Last year, the Thanksgiving blog of Rinocracy.com reflected on the divisive aftermath of the 2016 election and the impact that it was having on Thanksgiving preparations in many homes. In particular, the blog noted reports of Thanksgiving plans being rearranged or even celebrations being canceled altogether to avoid political arguments. Sadly, it appears that similar circumstances may endure this year.
As OpenMind recently observed:
One wrong conversational turn can ruin your whole Thanksgiving dinner. A recent study found that politically divided families ended their Thanksgiving dinners 20-30 minutes sooner last year, compared to non-divided families, for a total loss of 27 million hours of family time. Since the 2016 presidential election, political polarization has risen to a record-high, indicating that Thanksgiving meals in 2017 are likely to be an equally fraught endeavor.
Last year’s blog urged readers who gathered at Thanksgiving “to set aside political differences, and focus on the spirit of the day.” It observed that “Whatever one’s view of the incoming administration, and however difficult one’s personal situation, we all have much for which to be thankful. If you find that difficult to accept, try, just for a moment, to imagine yourself a resident of Aleppo.” The same advice seems equally pertinent this year, perhaps substituting for Aleppo a reference to Yemen. As reported in the Washington Post , that country, ravaged by civil war and on the brink of famine, has been described as the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world.” In conditions less desperate but closer to home, Puerto Rico, continues to stagger from the effects of Hurricane Maria, as aid has lagged and half its population still lacks electricity. To consider the misery in such places for only a moment should give most of us a sense of proportion for our own comforts and difficulties.
The 2016 blog also urged that, if politics must be discussed, they be explored “with goodwill and mutual respect.” That also remains equally on point and it is the core message of OpenMind, a program of Heterodox Academy. (The Academy is a politically diverse group of distinguished social scientists, natural scientists, humanists, and other scholars who seek to promote “viewpoint diversity” on college and university campuses.) OpenMind has developed an app that is designed to “help individuals cultivate intellectual humility and open-mindedness, while equipping them with skills to discuss sensitive topics and grow from encountering intellectual diversity.” The initial app developed by OpenMind is intended for use in the classroom, but later versions will be offered to community organizations and corporations.
In the meantime, the OpenMind materials cite various resources, including “Getting Beyond the Red/Blue Divide” an outline of techniques based on the following principles:
–You agree to set aside the desire to persuade the other and instead focus on developing a better understanding of each other’s perspectives, and the hopes, fears and values that underlie them;
–You agree to be curious and to avoid the pattern of attack and defend;
–You choose to ask questions and move beyond stereotypes and assumptions.
If those principles are followed, will it help create a climate for a Happy Thanksgiving? No guarantee, but it can’t hurt.