Dear Political Therapy,
Tomorrow is Election Day and we will find out who will be our President for the next four years. But it's what comes 16 days after Election Day that has me worried. How can I keep political passions from ruining our Thanksgiving? If my guy wins, I'll want to gloat. And if the other guy wins, I might just toss my relatives out on the street if they try to rub it in. How can we keep the peace? And why on earth did they put elections right at the start of the holiday season?
Dreading the Holidays
I'm so glad you asked that question. First, let me assure you that your feelings are perfectly normal. Many American families across the country are facing the same dilemma---how to get along with someone they technically love, but can't actually stand at the moment. Thousands of worried mothers are wondering if their glamorous holiday tables will become impromptu boxing rings at the mere mention of Romney or Obama.
This has been a particularly passionate election cycle. Both sides seem to feel that their candidate is the only hope for the country and that electing the other candidate will bring about the end of American civilization-as-we-know-it. Many people are wondering, "If my candidate loses, how can I continue associating with someone who voted to bring in the destruction of everything I value about my country? Sorry, Mom, Dad. You gotta go."
In troubled times like these, it is important to remember the principle of perspective. It is not necessary to understand perspective in order to acknowledge it exists, any more than you must understand the ins and outs of gravity in order to keep from floating off into space. The principle of perspective is the understanding that others may look at the exact same facts that you do and come away with a totally different conclusion.
The fact that they disagree with your conclusion does not automatically make them ignorant, uninformed, or malevolent. It doesn't automatically make them right, either, but that's beside my point.
I first became aware of the principle of perspective through the process of adopting my 3 children. To some people, the fact that I opened my home to 3 kids who needed love, safety, and support seemed like a noble, unselfish act. To another section of the population (the biological family section), I was a heartless, baby-stealing witch. Both sides looked at the same set of facts, but took away totally opposite conclusions. Perspective.
Now, I could have tried to convince the heartless, baby-stealing witch camp that I was really a nice person with good motives and that they had misunderstood the whole thing. I even did, for a while. But everything I did was viewed through heartless-baby-stealing-witch glasses and nothing I could do would ever change their minds. I had to simply accept that they viewed things differently than I, and move on with my life.
This is the approach that I would recommend for you. It's a big enough world for everyone to have their own opinions; you don't have to change who you are, but then, neither do they. Try to avoid controversy over the mashed potatoes, but if it finds you anyway, just smile big and say (in an annoyingly perky and cheerful tone), "Well, I'll guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on that one." Repeat as often as necessary. If you should happen to completely annoy your cherished relative while demonstrating your accepting attitude and open mind, well, some things just can't be helped, can they?
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Dear Political Therapy,
If your daughter writes a pompous political advice column, is it permissible to send taunting messages to distant relatives when your candidate wins?
Anonymous in Westby