As we pause to gasp for breath in the wake of this toxic political season, I fear I must draw attention to another looming national event: Thanksgiving is a mere 14 days from now.
That brother-in-law you unfriended after one political post too far? Yeah, he’ll be there. Your mother, whose political views differ so starkly from your own that you wonder how you can truly be related? It’s at her house. And that college-age cousin who declined to vote at all? Oh, yeah, she’ll be there, participating in the family tradition with the same infuriating condescension she showed for the democratic process.
And then, you may also have a Marney in the family. Surely you’ve read the infamous Thanksgiving Letter from Marney (if not, go to nando.com/marney) wherein the hostess explains in autocratic detail how each guest should contribute to the meal: “ … I COULD NOT BE MORE SERIOUS when I am providing you with your Thanksgiving instructions and orders. I am very particular, so please perform your task EXACTLY as I have requested and read your portion very carefully.” If you’re dealing with a Marney on Thanksgiving, it doesn’t even matter what she posted on Facebook during the election. Her insistence that all wine brought to the feast be Clos du Bois chardonnay is bad enough.
At the risk of running afoul of the Marneys, I suggest that this year we focus less on what we’re bringing to the feast and more on the spirit in which we bring it. Certainly, come laden with wine and sweet potato dishes, but don’t forget an open heart and your best intentions.
It’s been a rough election cycle, particularly for North Carolina, and there’s no reason to think a couple of weeks will be enough time for the wounds to heal. Everyone who gathers around a Thanksgiving table has a chance to start the healing process over turkey and stuffing. What better time to find common ground than while in a tryptophan-and-carb-induced stupor? Top that pumpkin pie with a hearty helping of made-from-scratch civility and pass it around.
If you really listen, you might even find a clue as to how kith and kin see the world so differently than you. It happened for me a dozen years ago in a post-election surprise.
We were with my parents in Italy on a long-planned trip. President George W. Bush had just won re-election after a brutal campaign that saw a group of Vietnam veterans savage the military record of his opponent, Sen. John Kerry, a decorated veteran of that war.
The Bush-Kerry contest seems as tame as a race for Water & Soil Commissioner compared to the campaign we’ve just endured, but not at the time. My parents and I have little in common when it comes to politics, so I warned my husband that we weren’t talking about the election while on this trip.
But one evening after a remarkable dinner and a couple of bottles of red, conversation moved to the forbidden zone. In 1972, my father had been a U.S. Army lieutenant, poised to leave my mom and me to serve in Vietnam. His orders were canceled, but he never forgot those who saw action, to whom fate was not as merciful. How, my husband asked my dad, could he have cast his vote for a man who relied on his connections to escape combat service in Vietnam?
This was the uncomfortable question I had hoped to avoid.
But my dad answered that, having lived through the era, he couldn’t fault anyone for what they did to survive it. With the benefit of hindsight, he extended amnesty to everyone. Everyone had to do what was right for themselves, he said.
I’m still on the opposite side of the aisle when it comes to my parents’ politics, but when you open the door for a little dialogue, you can take steps toward understanding, if not agreement. My Thanksgiving hope is that we can all bring a little more peace, love and understanding to the table, and maybe walk away with enlightenment as a leftover.
Sip Tip: If you’re free to bring any wine you like to Thanksgiving, the Domaine Vetriccie Ile de Beatue chardonnay-vermentino/50-50 blend has a wide appeal. It’s got the familiar grounded feel of a chardonnay enhanced by the bright floral and citrus notes of the vermentino. The finish is gentle with a clean minerality that keeps things interesting. It can stand up to heavier dishes or serve as a clean accompaniment for appetizers.