Dinner Table Politics


我们每天发表一篇文章来表彰第五届年度学生社论大赛的前 10 名获奖者。

The Thanksgiving table is a war zone. The soldiers? The conservative aunt who drove all the way from Alabama. The ultra-progressive sibling who makes passive-aggressive comments while passing the potatoes. And, of course the grandparents, who stubbornly reference the good ol’ days when political incorrectness roamed free. Throughout America, families hunker down for the holidays with reluctance and trepidation. Civil conversation concerning the issues facing our country is becoming rarer by the day. But if we can’t talk about the issues, how can we fix them? The Thanksgiving table is a microcosm of the real world discussions in local and state governments, in Washington, in the White House itself. Americans must learn how to talk to each other about politics, from the dinner table to the Oval Office.

I’ve had my fair share of political discourse with friends and family. These conversations escalate quickly and infuriate easily, but haven’t destroyed my relationships. I listen, disagree and discuss. However, when faced with opposing viewpoints, many Americans polarize further. Instead of talking to those with whom they disagree, Americans find like-minded individuals who cater to their political tastes. In fact, according to The New York Times, “Liberals and Conservatives prefer to associate and live near their fellow partisans,” and “would be unhappy if their children married someone with a different political viewpoint.” This is troubling. We develop empathy when we talk with people from different backgrounds who challenge our beliefs.

Our lack of conversation has turned us into our rigid, stubborn grandparents unwilling to consider alternative views. According to Pew Research, 38 percent of Democrats have consistently liberal views, a dramatic increase from 1994 when only 8 percent remained consistently liberal. America’s lack of political plasticity is growing rapidly, creating a chasm between the things we support and the things we don’t. We see this divide every year at the Thanksgiving table. If we can’t set aside what we think we know and talk to our stubborn grandparents, we become our stubborn grandparents. We remain entrenched and the gravy gets cold.

Talking to people we disagree with is hard. But it should be easier to disagree with the people we love. Talking to family is a starting point to bridge that political chasm. Ask your aunt why she feels that way. Ask your grandparents what shapes their beliefs. Ask your siblings to suggest solutions. If we can empathize with our family at the Thanksgiving table, we can empathize with our neighbors, friends and political representatives. Don’t let your dinner table become a war zone. Talk to your fellow Americans. Ask them questions. Invite them to dinner. And most importantly, show up and speak your mind. You might start a new tradition.

Works Cited

Cohn, Nate. “Polarization Is Dividing American Society, Not Just Politics.” The New York Times, 12 June 2014.

“Political Polarization in the American Public.” Pew Research, 12 June 2014.