Poultry not politics: Expert says pandemic may limit political conversations around Thanksgiving table

Published: Nov. 23, 2020 at 5:23 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The thought of gathering at the dinner table this Thanksgiving may make many anxious this year not because of COVID-19 or health concerns, but politics.

What happens if political conversations ensue? How should you go about navigating it? And how do you keep the festivities centered on the holidays?

If you are worried about what discussions may look like on Thursday with loved ones, don’t fret. Matthew Pietryka, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Florida State University, says COVID may actually help keep the focus on food, family and giving thanks.

The day is November 26 and smells of stuffing and pumpkin pie awaits you at the dinner table. But what if conversation regarding politics also makes an appearance?

Pietryka says it’s not likely to be disagreeable, “In many cases, it will be relatively agreeable because people tend to have similar opinions to friends and family, and probably especially this year because of COVID, the people who we are having dinners with are in our immediate circle and bubble and those are the ones most likely to agree with us.”

Pietryka says if more people show up for turkey there’s actually more of a chance for polarization over CDC guidelines rather than who is fit to be president.

“There is going to be more agreement over politics as a result of that selection pressure, as opposed to other Thanksgivings when there is not a pandemic,” he said.

But the idea of political talk getting fed at the table, Pietryka shares is generally disliked because of the potential for disagreement, especially with those we love.

So what should you do? according to Pietryka, view it as an opportunity for growth,

“This idea that you can still love people who disagree with you fundamentally on issues that is something that is absolutely essential to democracy and this is an opportunity to rebuild those norms,” he explained.

For those looking to throw food or raise voices at the table, it is not recommended. Instead, try understanding where each person is coming from to promote tolerance and respect.

Pietryka states, “The more you can connect with them through your lived experience, the more likely you are to get through to them and the more likely you are to understand where they are coming from.”

Patricia says while and unfollows on social media may happen, the conversation will be hard to avoid because many times the topic just arises organically. What is important, he says, is how you respond, and remember what the focus of the holiday is: gratitude and spending time with those you love.

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