Pass the Turkey, Hold the Politics

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How to get through Thanksgiving without a big dumb argument around the dinner table

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Norman Rockwell; Reuters

Whether you're going home for Thanksgiving to visit your families, or skipping the traffic to spend the holiday with your "urban family" (which isn't sad at all, don't worry about it), nothing can ruin a dinner quite like a discussion of politics. After all, gravy can cure a dry turkey. But no sauce or roux can hide the chaos after Uncle Mike storms off because your sister-in-law Denise called him an anti-Semite. But I'm here to help. Below, please find the types of questions that could very well lead to a tureen of soup hurtling toward to the china cabinet. I've also provided the answers that just may get your family to the other side of Thanksgiving with the same number of feuds and grudges with which it started.

QUESTION ONE (POSED BY YOUR BROTHER'S GIRLFRIEND KRISTEN): Oh man, Mrs. S., these potatoes are awesome. Did you guys see what's happening in Israel right now? I mean, I don't understand what these Gazans are trying to do, but it's like, stop shooting rockets, and it's like, people get mad at Israel, and I mean, what if New Jersey were sending rockets at New York, and New Jersey was all terrorists? I mean what would Bloomberg do?

ANSWER: Mom, Kristen's right. These potatoes are bananas. Not bananas. I just mean they're delicious! What made me bring up bananas? Have you heard that bananas may go extinct? It's true. Imagine life without bananas. Uncle Rick, what do you think of bananas?

QUESTION TWO (POSED BY YOUR DAD): You see that Papa John's guy? I'm telling you: Obamacare is going to ruin this country. I know Jeff [your 22-year-old brother who is currently insured on your family's health plan as a direct result of Obamacare] went knocking on doors for our "president" because he's never had a real job and doesn't know what it's like to pay taxes just so a bunch of people can get a free ride. But I'm not mad, because he'll figure it out, once he gets out into the world, and sees what it's like to make payroll or buy a house after the government's gotten through with you.

ANSWER: Here's what I think about Skyfall. It was an awesome movie -- and, wow, Sam Mendes totally brought it -- but it wasn't a Bond movie, you know? It was so cool and Bardem was ah-may-zing but seeing where James Bond grew up? That's more Batman, right? What do you think, cousin Sam?

QUESTION THREE (POSED BY COUSIN TED WHO VOTED FOR NADER IN 2000): Look, I voted for Nader in 2000 and I'm not going to apologize for that. Both parties are in bed with Wall Street and the banks and derivatives. You know, I'm telling you, there's going to be a revolution in this country. We cannot keep doing what we're doing. Fracking? Are you fracking kidding me? It's like this country's been bought and sold. Look at Cousin Donny. He went to Iraq. For what? Oil.

ANSWER: Aunt Marie, how did you lose the weight? You must have been living at the gym. You look like Christie Brinkley. Dad, doesn't Aunt Marie look like Christie Brinkley? Uncle Rick, you are a lucky man. Uh oh. Look at little Tiger under the table. Who gave him giblets? Now we gotta get Tiger to the gym! Time to hit the elliptical, Tiger!

I hope this brief Q and A will serve as a guide for you this Thanksgiving Day. Politics can bring up a lot of emotions, even in ourselves. And perhaps this raises the toughest questions of all: Why do we care what our relatives think about politics? Are we trying to make a point because we feel deeply about the issues, or because of our own egos? Does anyone ever really win a political argument? So when someone passes the green beans and asks why Republicans hate women and want them in chains, or wonders aloud why Democrats want to turn this nation into a socialist wasteland, don't take the bait, take a few more yams! And then ask your sister's boyfriend whether he watches Walking Dead and if it's gotten better this season.

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Jon Lovett is a writer based in Los Angeles. He previously served for three years as a speechwriter to President Obama in the White House.

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