November 2016 Column Winner

It's not Angst-giving Day
How about we take politics off the table?
Christine Reid, Kingfisher Times & Free Press

Let’s talk turkey.
It’s four days until Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday of the year.
Growing up the youngest of seven siblings, my memories of Thanksgiving revolve around multiple layers of family engaging in noisily overlapping conversations, boisterously good-natured debates and lots of laughter.
One of the joys of having a large family is that the stress of providing, cooking and cleaning up after a huge Thanksgiving meal virtually disappears when it is spread among many hands.
The ebb and flow of deaths, births, marriages and divorces – all the events that shrink and grow a family’s numbers – are always most evident around the Thanksgiving table.
That’s why the holiday offers the perfect opportunity to take stock, regroup, share in the personal celebrations and heartaches of the previous year and count blessings, unspoiled by the stress and materialism often imposed by the gift-giving traditions of Christmas.
But maybe not this year.
Who can say what might happen this whack-a-doodle year when families divided by the ugliest, most contentious election in decades between the two most disliked candidates will sit across the table from each other armed with sharp cutlery and their righteous indignation, with only a hapless turkey to deflect the crossfire?
Political allegiances in my own family run the gamut from Donald supporters and Hilary haters (overlapping but not identical groups) to Hillary supporters and Donald haters (overlapping but not identical groups) to those who voted “none of the above,” right before hermetically sealing themselves inside their survival bunkers.
Even 12 days out, emotions seem raw. That’s understandable among strangers or even acquaintances, I guess, in a nation where political discourse has become so fractious.
But since when has our love and respect for our family members been rooted in their political affiliations?
When I look at the passionate Clinton supporters in my family, all I really see are a nephew soon to be a first-time father at age 40, another who is a self-taught wildlife photographer whose pictures of grinning apes and frolicking snow leopard cubs regularly grace the promotional materials for three major zoos, and another who owns and operates his own successful small business.
When I look at the ardent Trump campaigners, I see a niece and nephew who faithfully and lovingly nursed my sister through a grueling two-year cancer battle.
And when I look at other relatives who maybe held their noses and checked the box for whichever candidate they thought might do the least permanent damage, all I see are the people who have stood by me through every heartache, joy and challenge.
My family makes me feel proud, loved, accepted and connected and one election, no matter how historic, won’t change that.
Just because we don’t share identical priorities and goals, we all share lifelong bonds – all those knots and stitches and weaves that comprise the colorfully messy tapestry of our family.
In my heart, those bonds are unbreakable, come hell or high water.
Or a Donald Trump presidency and whatever may follow that.
At least that’s my hope.
But I tested this overture a few days after the election in a Facebook post that quickly spawned a heated exchange of comments from both sides.
I sense a fear that in not holding our loved ones accountable for the heinous crime of blackening the wrong box on Nov. 8, we are turning our backs on our own values and beliefs.
But the real risk is that we end up throwing everyone out of the boat who would be most likely to stand shoulder to shoulder with us to plug holes and bail water when it starts sinking.
Listening to the mainstream media over the past week, it’s clear that the Democrat Party has missed the election’s crucial lesson:
You’ll never change minds or win votes when you marginalize and dehumanize those who disagree with you, magnifying differences instead of seeking common ground.
Only time will tell whether that lesson was lost on Republicans as well.
Individually, we’re probably not capable of constructing the massive suspension bridges required to cross this country’s deep ideological divides.
But maybe by leaving our political posturing at home this Thursday, we can all work on building some footbridges that will bring our divided families back together.
I know I’m ready for a little less angst and a lot more thanks.
Plus maybe a generous slice of pumpkin pie. Hold the whipped cream.

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