As I spoke to my freshpeeps on Monday, I wished them safe travels and offered a bit of advice. “For many of y’all, this will be the most time you’ve spent with your family since you left for college. You’ve been living without them; they’ve been living without you. This means that there’s a significant chance that you will find each other to be pains in the ass.
“That’s OK. Love them anyway, the same way they’ll be grinding their teeth and loving you. One day, you’ll be glad you did.”
Some of the friction is probably due to the traditional transitions into adulthood — keeping late hours, not doing one’s own laundry, deciding who gets the dead hooker’s wishbone this year, that sort of thing. But it seems that an increasing amount of it these days is political in nature. As I’ve been wandering around the internet today as a means of avoiding grading, I’ve noticed what seems to have become an unfortunate holiday staple, the “How to talk to relatives of a different political viewpoint” article. The fact that these things exist at all, much less that they’ve become a set of perennials — remember the canned Obamacare defenses that went with the canned cranberry sauce? — suggests that too many folks have forgotten Mondo’s Law, to wit:
If your politics are bigger than your life, you’re doing one of them wrong.
And in the light and heat of burning cities in Missouri, the urge to polarize and politicize everything will be even stronger, if that’s possible. That’s why I was pleased by this article by Michael Brendan Dougherty at The Week. He makes an interesting observation about these conversational scripts:
I recognize them by what they unwittingly emulate: guides for religious evangelism. The gentle, righteous self-regard, the slightly orthogonal response guides, the implied urgency to cure your loved ones of their ignorance. Your raging uncle will know the truth, and the truth will set him free.
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.
May we all avoid that temptation, no matter where we are on the political spectrum. And I’ll have my dressing with gravy, thanks.