Don’t let politics steal joy from the holiday season

With the holiday season upon us, I am left to wonder as to whether the American Family learned anything from last Christmas regarding political civility.

As you might recall, during the last holiday season, several news stories reported family gatherings that were ruined because parents and grandparents and sisters and brothers couldn’t keep their toxic political and philosophical opinions to themselves. Thus, family members suddenly became tribal and chose to eat their Thanksgiving meal in separate rooms.

If you were a progressive, you blamed President Trump. If you were conservative you blamed CNN and 99.9 percent of college academia.

Well if you haven’t noticed, not much has changed.

Of course there will always be those family members who feel the world, or at least those sitting around the dinner table, owe them a stage from which to spout their partisan gobbledygook.

Even Psychology Today published a piece warning the rest of us about those particular temperaments titled “Dangerous Personalities.” The article cautions us to be wary of those family members who “negligently feel no need to filter what he or she says”.

Okay, okay I will agree that if you have a cousin who has memorized every Trump tweet, and will go out of his way to share the most bombastic quotes while the little ones are opening their presents, you just might have a firm understanding in place by instructing them to “Zip It!” before the festivities begin.

Another personality tip the article offers is the relative who “Tends to be opinionated, rigid in thinking, suspicious without cause, unyielding, or just plain truculent – seeming to enjoy conflict even at the expense of family harmony,” and I might add occasionally bursts into fits of weeping when recounting the 2016 election. This could prove quite distracting when passing the gravy bowl.

Then there is the Wound Collector. According to Psychology Today, this person might be your second cousin who teaches Biology at an urban high school in the next state, but spends more time talking about social justice to his students rather than frogs. This is the personality who “Collects past injustices, faux pas, mistakes, slights or perceived social injuries, and resurrects them to argue with or harangue others.” If you are someone who automatically changes the channel when Maxine Waters appears in the news, then why ask a clone to sit at your Thanksgiving table.

Understanding how these traits can negatively impact a get-together can indeed help, especially when sending out the invitations for the upcoming family gathering. Reminding friends and family members that your coming together is not for political debate, but, rather, to give thanks or offer prayers for those who cannot be with their loved ones during the holidays. If it is to celebrate the birth of Jesus, then the environment should reflect his spirit. There is enough chaos on the streets and on college campuses — yours should be an atmosphere that offers sincere hopes for peace, set by the example of those in attendance.

Twenty years ago, I had a political argument with my closest friend who I had grown up with. I don’t even remember the issue, but we quickly became more than simply upset. Anger led us to make our stands by making personal insults against one another. The result was that we stopped talking. For over two decades, neither of us would take the first step toward consolation.

Two weeks ago I received a call from his wife telling me that my old friend had suffered a stroke. When I walked into his hospital room, we both smiled from ear to ear. We spent time catching up a bit, but there’s so much more that we have to say to one another. He will get through therapy, and we will do just that. Both of us regret our words from that day so long ago.

Politics is reality, and sometimes that reality can get messy. But it should never be a cause to jeopardize a relationship, especially if that relationship involves a family member or friend.

It just ain’t worth it. Enjoy one another for the important reasons, and make this Holiday Season one to remember for all the right reasons.