Talk Turkey

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Going through the archives last night, I came across Conor’s advice from two years ago on how to talk about politics during Thanksgiving. It’s a great antidote to Vox’s six-part smug-splainer from this week (though not quite as fun as the Wall Street Journal’s “5 Facts to Silence Your Smug Millennial Nephew This Thanksgiving.”) Actually, Conor’s first sentence is probably all you should read: “On Thanksgiving, it’s usually best if you don’t talk politics.”

Many readers at the time voiced their own views. If you can’t avoid the political talk, here’s some good advice:

Acknowledge that there are people on your side that are wrong. For every Michele Bachman there is a Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. For every Ed Schultz there is a Michael Savage. I know these don’t equate exactly, but you get the drift.

Another reader’s tactic:

I really enjoy dressing, which some people call stuffing. I really enjoy making it. First I get breadcrumbs and roast them in a sheet pan in my oven on the top rack until golden brown. This really brings out the flavor, y’know? And I melt a stick of butter in a skillet and I make sure it gets a little brown, then I add some chopped onion to it and let the onion soften. This really brings out the flavor, I tell you what. Of course, you could always use olive oil instead of butter, if you’re worried about cholesterol. And really, we ALL should be worried about cholesterol to some degree, y’know? But I figure, hey, it’s the holidays; it’s ok to be a little bad, right? Everything in moderation, including moderation.

And this is how you prevent an argument, friends—even against someone trying to bait you into one. Ignore their attempts, take the wind out of their fight by ignoring their aggression, and, if necessary, bore the hell out of them with incredibly dull small talk.

But this reader asks:

What’s the fun in any of that? I like Doug Stanhope’s bit where he goes even further rightwing than the person he’s having a conversation with and then accuses them of being closet Liberals. Sounds like more fun.