Matt Chan / Flickr

Thanksgiving is a holiday that celebrates those two most American of things: eating with one’s family, and arguing with them. Why simply fill pie holes when you can tell someone you love to shut theirs? But it’s a tricky thing to pull off, all this feasting-and-fighting, which is probably why this time of year tends to bring a flurry of advice on the matter, ranging from the politically objective (“How to Survive Your Family’s Thanksgiving Arguments,” “How to Talk to Your Relatives About Politics at Thanksgiving,” “How to Have Thanksgiving Dinner Without a Family Blowup) to the politically less so (“Here’s how to talk to your Trump-supporting relatives this Thanksgiving,” “How to deal with your racist/sexist/science-denying right-wing uncle this holiday season,” “How to Talk to Your Pansy Marxist Nephew at Thanksgiving”).

All the variation can make it hard to determine your own best strategy for fighting with your family while also giving thanks for their existence. So, in the spirit of holiday unity, here’s a multi-purpose guide—one that is, for ease of use, customizable to most any political circumstance you may find yourself in on Thursday. Simply choose your preferred filters, and you’ll be effectively arguing with your family in no time. Happy Thanksgiving!


Thanksgiving can be so awkward, and only partly because of [ American history / football rivalries / the sound canned cranberry sauce makes as it exits its container ]. The holiday also, often, will find you spending time with members of your family who are, unfortunately, [ Republicans / Democrats / libertarians / pastafarians / socially conservative but fiscally progressive holdover Nixonians ]. But while you may, in the aftermath of the election, be feeling [ victorious / humbled / that maybe the people who volunteered for that Mars One thing knew something the rest of us didn’t / horrified / terrified / genuinely confused ], still, during this time of [ mis / Thanks ]giving, it’s worth remembering that the communal table can offer a great opportunity for [ listening / learning / gloating / yelling / re-educating ]. If you keep your mind [ properly open / properly closed ], gathering with your loved ones around the table can be an exercise in [ empathy / condescension / WINNING ]. Even, and especially, if those loved ones do not share your [ beliefs / values / facts ].

Try to be, on the big day, ready for anything. It’s smart to prepare for Thanksgiving as if it were an [ extended debate / MMA match / exam that determines 80 percent of your final grade, even though you totally showed up to class week after week and it really seems like steady, reliable participation should count for more in the end ]. In many ways, after all, it is. So make sure that, long before the green bean casserole goes into the oven, you’ve made yourself an expert on [ the U.S. Constitution / the U.S. Electoral College / the best way to keep the government’s hands off of Medicare ].

Or, if you’re feeling especially [ confident / insecure ], you can also simply memorize some assorted soundbites and statistics to drop at random during the Thanksgiving meal. For example, do your relatives know that the Pope just endorsed Ivanka Trump’s new line of boldly understated careerwear, whose pieces are currently available at [ Macy’s / Lord & Taylor / several fine retailers ]? Or that your chances of falling victim to [ Prius drivers / Roombas gone suddenly sentient / superstorms brought about by the irreversible effects of global climate change ] have risen by 63 percent in the past two years alone? These things aren’t true, technically, but you saw them on [ Facebook / Twitter / Snapchat / Breitbart ], which means that, in another way, THEY ARE TOTALLY  TRUE.

Despite all your best efforts and preparation, though, things—as we were so powerfully reminded [ this month / eight years ago / 112 years ago ]—can always go horribly wrong. If the worst befalls your Thanksgiving table, it’s always good to have a handful of non-politics-related topics at the ready to help you change the subject with grace. You could bring up, for example, [ Daenerys’s dragons in Game of Thrones / Arya’s revenge in Game of Thrones / Hodor’s sacrifice in Game of Thrones ]. Mentioning NCIS is usually a safe bet, as well. Same goes, almost always, for [ The Big Bang Theory / American Ninja Warrior / The Voice / Wheel of Fortune ], which, you can add to stoke the conversation further, is actually having a surprisingly compelling season at the moment.

This should go without saying, but: Whatever you do, do not even think of mentioning [ the new Ghostbusters / the old Ghostbusters / the new Star Wars / the incontrovertible fact that hot dogs are not sandwiches ]. This will only end badly, for everyone. Same goes, obviously, for The Apprentice.

Finally, if all else fails, [ empathy / condescension / WINNING ]-wise, you can always bond with your family over a shared laugh at the [ failing / lying / too-powerful / impotent / elitist / classless ] members of the American press. You and your relatives may not see eye-to-eye on much, but you can definitely all agree that [ CNN / Fox News / The New York Times / The Atlantic ] is the worst, and just laughably bad when it comes to maintaining a healthy democracy. There’s nothing more to say on that; just enjoy those lols while they last!

So there you have it: a Thanksgiving coping strategy that, we hope, will help you to [ engage with / learn from / shame ] your relatives, and to [ win / survive / possibly even enjoy ] your holiday. We hope, too, that this advice helps to bring some sorely needed unity to all of our seasonal celebrations. Because if we can’t be brought together with [ turkey / mashed potatoes / yams / stuffing / turkey that is reheated on Friday, along with mashed potatoes and yams and stuffing, to form a glorious and only slightly soggy Gratitude Casserole ], then what even is the point? Of anything? That’s one final thing the citizens of this divided nation can agree on, in the end: We’re all going to need some good and tasty sustenance if we’re going to [ keep / make ] America [ great / great again ].

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.