Note: This is written from the prospective of someone who is personally very opposed to a Trump Presidency and the direct and indirect affect it has on marginalized communities, but opposing views may also find these tips helpful.
Thanksgiving is all about being thankful and enjoying a meal with those we love. However let's face it, Thanksgiving has an awful history and our tradition of celebrating with family, food, and drinks can often backfire in arguments or worse. Well, if you haven't noticed the stakes may be a little bit higher this year for many families with opposing political views. So before you prepare a PowerPoint presentation for your Uncle Rob titled, "How You Ruined America" take a quick look at these tips on staying healthy while still feeling heard and respected.
1. Self Care
When we become impassioned or angry we often begin to fight and forget to care for ourselves. However, whether it is this meal or activism you need to make sure you keep your own mind and body healthy. We recently asked on our Facebook for self care tips and we got some great feedback from exercise, mindfulness , and just taking that dang Facebook app off your phone.
As you prepare that Pecan Pie also make a defined plan for your self care. Take time in the morning to reflect, focus on your own needs, and take a few deep breaths. Have 'lifelines' setup for the day, trusted friends who know it’s going to be a hard day that you can text or call. Also setup a hangout for the following day with a like minded friend to debrief. While at Thanksgiving give yourself permission to take a walk around the block or to use the upstairs restroom for a few extra minutes. Volunteer to be the one to run out and grab the forgotten cranberry sauce. And if things get too rough give yourself permission to leave or ask for the conversation to stop for your own health. Self care IS NOT selfish, it is what keeps us healthy.
2. Realize You Are Safe
With all the surrounding situations and constant news (real and fake) filling our feeds we can often feel overwhelmed and put ourselves in the mindset that our safety is immediately threatened. Even though members of your family may vocally disagree with you, realize that you are hopefully not in immediate physical danger. The idea of the day is to enjoy one another and that should still be the focus as much as possible. However, if you DO NOT feel that your family's home is going to be a physically (or mentally) safe place to be then avoid conversations that put you in danger or make this the year you skip Thanksgiving (make other plans and don't feel guilty about it).
3. Set Ground Rules
If you are planning to discuss politics don't start the conversation out of nowhere and don't wait for Uncle Jack to say something that offends you. Ask your family if certain topics are up for discussion. "Can we talk about the election?" "Can we discuss our different reactions to President Elect Trump?" "Can we talk about how marginalized communities are being affected?" Remember, you are merely introducing subjects that are important to you and wanting to have a civil conversation about them. Agree to not bring family history into it in a non-helpful way (ex. "That's why you never liked when I was dating Alan!"). Give yourself and your family an out if needed. Let the subject change as needed and take breaks.
4. Listen, Listen, Listen
Although your main concern, like mine, may be for the affect a Trump Presidency has on marginalized communities and issues these are not likely the same issues that led your family to support or vote for Trump. Without being accusatory (or sarcastic) ask them why they support Trump and listen. A lot of the reasoning may surround him being a "political outsider" or "successful business man" or "anybody but Hillary". You can then begin to ask what they think about the effects his position and decisions will have on marginalized communities. Listening to their stance without responding angrily or cutting them off will allow them to feel heard and will leave more room for you to speak. However, don't be afraid to question their sources.
5. Speak For Yourself
A key thing to remember when talking with family in this context is to use I statements. ("I am afraid for what this means for my...." "I was very upset to hear that Trump..." "I am concerned for my friend whom...") You aren't speaking as a community representative at a rally. You are speaking with your family that cares for you and wants to hear how YOU are. They can't argue how you feel or what concerns you and this personal appeal may create unique footholds that the media and politically charged Facebook posts cannot. Furthermore make sure you have your reliable sources in mind and don't use hearsay or anecdotal stories.
6. Control Anger & Maintain Connection
Returning to previous tips, make sure you are able to engage in a civil conversation while maintaining ground rules and practicing self care. If things get heated take a break or change the subject for a bit. Realize that it is VERY unlikely that one conversation over mashed potatoes will shift someone's opinion or stance. At best you are laying groundwork for further conversations that will lead to understanding and potential change. Don't let these issues be a point of division for your family and make sure to maintain these important relationships. Your family is not the battleground that will make national change. You can take your activism to the streets soon enough with likeminded individuals.
7. Take the Fight Elsewhere
Pour that anger, fear, and energy into activism and support. Over the big shopping weekend or on #GivingTuesday consider making a donation to causes that are important to you and that will be incredibly important to the community in the coming year. Give Guide has some great causes to consider such as Live Again, Q Center, Planned Parenthood, and Habitat for Humanity. Don't be afraid to stand up, march, or become active in a positive movement that supports marginalized communities. Some places to start may be watching the 'What Now?' event that took place this week in Portland or connect with my friend local activist Cameron Whitten on Facebook as he attends and chronicles the resistance.
8. Be Thankful
It may feel like the world is crumbling at points, but it is so important to remember the people and things that keep you going. Make a list of people in your life that you can count on and send them a text thanking them for being there. Take note of the things you have that often go under appreciated whether it be employment or housing or your health. In a non-self deprecating way take note of any privilege you have in our culture and then use your voice to speak out for others.
On a personal note, as a white hetero cis male I often find it difficult to know where my voice fits. However a dear friend from a marginalized community reminded me that advocates are "a huge part of the solution because you can bridge the conversation between minorities and those who are disaffected". I long to fight for those who feel unheard and to break the stigma that surrounds mental health conversations so we can be there for our community members in their struggles. As marginalized communities feel more and more under attack or rights are taken away mental health crisis' will also increase. We need to be mindful in seeking out personal help and reaching with resources. I want to wish everyone the happiest of holiday seasons. Please, remember to practice self care and reach out to anyone you feel may be struggling. I an thankful for you. You matter.