Thanksgiving is complicated.
There’s the preparation of massive amounts of food, sure, but I’m talking about the massive amounts of high-volume opinion, particularly political, in the divisive Age of Trump.
It may seem that I’m being divisive, but I think I’m just being descriptive. Accusations of dividing Americans were made about the presidencies of Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
Is this political year different? Yes, because Donald Trump is outside our usual political experience. Can anyone argue with that?
Probably not, but they can argue anything else about politics, and that’s something to avoid — unless you want yellow “crime scene” tape around your Thanksgiving table.
When we are assembled to give thanks, politics can be like a rabbit punch.
“Avoid highly charged subjects like politics or religion,” cautions protocol expert Jacquelyn Youst, who advises steering conversation toward safe harbors.
1) Your Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles sit atop the NFL and seem destined for the playoffs.
Many points can be raised: Are they setting us up for a fall (again)? Could this be our Super Bowl year? Will Carson Wentz be revealed as a Marvel Comics superhero?
If you think a football discussion excludes women, you are being sexist.
2) The Thanksgiving Dinner
The host will explain how he or she got all the elements — corn, sweet potatoes, beans, turkey, gravy, squash — to finish at the same time, and why cooking a turkey in a bag is such a neat idea.
If you think a cooking discussion excludes men, you are being sexist.
3) Utilize Generic Icebreakers
You are gathering on Thursday. Ask people about their plans for the weekend, or for the holidays.
Other questions for guests of all ages:
If you could have any superpower, which one would you choose?
If you could be a famous person for a week, who would you be? (I’m guessing no one chooses Kevin Spacey or Louis C.K.)
What is your favorite family tradition, and are you passing it on?
If you could invite anyone (past or present) to dinner, who would it be?
Who was the most influential person in your life?
4) Family Storytelling
Believe me, there are things about your parents’ lives you have no idea about — and never will unless you ask.
What did they do on their first date?
How did people survive without iPhones and Uber?
Your grandparents might be able to tell you what the Depression was like, or how mass protests stopped the Vietnam War.
There was a time when leaving the country was a really big deal. Ask what travel and accommodations were like in the “old days.”
Amazon soon will deliver groceries to your home. You know what? The corner grocery store did that generations ago. Ask the elders how that worked. And how the grocer gave credit when times were tough.
Is someone at the table a military veteran? Ask him or her what their service was like.
5) What Are We Thankful For?
Yes, it is kind of a chestnut, but asking everyone why they are thankful might make for a moment of calm gratitude.
Some of the answers might surprise you. Find out.
Wishing you a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving.