lacks sufficient couth as to bust out with a rant at the Thanksgiving table, well, you’re not going to change his mind no matter what you say and IMO, joining battle with him there will inevitably result in a) him doubling down and the situation escalates rather than defuses, and b) everyone else having to either take a side or keep their heads down, both of which make them very uncomfortable.

          Not having that sort of thing is the whole point of “Mindless Diversion” rules at the Thanksgiving table.Report

          • Something like that. “Is that new Star Wars movie going to be any good?”

            (Oh crap, I forgot Mike is here.) “Umm, actually I’m kind of talked out about Star Wars. Uncle Stonewall, what do you think about Black Lives Matter?”Report

  9. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    This is why I just have Thanksgiving with friends.Report

  10. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Should it be necessary, my two-year-old granddaughter and I will be peacekeepers. She has a strong “try to be the kind of person the two-year-old thinks you are” effect on everyone. Even my obnoxious brother-in-law.Report