This Thanksgiving, Drop the Labels and Have Meaningful Conversation
How many of you are gearing up to tolerate the Thanksgiving relative you don't like? You know, the one relative that after a glass of wine will be ready to argue about the war in Gaza, banned books or women's rights? Or maybe it's LGBTQ rights and marijuana that will get the family fight started. There's no shortage of controversy around us and it feels all-consuming. Family gatherings should be a time for human connection. They should be our soft places to land. Not something we dread.
It seems we all walk around wearing labels we can't shed. Some call it identity politics, I just call it sad, and I blame social media.
World news is at our fingertips, and it is all so horrific. Meanwhile, national news outlets and our partisan social media algorithms give us every opportunity to feel self-righteous if not indignant. We click and comment on things in our feeds without thinking first. We feed the algorithm, so it continues to feed us the inflammatory content it thinks we want. Everything we do on social media is a data point, with data collection all aimed at keeping our attention and keeping us using the platform.
Social media has been around long enough for us to be smarter about our use. It's a wonderful way to stay connected with family and friends if we let it. But platform pontifications reduce people to political camps and ideologies that only serve to package humans in silos built on assumptions.
What truly warrants our attention and how can we thoughtfully engage with that?
We are willing to bury our heads in our phones, turn our backs on our children and family standing right there in the same room, just so we can argue with a stranger online. The argument may help you feel better in the moment. You sure told them! But it does not help any situation that prompted the argument in the first place.
You do not have to bear witness to every horror in the world. There are more than 30 countries engaged in violent conflicts currently. That's too much horror for any one person to absorb. Instead of parachuting into conflicts as they pop off in the news, I encourage you to look to your community instead. Focus your attention there. If a war happening abroad weighs on your heart, then reach out to the local organizations doing the work to help settle refugees and immigrants in your town. Dedicate your energy to being a welcomer for your city. Help those who have found their way out of oppression feel like they are home in your community. Show them that they belong. And then vote accordingly.
If it is women's rights you are passionate about, volunteer your time with organizations that support women. Whatever the cause that prompts you to argue with strangers online and your uncle at the holiday dinner table, decide to turn that energy into helping your community.
When it comes to those Thanksgiving conversations, here's my challenge for you. Drop the labels. Why do we need to assess ideologies before having a meaningful conversation? Talk about issues openly, honestly and without contempt. Without belittling the person who holds an opposing view. Even if they are belittling you. It takes two to escalate a disagreement. You do not have to agree in order to understand. And a disagreement doesn't have to create a rift. Especially if this is someone you only see at large family gatherings. Challenge yourself to lift your head out of the argumentative distractions and be present. Determine what matters most to you and truly focus that energy by being of service to the community you call home.
Check out Bonnie's weekly YouTube videos at https://www.youtube.com/bonniejeanfeldkamp. To find out more about Bonnie Jean Feldkamp and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Copyright 2023 Creators Syndicate, Inc.