13 Easy Tips for Politicizing Your Thanksgiving Dinner

How to navigate tricky holiday conversations in 2018. Also: Black Friday ideas!

GraphicaArtis / Getty

How do you eat a meal with loved ones? Each Thanksgiving, the U.S. media answer that question, distinguishing us from countries without a free press, where people don’t dare celebrate the holiday.1  Everything you need to know is explained in this numbered list of easily shareable tips!

  1. Many families say a predinner prayer. But what if heathens are present? To include them, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, too, replacing “one nation, under God” with “… under Trump” so that everyone feels welcome.
  2. Do you freeze up when it’s time to say what you’re thankful for? Pre-write your list on a phone app and read from the screen when your turn comes. Members of oppressor groups will want to begin by noting, “I’m thankful for my white-male privilege,” especially when sharing a table with blue-collar kin, who may not have read Peggy McIntosh’s seminal essay in their cultural-competency training.
  3. Nowadays young people wait longer to get married. And the birth rate is falling, endangering attendance at future Thanksgiving dinners. This is due largely to the failure of laid-back, Baby Boomer grandparents to encourage and cajole their grandsons and granddaughters with pointed questions about their reproductive planning. It’s never too soon to talk to your kids about stopping birth control.
  4. Not all traditions deserve to survive. For example, letting Grandpa or Dad carve the turkey every year reeks of patriarchy. The task ought to be assigned to the youngest female present, no exceptions.
  5. Politics is the indispensable holiday topic, and the religious separatists who celebrated the first Thanksgiving serve as a reminder that politics need not be secular in nature. In keeping with the spirit of the holiday, a Catholic family might want to debate the merits of breaking with Rome, while Muslims might probe whether Shia or Sunnis have it right. In discussions of U.S. politics, most families will be divided between members who hate America and want to destroy what’s great about this country, and members who are irredeemably racist and sexist. Still, converts can be won if folks offer evidence for their claims. Phrases to keep handy include “according to science,” “Sean Hannity reported,” and “because America is and has always been a patriarchal, white-supremacist rape culture.”
  6. Every family has a patriotic duty to debate the most important unsettled political question of our era: Is President Donald Trump a sexually predatory Nazi who praises murderous tyrants while normalizing a Margaret Atwood dystopia? Or is he a latter-day Midas who beds porn stars only with their consent … with the same manly hands he used to romance North Korea’s leader out of his nukes? At my house, each faction will nominate a champion to argue its position, those of us who remembered to bring IDs will vote on who won, and absent unanimity, we’ll settle the matter by combat.
  7. White women are unusually controversial this year. If you’ve already made the mistake of inviting one, just ignore her.
  8. If talk of politics starts to ruin the meal because of your failure to take the foregoing advice, don’t be afraid to bring up something else––there are a few other topics that can lead to engaging conversation. Sex is among the most popular––according to the Huffington Post, “Porn websites account for more monthly traffic than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined,” so folks around your table are almost certainly partaking. Money is another national obsession. How much does everyone make? Do they save enough or spend too much? And are there any outstanding debts owed to people at the table?
  9. Then there’s child-rearing. Not everyone present will be the parent of young children. But if nothing else, everyone will have been a child before. And that means they have deep insight into how others should raise their children. Indeed, family therapy is so expensive these days that many have never had an open conversation with their kids about their family’s rules and disciplinary strategies. A trusted cousin or aunt willing to raise the subject is likely to elicit memorable comments from Mom, Dad, and Junior.
  10.   Other subjects are hugely important but seldom discussed because of a perception that they’re boring. Why not get creative? Take land-use policy. Zoning rules aren’t likely to hold anyone’s attention for long. But what if you researched the land on which your gathering was being held, ascertained the indigenous tribe with the most viable claim to it, and asked the property owner whether he or she would be willing to deed it over in a magnanimous Thanksgiving Day gesture?
  11.   It is your moral obligation to discuss climate change, as all life on earth is doomed unless everyone leaves your table convinced of the need to ban the use of fossil fuels. Don’t serve dessert until you’ve reached consensus.
  12.   Per The Globe and Mail, “Sugar is the new tobacco.” In lieu of pumpkin pie, put Demerara sugar in empty tea pouches and instruct everyone to “pinch” or “dip” them between their lower lip and gums. (In California, this must be done outdoors at least 20 feet from any door or window and may require a Proposition 65 placard.)
  13.   While it may be tempting to linger at the table, especially if you’ve followed all of my tips, the savvy Thanksgiving participant will depart early to get in line at a nearby Best Buy, Target, or Walmart. If your goodbyes are taking longer than you’d like, borrow a trick from the Academy Awards: Put “Black Friday” by Steely Dan on the home stereo and gradually turn the volume louder and louder until everyone stops talking. Then take your exit and pat yourself on the back as you settle into your zero-degree sleeping bag––you’ve successfully pulled off the best Thanksgiving of your life.
  1. Thanksgiving dies in darkness.