Angry Uncle Review: Think Ahead and Plan

According to CNN, Diana Butler Bass holds a Ph.D. in religious studies from Duke University and is the author of 10 books on American religion and culture, including Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks. If you’re unable to bail out of Thanksgiving entirely, here is her advice:

If you must spend the holiday with a politically divided family, you can do some things to lessen anxiety, whether you are the host or a guest.

If you are the host, much of what happens at the dinner depends on what you do to make your guests — all your guests — feel safe and valued. Don’t assume people will get along….Provide “Rules for a Nonpartisan Thanksgiving” at each seat. Make them funny: no throwing food; no fights over dark or light meat or jellied versus whole-berry cranberry sauce; no flipping between FOX and MSNBC during dinner.

Hosts can also encourage meaningful talk in ways that respect others. Have guests write down what they are grateful for, put the slips in a jar, and then have people draw papers and read the thanks of others out loud.

….If you are brave, have your guests address politics directly. Ask those gathered when they’ve last had a meal with someone of a different political party or felt truly grateful for different opinions and perspectives. If you are a Republican, have a story ready from your own life about what you appreciate and what you’ve learned from your Democratic relatives (and the opposite for those of you who are Democrats).

If you are a guest […] prepare strategies for maintaining your cool. Have a “text-a-friend” ready. Use bathroom breaks tactically. Deflect controversy with jokes. Take a long walk after dinner. Put your therapist on speed-dial. Bring the greatest dessert ever as a gift; if you contribute good food, it is harder for people to get mad at you. If you decide to engage a political concern, do so with both facts and humor.

Once again, this is an awfully structured answer to the angry uncle problem. Given what I’ve observed about the willingness of people to plan and carry out structured get-togethers like this, I’m skeptical that it can work. If you have a whole family of Type B personalities, maybe. But if that’s the case, you probably don’t have much of a problem in the first place.

However, the final paragraph is genuinely useful and is totally under your control. If you know beforehand that angry Uncle Tucker is a problem, then think about avoidance and calming strategies before you ever show up. Learn to meditate before tomorrow at 3:00. Take a Valium or five as soon as you walk in the door. Say “eh?” a lot and tell your family you have an appointment to get your ears checked next week. Whatever works. Just for Bass’s advice to think ahead, I’m giving this four uncles.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate