Sarah Palin’s book-signing tour does not include a stop in Oak Park. That is a surprise to no one. Although we may be racially and economically (sort of) diverse, we’re pretty monochromatic in terms of our politics. We read The New Yorker and The New Republic. We watch CNN and MSNBC. Our political discussions are over whether Bush aided and abetted Cheney in committing war crimes or vice-versa. Like watching Two and a Half Men, I can find no one who will admit to voting for McCain.
However, the coming holidays stress these happy living arrangements. Old friends and family members come to visit or you go to visit them. But these folks don’t necessarily share our liberal views. They oppose abortion, gun control and health care reform. Instead of pictures of King and Kennedy, they have photos of Nixon and Reagan hanging in the kitchen. These vastly different views can be combustible especially when the truth serum of alcohol is added to the mix. Anger and bitterness, even physical harm, sometimes ensue. I know of what I speak. Marsha and I were born and raised in Floyd County, Ind., which went 60-40 for McCain last year.
Here are some helpful strategies. First, don’t get really hammered. That’s always good advice, except when you get fired or your girl dumps you. Second, steer the conversation to nonpolitical topics like TV shows, movies, favorite foods or what your other relatives are up to. OK, a little alcohol might be necessary here. Third, make good guy appeals like, “I know we have our differences of opinion on these important issues, but that’s what makes this country great, unlike North Korea where dissenters are imprisoned for the expression of their opinion.” Of course, there are other reasons for living in the U.S. of A. – like food, but you get the point. Or try noncommittal responses like, “I didn’t know Obama was a Muslim,” or “What’s a socialist?” or “Can you shoot a cow if it comes on your property?” Just keep them talking and, before you know it, the pumpkin pie is consumed and you’re getting your coat. As President Bush proclaimed, “Mission accomplished.”
Or you can go with the nuclear option that is used at the very outset of the gathering. It’s risky but powerful. It goes something like this:
“Let’s just not talk about politics today. Your political views are anathema to me. There’s nothing that you will say that could possibly cause me to change my mind on anything. If I’m forced to listen to your Fox News-inspired rants, not only will I think you’re stupid, but I may actually wind up liking you less. You probably will feel the same way about me. And let’s be honest, whatever’s going to happen is going to happen regardless of what we think.”
Now that this is settled, can somebody tell me for the love of God why oh why does anyone put sage in the dressing? Happy Thanksgiving!
John Hubbuch, an Indiana native who moved to Oak Park in 1976, is a retired lawyer. Hubbuch served on the District 97 school board and coached youth sports. He is the father of three and grandfather of one.