Editorial: Enjoy your turkey in spirit of civility

The Detroit News

Of all the things President Donald Trump has been blamed for, ruining Thanksgiving is one of the most bizarre.

But two researchers from the University of California Los Angeles and Washington State University who did an exhaustive, nationwide study of how the election of Trump in 2016 impacted Thanksgiving dinners in every county in America, say the president has made the holiday meal shorter and tenser.

The reason: Unpleasant discourse over politics has families pushing back from the table and going home early, leaving behind family and friends with whom they disagree.

US President Donald Trump pardons the turkey "Peas" during the annual ceremony at the White House in Washington, DC, on November 20, 2018 as US First Lady Melania Trump looks on.

Families who were in political harmony spent a full hour more together on Thanksgiving than those who were politically divided, according to the research. In southeast Michigan, uncomfortable political discussions shortened the celebration by anywhere from 23 to 37.5 minutes. 

With the Trump impeachment inquiry filling the conversational space leading up this year's celebration, the odds are high that acrimony and hard feelings will be as plentiful as turkey and stuffing.

It doesn't have to be that way. Even in these passionate times, politics shouldn't be the breaking point for loved ones. Tolerance for those with different political views should still be possible as should robust debates that don't end in hurt feelings, especially among people who care about each other.

Before you cross the threshold of a friend or relative who holds political opinions you detest, do a couple of things.

First, remember why you came in the first place. Presumably, you are fond of these folks and are bound to them in some way, either through kinship or friendships that were deemed valuable enough to nurture. Very likely, you have shared experiences and ties that have nothing to do with politics.

In many cases, these are people who have stood by your side in times of joy and sorrow.  

Focus on the aspects of the relationship that unite you, rather than the issues that push you apart.

It would be silly to advise avoiding the topic of politics. It's bound to come up. When it does, try listening before talking. Commit to keeping your volume down, regardless of how loud the other talkers get.

Don't assume those who hold opposing views are stupid or evil. Ask questions aimed at understanding why and how they formed their opinions. Don't be condescending or smug. And don't lecture. It's unlikely you're going to convert anyone to your side of the aisle.

The aim should be learning something. It's helpful to be open to the possibility that you could be wrong about some things, as hard as that may be to accept. 

Above all else, never forget the importance of families and friendships. These are people who will be there for you, and love you when you need them, even if they hate your politics.

Be nice, be calm. Be civil. Hug a lot.

And if all else fails, there's always the Lions game.