Thanksgiving dinner: a time for family, not politics

Steaming mashed potatoes, rich turkey, delicious assortments of green beans, gravy, bread, and… politics? While politics are a fundamental aspect of society it can be necessary to look past conflicting political beliefs when acknowledging an individual. The holidays, particularly Thanksgiving, are recognized in today’s society as uniting familial occasions. This calls for an escalation of political discussion at the dinner table. This conversation includes topics regarding race, immigration, gun and military policies, reproductive rights, climate change, and much more.

While politics can sometimes be shared and processed maturely, when multiple views contradict each other it can often have negative repercussions. “The political divide is threatening relationships among family, friends and co-workers,” by Kevyn Burger, shows this. “Damaged relationships not only cause hurt feelings. They can lead to significant physical distress,” the article says. “‘This is rampant in my patients,’ said Talee Vang, senior clinical psychologist at Hennepin Health Care. ‘Some notice they feel irritable, exhausted, anxious. Internalized pain may come out in depression, sleep disorders or substance use. They may overindulge in alcohol or food.’ And the pain goes beyond the warring parties. Vang has seen collateral damage extend to neutral family members who struggle with divided loyalties…” This goes to show that “divided loyalties”, which in this context is relevant to political conflict, is detrimental not only to one’s relationship but also one’s mental and physical health. This should in no way be associated with holidays which are a time to heal and grow surrounded by people who care about you. 

Contrarily, it could be argued that political conflict and resolution could bring two individuals together and unite them further. However, as was discovered in a study conducted by The Institute of Politics at Harvard University Spring 2021 Harvard Youth Poll that “nearly a third of young Americans say that politics has gotten in the way of a friendship.” The demographic variables that play into this controversy largely have to do with race, ethnicity, and political opposition. As stated in the study, “31 percent of young Americans, but 37 percent of young Biden voters and 32 percent of young Trump voters say that politics has gotten in the way of a friendship before.” This demonstrates that conflicting political stances have the potential to get between a considerable portion of relationships. 

Politics are a critical topic to discuss and compare, but there is a time and a place. The dinner table is not that place, and the holidays are not that time. Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude for yourself as well as the people and things that surround you, it’s not a time to let politics get between the love you share with your community and family.