How to peacefully address the politics of Thanksgiving

How to peacefully address the politics of Thanksgiving

BOSTON — Thanksgiving dinner has always been a caloric minefield. This year, it could be a conversational one, too.

"You know you don't want to step on toes or make any one upset," said Katerina Curry of Quincy.

And, heated discussions about politics can threaten to blow up this most American of family gatherings.

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"We try to keep the discussion around family and what we're thankful for and all that good stuff," Curry said.

Mark Kucera of Epping, N.H. said things can sometimes get out of hand, particularly "when what I would call the other side is there."

Immigration, the mid-term elections, Brett Kavanaugh and of course, President Trump, have all been hot-button topics.

Politics as a side dish at Thanksgiving is actually fine, said etiquette expert Jodi Smith.

But as a main course, you're talking potential indigestion.

"What we're not allowed to do is get into a contentious debate at the table, so if it's something where people are starting to turn red, they're starting to shout, they're starting to throw food, you've gotten into a contentious debate, you need to turn things down a little bit," said Smith of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting.

That's when the host needs to treat the dinner for what it has devolved into: a debate, Smith said.

"Become a moderator: 'Hold on everybody. I really want to hear what everybody has to say about this. And I can't hear when everyone's shouting,'" Smith said.

Smith said no matter what direction the discussion takes at Thanksgiving, there's what you might call a golden rule of conversation.

"It's important, no matter what your opinion, no matter what your theory, no matter who you're following in politics, to understand how the other side feels," she said.

And there is a time when declining an invitation to a family Thanksgiving dinner is acceptable.

But Smith said that should only be reserved for situation in which it would be truly psychologically damaging to go, and not just because you find your family annoying.

And when you say no, don't point fingers and don't open old wounds, Smith said. Just politely decline and say you can't make it.