Holiday from heartburn

We are reminded on this day or all days to offer thanks to whatever deity, fateful intervention or personal attribute we choose to credit for our health and good fortune. To allow others at the dinner table to experience additional gratitude, perhaps this is the day of all days and the year of all years to leave off discussing politics.

Whether host or guest, the old etiquette offers new guidance: discussion of religion, money or politics can take you and the rest of the company to a bad place. Especially politics, for the issues that divide the nation also divide families. True, with the unending news cycle, social media and all-around passion, avoiding politics in conversation won’t be easy. Engaging in a political back-and-forth with those of differing views would be exceptionally unrewarding.

According to a Pew Research study, 59 percent of Americans find discussing politics with those who share different views of the national political picture stressful and anxiety-inducing. To which we say: Duh. One in four Americans say their relationships — even their close relationships — have been sorely tested by the recent midterm elections. (We were going to say “recently concluded midterm elections” but, at this writing, some of them are still battling it out).

The curious thing about the current season’s division and partisanship is that even people who agree with one another on an issue or candidate may disagree on the depth or sincerity of one another’s ideological commitment.

It would be tragic, if not alarming, if our inescapable political divisions undermined the events, celebrations and observances that — far more than any government or policy — hold us together. Family and friends are the true cornerstones of a civil society. If these relationships were overwhelmed by politics, what would we have left to value?

Certainly debate the virtues of brined turkey over spiral cut ham, yams over turnips, a bracing sauvignon blanc over a mellow pinot noir. But red over blue, left over right? Those can drive a wedge between a once united people. They already have. And the likelihood of changing the mind of the person across the table is not good. Better, perhaps, to be the change. “If we could change ourselves,” Gandhi said, “the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

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