It's time to talk about not talking about politics.
After you’re done unwrapping the “homemade” pie from Publix, you’ll be in the car headed to the relative with the most familial clout or geographic convenience. Grandma’s legendary stink eye and the fact she is 45 minutes away from everyone means she sits on the Iron Throne.
In the marshy Okavango Delta that is your granny’s wood-paneled home, all life can be seen like a David Attenborough documentary.
In the east, every teenage relative and child capable of clutching a tablet or smartphone has a face dimly lit with the screen’s reflection. Consider yourself lucky to get anything more than momentary eye contact and a mumbled “Happy Thanksgiving” chorus as you pass by them.
Elsewhere, infants in themed jumpers chase after one another on the hardwood floors as their frazzled parents unload an arsenal of baby supplies. All soy and peanuts have been removed from a one-mile radius of the house.
“I haven’t slept in 57 hours,” you’ll hear from across the room. “Across the room” is the operative phrase, because these people are conversational quicksand. That is, unless you wanted to see 34 almost identical baby pictures and watch a needlessly long video of the same child almost-maybe-sort-of saying a word.
While these two groups are blissfully unaware, the threat of a political discussion rumbles underneath family stories and bad jokes like the Yellowstone Caldera, waiting to obliterate Life As We Know It.
To be clear, I’ve checked boxes on both sides of the ballot; I am not beholden to one party or ideology over another. But I’ve been around family enough to know no one’s mind has been changed by these discussions.
The usual result is your aunt taking her plate outside to “have a moment to herself” while your dad listens to Christian radio alone in the minivan.
If you’re hoping to fulfill familial obligations, play nice and get the corner piece of the baked macaroni.
For you, I humbly submit these suggestions.
Talk about literally anything else
Have some fun, interesting topics you can switch to at a moment’s notice. As soon as your grandfather brings up “building the wall,” tell the group you finally got that mole checked out.
“The doctor said it was benign, but it was touch-and-go for a minute there,” you say.
You hope that everyone takes the “get out of jail free” card and walks away, each of them slowly reaching for the spot on their own neck they’ve been concerned about.
Or maybe ask your cousin Fred about his extremely painful divorce.
Play word association to a happier place
This one is a bit more advanced, but fear not: If the spin doctors on cable news can do it, so can you.
Like conversational kung fu, take part of the topic brought up by your family and flip it to one that sounds similar but far less dangerous.
When your liberal arts college-bound cousin mentions the phrase “impeachment,” tell the group about how peach growers around Georgia are hurting because of the warm winters.
“You have to try a Jaemor peach,” you say, using the poor hearing of your older relatives to your advantage.
Appeal to their better nature
Some people are coming into the holiday deadset on having these discussions, but they are still your family.
If all else fails, warn them of how this will not end well.
“Grandma is 89 years old. Do you really think she wants to see everyone arguing?” you ask, hoping the other side grasps the concept of mutually-assured destruction in nuclear warfare.
By that point, the final stragglers should be entering, and the oven timer dings. Eat up and indulge your grandma in her favorite topic of conversation: When will the Atlanta Braves be good again?