Happy Thanksgiving: Our Culture-War Holiday

Ah, Thanksgiving…when families gather to eat birds, watch football, and shout at each other. The Thanksgiving tradition of fighting over issues such as gay rights, abortion, taxes, and school prayer has been hallowed by generations of angry get-togethers. After all, when you put a bunch of people around a table, related only by genetics, and feed them too much tryptophan and wine, culture-war fireworks are bound to happen. Today we’ll share some of the punditry about Thanksgiving culture-war battles we’ve gathered from minutes of browsing the interwebs.

I Disagree with You, but I Respect your Commitment to your Position!

I Disagree with You, but I Respect your Commitment to your Position!

1.) Progressives Use Thanksgiving to Convert Conservatives:

At National Review Online, Katherine Timpf cocks a snook at “ridiculous” progressive suggestions for fixing conservative family members. Progressives, Timpf warns, are out to get conservatives this year. Some progressives threaten to turn the Macy’s parade into a feminist diatribe. Others will blather on about the fact that many Americans don’t celebrate Christmas. Some might seize upon the progressive missionary opportunities of the occasion, buttonholing conservative relatives on the issue of climate change, then following up with an email from the Union of Concerned Scientists. If conservative evangelical or “Tea-Party” relatives try to belittle gay marriage or Obamacare, some progressives advise their minions to take conservatives down with prepared statements from the government or the book of Leviticus. And, of course, just to make sure everyone suffers from indigestion, there is at least one progressive pundit out there advising folks to use Thanksgiving to laud the Common Core.

2.) How to Win a Thanksgiving Argument with Conservative Relatives:

At Policy.mic, Gregory Krieg offers a progressive how-to guide for culture-war arguments. Your conservative “bloviating cousin,” Krieg warns, will certainly bring up some culture-war issues. Krieg offers ways to put conservatives in their places on issues such as the Ferguson riots, Obamacare, Obama’s immigration plans, Bill Cosby’s alleged serial rapes, legalizing marijuana, and more. In each case, we’re told, there are factual, reasonable rebuttals to the sorts of “unreasonable, knee-jerk opinions” conservative relatives will be spouting.

3.) How to Publicly Shame your Conservative Uncle:

From an Iowan progressive, we see a few tips on ways to beat your conservative uncle in holiday arguments. It’s important, progressive Iowan Trish Nelson warns, not to “appear too thoughtful—conservatives may confuse this for weakness.” After pounding your conservative relative with piles of facts to explode his ill-considered myths, Nelson promises,

your conservative Uncle will be roasting in his own myths and half truths, so forgive him if he’s a bit thrown off. Take your time and be patient, let him fully cook, and patiently explain the error of his ways.

4.) Again with the “Crazy Right-Wing” Uncle!

I don’t know why uncles are the repository for conservatism this year, but from the LA Times Joel Silberman offers progressive advice on handling a conservative uncle. Don’t fall for the temptation to be polite, Silberman suggests. It is a “patriotic” act to pick fights with your conservative relatives at Thanksgiving. Why? Because these days we don’t often get a chance to engage with people from the ‘other side’ of culture war issues. [Editor’s Note: Unless, of course, we read and comment in the pages of ILYBYGTH!] To be fair, Silberman is not advising the sort of knock-down, drag-out, drumstick-wielding family kerfuffle that I remember so fondly from my childhood. Instead, he suggests that everyone guide their discussion with “respect and know when to stop, and remember that relationships are more important than righteousness.”

Good advice, and a good place to stop. But just like every Thanksgiving fighter ever, I can’t resist getting in one last word. Instead of preparing arguments to win Thanksgiving showdowns, what if we progressives all spent time learning the best arguments our conservative relatives might make? Certainly nothing is less productive in culture-war battles than sitting back smugly and assuming our mastery of “facts” will soon bring our “myth”-laden opponents to their knees.

Rather, why not take an ILYBYGTH approach? Why not do some homework to learn why intelligent, informed conservatives might hold the positions they hold? Why not assume that people of good will might disagree sincerely on abortion, Obamacare, homosexual rights, evolution, and even the Common Core?

After all, the way to quiet a jerkface loudmouth uncle is not to publicly shame him. Rather, it might be more productive if we all studied the best arguments our culture-war opponents might make. Instead of asking: How can I trounce that argument? What if we asked: Why might someone believe that? Or, most important, what if we asked: How can we enjoy all of our blessings without screaming at each other?