The first Thanksgiving nearly 400 years ago was about being grateful for a bountiful harvest and celebrating it through a great feast. Now that we have supermarkets and don't have to contend with the caprices of nature for our sustenance, the holiday is about bringing people together and eating a lot while trying to not get into fights over politics or sports.
Even in the best of times, the discussion around the Thanksgiving table can be fraught. And these are not the best of times, with the country — and maybe your extended family — so politically divided that we can't seem to agree on anything. Whether your Thanksgiving meal is populated by like-minded folks or those with diametrically opposed political views, at least a few hot-button issues are bound to come up.
To help, we've complied a list of loaded topics this year and suggested rejoinders that are leavened by wit and facts rather than invective. Remember, you're not likely to change minds even with the most reasoned, rational argument. But you can score points.
"Hillary Clinton should be in jail."
One of the great things about this country is that we don't jail people until they're charged with an actual crime, not when some internet troll accuses them of operating a child porn ring out of the basement of a pizza parlor that has no basement. Which means investigators have to gather evidence and decide whether there's enough to go to trial. In Clinton's case, it's hard to remember a time when she wasn't being investigated. But no charges, so no incarceration.
"Men should follow Mike Pence's example and not meet in private with women to avoid even the appearance of impropriety."
Sexual harassment doesn't require privacy, but, OK, the rule championed by Vice President Pence would reduce the opportunities for men to harass their female co-workers — or to consult and share power with them. You know what also would help? Getting women, and thus temptation, out of the workplace and back into the kitchen where they belong. But why stop there? Let's segregate the sexes and make sure men never run the risk of seeing a woman. It's for their own protection.
"The Democratic presidential primary was rigged."
If by "rigged" you mean Democratic Party leaders favored the person they thought would earn the most votes in the general election against the Republican nominee, then yes, it was. Tipping the playing field to favor the strongest candidate is exactly how political parties work all of the time. Treating everyone like a super-special winner despite their extreme ideas? That's how parents work.
"Illegal immigrants caused the housing crisis."
No, NIMBYs caused the housing crisis, as in "Oh, it's fine if that new apartment complex gets built, just not on my street." Imagine that sentiment multiplied a million times and you see why California is so badly behind the rest of the country in building new housing. California would need to build 2 million housing units just to catch up with national averages.
"If everyone was packing heat, we wouldn't have all these mass shootings."
If you believe that having more guns lying around will reduce the number of people using them to shoot other people, as the National Rifle Assn. asserts, we have a truckload of Furbys we'd like to sell you. By that logic, the best way to avoid nuclear war is for more countries to have nuclear weapons. Studies have made it clear that more guns correlates to more violence with guns.
"Bernie Sanders would have beaten Trump!"
We read those polls too. Sanders sure looked like a winner six months before the election. But then, Clinton looked like a sure thing six days before. And face it, during the primary Sanders was largely spared the sort of media and oppo-research buzzsaw the socialist from Vermont would have run into had he been on the ballot in November. But if it makes you feel better, go ahead and fantasize about President Sanders persuading a Republican Congress to enact Medicare for All and provide free tuition to every American college student.
"Are any of these dishes made with GMOs?"
No, the dishes were made with porcelain. GMO foods pose no greater risk to your health than porcelain plates. Or non-GMO foods. How do we know this? From actual science that was affirmed by a sweeping study last year by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
"Why is it so hard to repeal Obamacare? Everybody hates it."
Actually, Gallup found that the GOP's efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare this year made it the most popular it's ever been, with 53% of Americans approving of it in July. What people really hate is the thought of letting insurers discriminate against people with preexisting conditions again, which all of the major GOP repeal-and-replace proposals would have allowed in some form.
"The fake news media attacks the president all the time."
You're right, it's a full-time job covering this guy! He's just one jaw-dropping, world-destabilizing move after another. And that's just on Twitter. In the old days (that is, prior to Jan. 20, 2017), we could get by with attacking a president only when he actually did something.
"Who elected all those idiots?"
You did. Or rather, you elected someone you think is OK, but everyone who lives outside your district thinks is a moron. Congressional job approval ratings are in the dumpster, but historically, people are considerably fonder of their own representative in the House.
"Why should I pay for a subscription to the newspaper when I can get my news for free from a zillion websites?"
Because you get what you pay for. There's a good bet the next free story you see online about an ISIS attack on a heartland grain factory was written by a Russian teen with the sole purpose of freaking you out. No matter what President Trump says, real news is written by real journalists who, unlike fake news bots, have to eat.