A new Thanksgiving tradition is emerging, and it’s not as warm and fuzzy as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Turning the time-honored taboo against discussing religion or politics at the dinner table on its head, activist groups on the left and the right are encouraging their followers to take the culture war to Grandma’s house.
Talking points for hot-button issues now pop up in November social media feeds alongside recipes for cranberry relish and candied yams.
Credit for adding the Vitriol Bowl to the Thanksgiving entertainment lineup goes to then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In 2013, Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns group released a pamphlet called “Talking Turkey on Guns” that offered Pilgrim-illustrated “facts” to counter common “myths.”
The NRA returned fire with its own “fact sheet” for family fun. Both sides, mind you, were only looking to “set the record straight” when that obnoxious right-wing/left-wing relative starts attacking your values.
Last year, the grand jury in Ferguson provided tinder for touching articles such as “Thanksgiving tips for talking to your racist family members.”
This year, it was looking like the tension topic would be limited to the presidential candidates — tryptophan effect, anyone?
But now the attacks in Paris have served up the gold-standard rage-baiting subjects of xenophobia, immigration and religion, with tantalizing sides of France (freedom fries) and the Middle East wars.
The Washington Post is on the case, offering debating tips for both sides on the topic of whether it’s OK to say “radical Islam.”
A novel take on this new holiday tradition of carving up unenlightened relatives comes from John Cook. Last year, in an article called “How to pick a fight with your relatives this Thanksgiving,” Cook urged keeping the tone light, as with this sample conversation starter: “I’m thankful for all that free stuff Obama gave me.”
The humorous approach acknowledges you are unlikely to change anyone’s mind between the Butterball and the pumpkin pie.
And yet, even laced with levity, sparring with (or if you prefer, enlightening) family members goes against the fundamental spirit of the holiday.
Thanksgiving ought to be about deepening bonds with close family members and getting to know distant relatives better.
It ought to be about enjoying one another’s company.
Let’s say “no” to turning the feast table into a venue for verbal cage-fighting.
It’s easy. Here’s how.
Anytime you hear this year’s trigger words — “refugees,” “Islamic State,” “Muslim” — or even reruns such as “Benghazi” or “NRA,” just smile and say, “How ’bout those Royals?”