Dinner Table Politics: A Holiday Survival Guide Surviving Easter Dinner In his run for the presidency, Barrack Obama captured our imagination by rejecting politics as usual. He also argued that the power and responsibility to make change starts with the people. So, you agree but aren’t sure where to start? Political change can start at home. It is as simple as putting politics on the menu for Easter dinner. But you’re worried that “Yes We Can…” finishes with “…get angry and ruin the holiday.” Nobody wants a crucifixion at a family gathering. The question is: how do you keep things from getting out of hand? Consider these likely scenarios: Comment #1: Grampa Joe, the family patriarch who made his fortune in the Alberta oil patch pushes back from the table. After making clear his expectation that he be waited on in turn by every female descendent, he offers the following observation: “We all know that everyone has got their hands out in this economy. Everybody wants a free lunch, most of all those commie unions. Wouldn’t know an honest day’s work if it bit them in the ass.” You have at least three potential responses. Do you become: (a) The MudSlinger: “Well, coming from a ‘hard worker’ like you who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and never had to work for what was handed to him, I’m at least thankful that you’ve reminded me about why I will never vote Conservative.” (b) The Joker: “Way to go gramps, you tell ‘em. Hey, remind me: how many miles did you have to walk through the snow to get to school when you were a kid? And how many Reds did you have to fight through on the way? (c) The Critical Thinker: “Say grampa, you and the rest of this family did pretty well with the support of the welfare state. If you don’t think we have a responsibility to look out for those less fortunate than us, how would you propose we create a fairer society?” Comment #2: Aunt Betty, down from the sticks and missing the small town already, is unhinged by the fact that dinner didn’t start with what she deems to be an appropriate amount of reflection on holy sacrifice and the promise of resurrection. She demands of the group: “Just who do these atheists think they are? On my way into town I saw that unholy ad on a bus: ‘There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.’ We should censor such blasphemous filth, especially at Easter!” Do you become: (a) The Bully: “Listen here you free speech hating hayseed: I’m not sure if there’s a God or not. But I am sure that I’m as likely to take my cues on civil liberties from the church as I am to learn theology from a transit ad!”
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(b) The Gossip: “You’re right Betty. Everyone knows spirituality is soooo ‘in.’ I just saw Madonna on tour and I’m seriously thinking about taking up Kabala.” (c) The Grand Inquisitor: “I don’t know Betty. You know what they say: sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger. If your God is all knowing and powerful, what’s the big threat in a little bus ad? What does everyone else think?” Comment #3: Cousin Doug, wiping some wayward gravy from his mustache with his the sleeve of his hunting jacket, hammers his meaty fist into the table and thunders: “Did you hear about that damned school out east that cancelled the national anthem? What the hell does it say about our country that we would cave in to a bunch of PC liberals instead of showing some respect for our troops? I say, if you don’t love our country and stand behind our troops, you’d better get ready to stand in front of them.” Do you become: (a) The Instigator: “Hey cousin: you know what else? I heard they’re replacing the anthem with a song that celebrates gay marriage and high taxes.” (b) The Excuser: “ I don’t know much Doug – but I know your heart is in the right place. The protestors aren’t ‘good people,’ but we’re fighting for their freedoms too, even if they don’t deserve them.” (c) The Democrat: “Well Doug, I realize you have some strong feelings about this despite the fact that you hated school yourself, but maybe we should stop for a second to hear what other people think.” Many people are excited about politics and want to get involved. But political change can’t start without changing minds and that means starting conversations. So, when someone at your table drops a pearl of wisdom like “I don’t trust that Obama ‘cause he’s a Muslim,” don’t lose your temper. Open the conversation up with thoughtful questions rather than scoring cheap points with easy put‐downs. It’s Easter, when would it be more appropriate to resurrect the lost art of political conversation?
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Published on Aug 31, 2009
Sample article of what could be a running column (for newspaper or magazine). Topic: how to survive holiday dinners with family given the po...