Cheat Sheets for Thanksgiving Arguments
November 22, 2022 11:24 AM   Subscribe

Dreading a holiday dinner with more conservative relatives? Are you unwilling to just smile and pass the gravy as your right wing relative spouts some nonsense from the culture wars? A Redditor has created some handy cheat sheets / study guides for liberal Americans who feel argumentative.
posted by interogative mood (40 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
This assumes that both sides are communicating equally -- most far-right are not actually making or looking for factual arguments, they're making statements that declare their side. It doesn't matter whether they're correct, it matters that it matches the statements made by those they identify with. That's why it's so infuriating. Responding with these common answers further confirms their membership in the "I say this stuff, they say that stuff" union.
posted by AzraelBrown at 11:45 AM on November 22 [32 favorites]


It is incredibly weird that, as a society, we have turned one specific holiday* into Meet the Press, the Home Game. Every American seems to understand that there's supposed to be sociopolitical conflict at any Thanksgiving with family members from outside the house, and possibly inside it too. I understand why this happened, of course; you could write a thesis on it, and somebody probably has. But it's so unhealthy.

I'm not complaining about the FPP, though! I really appreciate it. It's just that I remember seeing a similar FPP and link, titled "Need ammo?", deleted sometime during the Bush administration. Not that I agree with that! It was several changes of ownership ago. I only remember it because I was trying to get a grip on site culture myself, and now I think of it as part of the cultural shift towards Thanksgiving as the Aggro Holiday.

Maybe the base of it is that the Thanksgiving story itself is fake in the way that founding myths of America are fake, and knowing that seeds the tension. The birth of Christ didn't happen in December, but that's much less widely known, and there's a lot more fun going on at the winter holiday. At Thanksgiving, once we've eaten, we've just got the Airing of Grievances.

-----
* although Christmas does come in for this too
posted by Countess Elena at 11:52 AM on November 22 [14 favorites]


I've learned to just let my conservative family members say their peace and I usually acknowledge that I'm listening but avoid saying or signalling that I agree with their view point. I then either get up to go do something or go to the bathroom, or change the topic to something super mundane and ordinary.

I'm tired of trying to change someone's mind that is already made up. I don't begrudge people who do try to push for that kind of conversation and to make someone consider another point of view in the hope that they might be more kind or humane, but I'm tired of trying.

So we just talk about the weather or some other boring ass shit. It usually works and when it doesn't, I just disengage completely.
posted by Fizz at 11:55 AM on November 22 [5 favorites]


I recently learned the argument “if gender is binary, so are atoms. Just as every human is either a man or a woman, every atom in the universe is either Hydrogen or Helium”
posted by Skwirl at 11:59 AM on November 22 [8 favorites]


...most far-right are not actually making or looking for factual arguments, they're making statements that declare their side. It doesn't matter whether they're correct, it matters that it matches the statements made by those they identify with.

They are also doing it in order to get a rise out of anyone in the room not on their side. Don't take the bait.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:02 PM on November 22 [22 favorites]


If what I'm hearing about my in-laws recently is any indication, there could be some opportunities this year to set the Trump diehards and the DeSantis supporters against each other. I wouldn't recommend engaging with either group on anything besides sports or grandma's old recipes but if you're up for it then it could be fun, or at least different, to sow some discord.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 12:03 PM on November 22 [6 favorites]


My immunosuppressed partner has inadvertently provided a solution for our own family. All the conservatives in the family are not vaccinated. Therefore, we don't have to be around them. We can't be around them. And the temptation to argue will be removed.

Though I guess I get the best of both worlds. We won't be around the assholes. But my niece will. She's promised to tear them apart if these low rent MAGAs are racist or *-phobic in her presence. It's nice knowing they won't have a peaceful meal if they're ugly, but I won't have to do it myself.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 12:23 PM on November 22 [11 favorites]


I crushed my bigoted uncle at Thanksgiving, broke the extended family into two pieces, and consigned my father to a lonely death.

Was it worth it?

Not remotely. It’s one of the great regrets of my life.
posted by jamjam at 12:26 PM on November 22 [26 favorites]


But it's so unhealthy.

Wait until you get some of mom's gravy.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 12:30 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]



Maybe the base of it is that the Thanksgiving story itself is fake in the way that founding myths of America are fake, and knowing that seeds the tension.

The Thanksgiving story gets at the heart of the conflict between two different stories of America. All of the yelling about "identity politics," all of the yelling about "critical race theory"... a lot of it comes down to a desire to perceive America as fundamentally Good, conceived in Goodness and originating in Goodness, and any attempts to correct the record about slavery or genocide get perceived as an attack on the Goodness of America.

Ghassan Hage's book "Against Paranoid Nationalism" has some great stuff about how this anxiety about one's country's past misdeeds (he's writing about Australia, but it certainly applies to the US as well - and to other countries).
"Thus any voice that attempts to insist that the misdeeds committed in Australia's past and present cannot be so easily dismissed is immediately considered a Bad voice.
This is the voice of the Bad other, the one hell-bent on undermining the essential Goodness of Australia and the pride of its people."
I think there's something about how the myths around Thanksgiving force us to reckon with the history of settler colonialism - even more so than July 4th. Even if it doesn't get brought up, people who watch a lot of Fox News and are thoroughly convinced of its big ideas have that in their heads - "THEY want us to be ashamed of being American."

Or it's just that Thanksgiving is closer to the US election than any other major family holiday is.
posted by Jeanne at 12:33 PM on November 22 [15 favorites]


Years back, my brother-in-law asked me what I thought about Sharia law taking over the US. I made a glib response about a local Sunday Christian law. I regret not seriously addressing his question. I think he was at a point where he was still teachable. (Not anymore)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:55 PM on November 22 [4 favorites]


There's also the approach that my cousin used one particularly lively Thanksgiving during the Gulf War. We actually tend to fight fair, but that year, when it looked like things were starting to toe the line between "respectful but spirited debate" and "okay, it's getting a little nasty," one of my cousins suddenly spoke up over everyone:

"THAT'S IT! From now on we are only allowed to talk about hair and makeup!"

And after the briefest of pauses, her husband turned to our aunt and asked, "So what kind of foundation do you use?" and the rest of us followed suit amongst ourselves, and that re-railed things.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:07 PM on November 22 [8 favorites]


the myths around Thanksgiving force us to reckon with the history of settler colonialism

That's a great comment overall, and I think we all should reckon with that. But celebrating 'Thanksgiving' with a capital T? Maybe best to opt out of all of it.

The entire fucking thing is a gross myth to sanitize genocide and I'm not sure anything is gained by those of us who acknowledge that all getting together with somewhat distant kin to awkwardly feast.
posted by SaltySalticid at 1:44 PM on November 22 [4 favorites]


Roe vs Wade. LGBTQ mass shootings. An attack on the US capitol. It’s war.

I play curling a couple times a week and played last night. After the game, we all go up to the bar, have a drink, and talk aimlessly about whatever.

So Qatar and the World Cup come up, and they all have a laugh about how football team captains had to remove a rainbow-colored LOVE patch from their shirts because of Qatar's systemic bigotry, as if the United States' record on civil rights is pristine, in comparison.

I'm grinding my teeth, smiling, and having to hold back every ounce of cold rage to keep from yelling at these stupid, pig-headed, fake-ass Seattle lib-conservatives about my community getting massacred in Colorado and being physically threatened everywhere else in the country. Meanwhile, I turn my head to look at around and some airhead is wearing a Black Rifle Coffee hoodie.

And that's how I imagine Thanksgiving dinner goes for a lot of Americans whose lives are threatened everyday, when they aren't sat around a table having to stare daggers at family members who think their active and passive bigotry has no consequences.

I don't know the answer to any of this, but it does feel lately like we're at war for basic survival. Some Republicans feel grievanced to death about having to wear a mask, say, while the rest of us have to wonder when they'll come to put a bullet in us. I've kind of lost my appetite for dining with these folks.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:46 PM on November 22 [38 favorites]


Okay, but what about the cheat cards for left vs further left, or left vs centrist? I am extraordinarily grateful that there are no Fox News watchers among the family I see most often, but that doesn’t exempt me from political discussions. They’re just more likely to be me and my brother vs my parents on “there is no need for the democrats to keep leaning rightward for a vanishingly tiny sliver of independent voters” or “Just because we express a lot of frustration at the current state of the US doesn’t mean we’re not going to vote, and most of our equally frustrated friends vote too.”

(My mom told me recently that “between you and your brother, I’m becoming more of an anti-capitalist.” I’ve never been prouder.)
posted by ActionPopulated at 1:51 PM on November 22 [13 favorites]


turkey-scented hugs, if you want them, They sucked his brains out!
posted by supermedusa at 1:53 PM on November 22


Haha, thanks supermedusa, sorry for venting.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:57 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]


I often enjoy escalation to absurdity. "I don't know why you think that's the real issue. Fox news is just as much pushing a fake agenda that those in power want. When was the last time you saw them mention the Jewish space lasers? We have a space force now, fer gossakes! Why aren't we using it?"
posted by madhadron at 2:10 PM on November 22 [3 favorites]


that's how I imagine Thanksgiving dinner goes for a lot of Americans whose lives are threatened everyday

this was me a few years ago, and I'm just--sometimes I wonder about nakedly framing these things in terms of the emotional realities we want to express, the things that are actually lurking underneath the conflicts. "I'm scared the youth won't vote if they're critical of the process and we'll be worse off," "I don't feel safe around people who are nakedly signaling to me that they want to hurt me," "the gun violence and the total disinclination of the local ruling classes to actually intervene in escalating violence before people are dead is terrifying and I'm frightened and sad." I mean, that's what we mean by the politics, isn't it?

not that it ever worked with my family, and I stopped trying altogether during COVID. this year is just going to be me and the household eating chicken and honestly that's a lot less fraught. but I don't know what it's like for people whose families, like. give a shit about what they think, or give a shit about maintaining an ongoing emotional connection.
posted by sciatrix at 2:28 PM on November 22 [8 favorites]


sometimes I wonder about nakedly framing these things in terms of the emotional realities we want to express, the things that are actually lurking underneath the conflicts.
Yeah. My family is generally center-liberal, but a couple of years ago the Family Holiday Political Fight was about how there were too many mentally ill homeless people in San Francisco because not enough mentally ill people get forcibly institutionalized, and - that's an argument that hits differently when you've been the person sobbing on the city bus. But also, I do not want my family to know that I've been the person sobbing on the city bus.
posted by Jeanne at 2:41 PM on November 22 [17 favorites]


I am only 39 years old.
But the only truly effective Thanksgiving cheat sheet I've ever successfully employed is liquor.

Or avoiding them.

I'll give you one more. If you have a shitty boomer relative, get another boomer to tell an embarrassing story about them. They eat that up. Seriously. "Nancy, did Uncle Tucker really get pulled over by a fake cop when he was a kid?" "Hey Mike - I heard that your dad got wasted in Palm Beach and had to get bailed out by Aunt Suzy! Is that true?"
You get social capital for "participating in the conversation" but you're basically chaff for your queer cousins.

Just refocus the energy. Judooooo-chop. Then grab the gravy, you know she's not gonna make more even though she said she would. Get all the gravy. Get it.
Nap in the basement, nobody else naps in the basement.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:54 PM on November 22 [19 favorites]


Thanksgiving is the only day when I’m not surrounded by trendy lefties from Santa Monica who assume everyone thinks just like they do and congratulate themselves for being so tolerant and open-minded.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:00 PM on November 22 [4 favorites]


Do what they do. Drive them into a rage. Here's a few little bombs to drop. Feel free to add your own.

God doesn't exist. Everyone knows that and so do you.

We need more abortions to save the planet.

No one above the age of 60 should be allowed to vote.

We should take away their driver's licenses too.

I actually don't care what you say because white people will be extinct in 50 years.

Knock yourself out.
posted by mono blanco at 4:53 PM on November 22 [23 favorites]


Last time I went to Thanksgiving with the relatives, we didn't have any table political discussions, as it was all buffet style.

The conservatives all retreated to one room to also watch sports, the liberals retreated to the living room to gossip around the already-up Christmas tree, and the Leftist cousins and I stayed in the TV room, playing video games and discussing various Anti-Fascist tactics at protests. (They raised the subject, not I).

The only argument came when one of the cousins requested that Alexa play some nu-metal. *Everyone* hated that.
posted by spinifex23 at 5:10 PM on November 22 [6 favorites]


After many years of appeals to reason and compassion, I had to come to terms with the fact that my family was surrounded by conservative people and ideas, by choice, 364 days of the year and one day with me was not going to turn them around.

And our family has drifted further apart, as younger people stop coming around because they don't feel welcome and no one enjoys being together anymore. It's sad, but I did what I could. My kid celebrates holidays with her dad's liberal family and I celebrate with friends.

I get sad calls or texts occasionally from family saying come visit, we miss you, but I can't. Because they think the queer kids in our family are lost and sick, they think Trump made good points, they are afraid of white people not being on top someday. They want the rest of us to stop making them uncomfortable. And we can't.
posted by emjaybee at 5:21 PM on November 22 [19 favorites]


I go. I eat. I drink. I smile knowingly. I fart. I nap. I fart while napping. I go home with leftovers. Why are people trying to make it anything more than 'Home for the Holidays'. Stop with the conflict and focus on the sprouts (pan roasted with garlic btw), the 'where is the Copes Corn this year!' (see here... https://www.hanoverfoods.com/product/john-copes-dried-sweet-corn) issue (NO! with the bag it comes in a can! Rot in hell Hanover Foods...). Generally,regardless of your politics and POV.... give THANKS this Thanksgiving...
posted by IndelibleUnderpants at 5:46 PM on November 22 [3 favorites]


The only argument came when one of the cousins requested that Alexa play some nu-metal. *Everyone* hated that.

It's ashanda, as the kids say.
posted by ishmael at 5:47 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]


Having grown up in an extremely abusive household, I learned how to speak to a tyrant.

I learned that instead of confronting directly, for which I would be punished, I would insert doubt. Made points that were kind of adjacent to his points, but started to erode his logic. Which was relatively easy, because his logic pretty shallow.

I intuited as a young person that a lot of beliefs from problematic people were emotional, and that doubt was harder to shake than confrontation.

And that is the tactic I have been using for my conservative relatives.

So, for example, if a conservative relative brings up an issue like trans rights(I never bring up political issues) I let them talk themselves out, and then inject something like "Huh, well I guess I've always seen a distinction between tomboys and girly-girls. Guess people are different." or some variant of that.

It's not fool-proof, some people want to fight, but most times both of us keep it at the margins, and then switch to something lighter. This is a game of inches. No big swings most of the time.
posted by ishmael at 6:02 PM on November 22 [11 favorites]


The only argument came when one of the cousins requested that Alexa play some nu-metal. *Everyone* hated that.

[Strong loved that]
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 7:03 PM on November 22 [4 favorites]


part of the cultural shift towards Thanksgiving as the Aggro Holiday.

I do think part of that is that for we Americans (speaking very generally), once you have kids Christmas tends to become more about them and a bit more "nuclear family." So Thanksgiving becomes the holiday where the big get-togethers happen with the large extended family, meaning that's the only time you see your conservative cousins once removed who live 6 hours away and want to own the libs.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:45 PM on November 22 [3 favorites]


I haven’t celebrated this thing with actual family in over 20 years and it’s awesome. I’m not even estranged from my nuclear family, who are overall pretty left-leaning, they just live somewhere cold and remote and rural and I don’t.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:26 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]


It is incredibly weird that, as a society, we have turned one specific holiday* into Meet the Press, the Home Game. Every American seems to understand that there's supposed to be sociopolitical conflict at any Thanksgiving with family members from outside the house, and possibly inside it too.

Have we? Do they? Is there?

We pretty much only ever spend Thanksgiving with family members who we don't have huge political differences of opinion with.

These kinds of arguments are not actually enjoyable, or winnable. And while I lean decidedly toward the left side of the political spectrum, I wouldn't really want to spend the holiday with anyone, on either side, who was spoiling for a fight, or seeking to make the conversation heavily centered on politics in an angry way. It's supposed to be about the giving of thanks, not the airing of grievances (that's that other holiday).
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 9:55 PM on November 22 [4 favorites]


Here's a few little bombs to drop. Feel free to add your own.

Our Founding Fathers, the Framers of the US Constitution HAD OPEN BORDERS.

In fact, because the Framers HAD OPEN BORDERS, they never gave Congress any authority to regulate where Free People choose to travel and reside.

Thus the word "immigration" does not appear anywhere in the US Constitution and the Framers' Original Intent was the Open Borders they enjoyed.

In a Free Country, all so-called "immigration law" would be held unconstitutional.

Yet another way Reconstruction failed. ("Immigration Law" started after the white supremacist terrorists who started the Civil War were put down.)
posted by mikelieman at 10:39 PM on November 22 [14 favorites]


I like to turn family political discussions into secret fundraisers.

I'm not going to flip the table over and shout at my 92-year-old grandpa for repeating Fox News talking points. It's not going to get us anywhere, it will upset my poor mom, and it's not my style anyways. What I DO have is some disposable income.

So instead I turn every family Republican into a donor for the cause or candidate they're ranting about. Uncle Jim is going off about building a wall? Cool, that's another $2 to RAICES every minute he drones on about it. Aunt Miram is happy about Roe being overturned? Alright, $10 to the Brigid Alliance the first time she mentions it and another $1 every time after. I keep a quiet tally on my phone and then do the donations after the gathering is over. It keeps my sanity intact, and, unlike arguing with brainwashed family members, actually does something to help the populations they're spouting off against. Keep talking, Grandpa, you've raised nearly $20 for Ilhan Omar!
posted by castlebravo at 8:11 AM on November 23 [6 favorites]


Treating politics as blood sport doesn't serve good discourse. Scoring rhetoric points gives a great sugar rush high; but how does having your nose rubbed in an abandoned position feel? One might prefer being labeled delusional than to endure another smug victory smile from a "better" who reluctantly shows up once a year.

If you're both just there for the brawl, recognize that you might not be playing by the same rules. If you're actually trying to change minds, celebrate that your victory is their victory too; friends aren't at war with each other, that's for enemies.
posted by grokus at 9:53 AM on November 23 [1 favorite]


The problem I have with conservative relatives is not abstract political issues differences, it's how they tend to treat me such as in an authoritarian and presumptive way. Holiday get-togethers are just a special case of the more general case of difficult interactions and relations with kin because they are conservatives and I am not.

Liberals try to make the case that we humans have much more in common than we think. If we remember the human, we can empathize and show kindness even in some of those moments the other person is not doing that.

But I guess I'm not that kind of liberal, because I see that explanation, while somewhat inspiring as a goal, as nevertheless a sophisticated whataboutism.
posted by polymodus at 12:28 PM on November 23 [1 favorite]


The idea that my PERSONHOOD is up for debate and that I should just sit there quietly about it is a nonstarter. Yay for everyone that feels they have the opportunity to just check out of those conversations and let people decide I’m not a person, I guess. But don’t come and expect ally cookies next time I’m handing them out.
posted by Bottlecap at 1:29 PM on November 23 [11 favorites]


I have to admit that, while it's sad that most of the generation older than me in my family is now dead, and I miss them a lot, I really feel like I dodged a bullet that they were already dead before American politics got to this point.

The Iraq War was bad enough. I didn't talk to my uncle the entire last year of his life (until he was actually on his deathbed) and I regret it. I loved that old jerk.
posted by Michael Roberts at 8:07 PM on November 23 [1 favorite]


Came across a cartoon that I wanted to toss in at the end of this thread -- apparently this is not a totally new or American problem.

"Now, let's not talk about the Dreyfus Affair!"
posted by Countess Elena at 8:26 AM on November 25 [3 favorites]


Welp - the good news is, my family all adhered to the no-politics-discussion rule (my parents, my brother's family, and me are all left-leaning Biden voters, and my aunt was a Trumper).

The BAD news is, my aunt apparently shifted things to other non-political culture-war topics (i.e., "comedians can't tell jokes any more without anyone being offended").

The rest of the family dealt with it by subtly and gradually walking away when she started, save for my mother (her sister) who just went gray rock on her until she was done and then changed the topic to something like "so hey, I ran into Lucy Vines the other day, remember her from back home?" or something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:03 AM on November 25 [3 favorites]


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