Thanksgiving is known for bringing families together. Though, this coming together can
easily fall apart if we are not thoughtful. We have all likely seen it, one cutting comment leads to a tense and uncoordinated argument that, even when interrupted by a third party, leaves everyone with an awkward taste in their mouths for the rest of dinner.
It is almost trite at this point, but the annual deliberation of how to handle such situations
is upon us. My aim for this discussion is not only to avoid this extreme of discomfort possible during family dinners but also to hopefully provide the first principles for edifying conversation. The traditional notion of needing to avoid politics at the dinner table may be advisable in the most formal situations. However, for your average family get-together, this level of caution leaves something notably wanting. The dinner table that is being artificially restrained is only enjoyable in contrast to the one consumed by emotionally charged debate. Instead of either of the extremes (heated debate or its commonly defended opponent stoic apathy), I think we are called to something more profound. We ought to be able to use our faculties of speech for conversation that involves something more personal and more meaningful than harmless small talk. Doing this with family members is of the utmost importance and should be even easier. After all, we come together with the understanding that we share in both past experience and ultimate interest at a
level likely unrivaled by our other relationships. Further distilled, we ought not and, in fact, are not engaging with these people in the context of political competition, but rather as members of the most tight knit societal unit. If all come together with this understanding of inherent connection in mind, we can then move forward to at the very least a point of earnest understanding upon which the deep interpersonal connection necessary to fruitful family life grows.
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Cooper is an assistant editor of the common ground section and a sophomore. He studies political science and classics and wants to work in journalism after school. When he is not thinking about politics and writing he enjoys fishing, golfing, and reading. Cooper’s literary influences include Ring Lardner and Ernest Hemingway.