A Grain Of Saul: Why You Should Talk About Politics At Thanksgiving

Forget the taboos and "the rules," everyone should practice political discourse.

A Grain of Saul is a weekly column that digs into some of the biggest issues we face as a nation and as an international community in search of reliable data, realistic solutions, and — most importantly — hope.  

Everyone knows the rule: avoid talking about politics at dinner parties.

But this year, as politics have taken center stage at the dinner table, I'm suggesting you do the opposite. Thanks to the controversial and reality TV-esque nature of Donald Trump's candidacy and his victory, it seems more people are tuned into the business of governance than ever before.

There is also something else happening, though. The country's political discourse is full of more anger and hatred than ever before. The election results were also a stark reminder of a divided electorate: Hillary Clinton's popular vote win has now extended to a historic 1.7 million people, while President-elect Trump won the electoral college handily. 

At first glance, the country's division may be all the more reason to avoid talking about politics while you're home for the holidays. I'd like to suggest something else: talk about them respectfully and see if you can gain an understanding of an opposing view.

Shutterstock
Shutterstock

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, everyone should drop the alleged taboos and engage in some old-fashioned political discourse. If the holiday can teach us anything, it's that it's possible and important. Remember, Thanksgiving is a celebration of one of the few nonviolent relationships between Europeans and Native American tribes. Even the national holiday itself was declared by Abraham Lincoln, amidst a civil war, which should jog everyone's memory of how a divided nation can devolve.

Perhaps one of the most important lessons from this election is that people don't talk to those with opposing views as much as they should. Numerous think pieces have been written about this "echo chamber" dynamic, blaming it on everything from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to liberal intolerance to fake news. But the truth is, the echo chamber is most effectively enhanced by people refusing to discuss tough topics in person, especially among people they know, respect and disagree with.

Besides, who better to get into a political spat with than a family member or close friend you inevitably will forgive? If you were to engage in a political conversation with someone who you would expect to fight with, what better person to do it with than a family member or friend you're close enough to that they're sitting at your Thanksgiving table?

Even more importantly, for millions of Americans the holiday will mean coming together with family from a different part of the country. As most people have probably heard, much was made of the rural and urban divide in this year's election results: people from Middle America cast their ballots overwhelmingly for Trump while those in metropolitan areas voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton.

Liberals have since spent lots of time reflecting on how their own echo chambers stopped them from encountering people with different needs. Some have concluded that we need to reassess how we talk about and demean rural America, and how we prioritize their needs. Other conservatives concluded that rural America needs to leave their country bubble and experience life in places with actual diversity.

These two clashing views, in thousands of homes, will be sitting across from a giant turkey this week. It's my opinion that they should talk about it.

For more political commentary, you can follow @Ike_Saul on Twitter