how to survive this thanksgiving of doom

When living through dark times, the best thing you can do is give yourself a day off. Your sanity will thank you.

knight vs snake monster
Illustration by Alexis Rives

Thanksgiving is the time of year to be thankful about whatever good things you still have in your life, then eat until you can’t feel feelings anymore and need a nap while football plays in the background. It’s also the time of year you have to deal with relatives with whom you don’t see eye to eye on very important issues, be it politics, global warming, human rights, the future of social media, or whether Scala is superior to C# for API development. Oh, sorry, wait, strike that last one, that‘s a thing for families like mine. Point is that you’ll always disagree with a relative about something and it’s just the degree of severity and whether you can maintain your composure during the debate and then be civil after it’s over. So yelling “why the hell would you design a language that makes your return value implicit?!” and throwing a chair to highlight your point is a bad idea. (Sorry mom…)

Now, we live in interesting times, politically and socially speaking, in that subtle Chinese curse way, and if there was ever a picture to represent this year, it would be this. It’s the year the world has gone crazy because we are seeing globalization and automation truly affect us on an individual level, and know for a fact that it’s only going to get more extreme, while most of the people we’re choosing to lead us are clueless about how to help us in a way that truly takes our changing world into account and understand that the only place we can go from here is to double down on our innate gifts for STEM and art as a species, rather than our ability to do monotonous things computers can do a thousand times faster and a hundred times better. We have never had more humans living on this planet, or living as long as most of us do today, and this too is driving huge societal changes, though some of those changes are more media phenomena than truth.

Having lived in the former USSR during Perestroika and its final implosion as a state, there’s one important thing I learned for times like this. All those huge problems will be there tomorrow. If you take one day off to get your mind off of them and encourage everyone else to do the same, I guarantee you that none of them will resolve themselves or vanish into thin air. And in fact, for the sake of our sanity, all of us need a breather from the shit show that we call 2016, especially around family. So when that relative who wants to gloat about Trump’s electoral victory, or rant about the moral superiority of vegans, you need to ask whether they really want to mar a day which you should be spending with family and friends by talking about a divisive issue which none of you will solve at the kitchen table, and whether it can wait a day so you can take the debate to Facebook, where it belongs.

Just do your blood vessels and heart a favor. I know many of these issues are important and you feel very passionate about them, but if you obsess about them all day long, you will physically make yourself sick. Besides, science is pretty clear when it comes to getting people to agree on things. You are way more likely to sway people by starting on common ground, and what better common ground for many of us than the fact that we’re surrounded by close friends and family? And it takes a very rare lout to care nothing about how a family member or long time family friend feels about being antagonized or alienated at a holiday dinner table surrounded by loved ones…

# politics // family / thanksgiving

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