Dealing with politics on Thanksgiving

Alex Larson

Thanksgiving can be an exciting time for college students. You might get to go home, see your pets, sleep in your own bed and even use your own bathroom. You also might be able to see your family and some extended family as well. This can be very exciting, but it can also bring about some unpleasant situations. There’s always the dreaded questions about your future, major, career, significant others, etc. One of the biggest stressors for college students, when visiting family, is politics. According to a 2016 NPR/PBS NewsHour Marist Poll, 58 percent of Americans dread political conversations during Thanksgiving, but 50 percent of Americans believe that politics will come up at the dinner table.

Talking politics may seem harmless when it is first brought up, but it can bring about stress and uneasiness very quickly. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 62 percent of Americans have reported that the current political climate is a significant stressor. In addition, 69 percent of Americans reported that the future of our nation gives them stress.

For Gen Z (defined by the APA as ages 15-21), current events regarding issues such as sexual assault and immigration are particular stressors, with mass shootings being the most stressful subject. When taking these statistics into account, it makes sense that the thought of a political argument amongst family members is something that people want to avoid.

Another reason that political talk can be problematic is the fact that in most cases, arguing will get you nowhere. “People rarely change their mind. Both sides believe that with the proper argument and what they believe are unassailable truths they can convince others to support their position.” said assistant professor in the School of Public Policy at Oregon State, Christopher Stout.

Stout explained that when having political arguments, people discredit information given to them that doesn’t line up with pre-existing opinions, no matter how credible the source may be. This can lead to prolonged arguments that do nothing except leave both parties unsatisfied and likely angry. According to NPR/PBS NewsHour Marist Poll, only 11 percent of Americans view positive political discourse as the norm.

So what can be done to avoid heated arguments, during a holiday that is just weeks after the midterm elections? Politics is brought up in conversation almost daily and can be seen anywhere, so it may be hard to avoid the subject overall. “When having a conversation it is important to go into it wanting to learn about different perspectives without the aim of changing anyone’s opinions. This will keep conversations civil as long as you are able to keep your cool,” said Stout.

In general, keep in mind that you are having a conversation, or discussion, not an argument or debate. It’s okay to disagree or bring in different perspectives, but don’t try to change everyone’s mind. Focus on the food, drinks and company instead of discourse.

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