I concede that domestic tranquility is nice, and advice columns for coping with awful Limbaugh-listening relatives have become clickbait this time of year, but Michael Brendan Dougherty doesn’t get it:
That’s a problem. Our politics are taking on a religious shape. Increasingly we allow politics to form our moral identity and self-conception. We surround ourselves with an invisible community of the “elect” who share our convictions, and convince ourselves that even our closest and beloved relatives are not only wrong, but enemies of goodness itself. And so one of the best, least religious holidays in the calendar becomes a chance to deliver your uncle up as a sinner in the hands of an angry niece.
I’m as guilty of this as anyone. As a conservative raised in an argumentative and left-leaning Irish-American family, Thanksgiving and other holiday dinners did more than any professional media training to prepare me for MSNBC panels. But arguments like these, particularly when we allow politics to dominate our notions of ourselves, can leave lasting scars. And precisely because our familial relationships are so personal, the likely responses to our creamed and beaten talking points will be defensive, anxious, off-subject, or overly aggressive.
Only someone for whom politics is a force outside one’s “moral identity and self-conception” can keep from offending others. Who are these privileged men and women? Right — whoever’s not black, illegal, or gay. Or a woman. Never forget women. The relative with the spouse of the same sex, the friend stopped for entering a store, hands in his pocket — why would he or she eat turkey anyway? They cause trouble. “Instead of honing your argument on tax reform into unassailability,” he tuts, “maybe ask your parents or siblings ahead of time what some of the further-flung or more volatile members of your family are up to in their lives before they sit down.” Instead of getting mad, write a letter. Or better: a devastating satire for The Week. Just devastating.