Thanks for Nothing

When I was growing up, I loved Thanksgiving. A lot of the best video games would come out around this time, and I would spend the entire holiday weekend glued to my virtual world — when I wasn’t gorging on Thanksgiving dinner and its leftovers. The only worry I had was that I would have to go back to school once Monday rolled around.

As an adult, I don’t play video games, and I try not to gorge as much. My association with Thanksgiving now has nothing to do with food or recreation. Now I am consumed with apprehension over seeing family members I do not often see and wondering where the conversation will turn (or, more likely, what will be avoided). This year the elephant in the room will undoubtedly be the Spectacle-Elect, as I prefer to call him due to the media’s obsession with everything he says and does.

It is no secret that I am the educated, progressive bastion in the family. I am also likely the most politically active in the sense that I don’t just talk and vote but canvas, write, and (at times) organize. This makes it harder to adhere to the prohibition “no politics.” I equate it to telling a clergyman upon his arrival at dinner that there will be no discussion of God or religion. No person of conviction can be muzzled for the sake of “keeping the peace.” And it’s not just about conviction — but entertainment.

Yet, I am not enthusiastic about discussing the dismal state of national affairs. I would just like to discuss something of interest and substance — and this is impossible when people are afraid to open up. Nothing creates uniformity like insular family culture that no one member controls or even fully understands. I loathe uniformity. My favorite family gatherings were the ones where people got so drunk and wild that I became the voice of restraint.

So when I read these pleasant little entries online about ‘how to talk to your racist uncle at Thanksgiving’ that include advice about compassion and patience I wonder why anyone would bother to spend a holiday with his or her family in the first place. If I can’t look my uncle in the eye, call him a stupid redneck, and throw a turkey leg in his face, it just isn’t worth it. I’d rather spend my holiday cursing at the football game alone. I don’t know why we stress at work 40+ hours per week just so that we can stress even more on our days off by continuing to succumb to abstract notions of duty and tradition that stymie the individual. Why keep your mouth shut all week only to do the same thing on the weekend? I, for one, like to blow off steam in my free time.

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