US & Canada

A short guide to surviving a post-election Thanksgiving

Donald Trump supporters and Hillary Clinton supporters clash outside in Times Square after Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was declared the winner of the U.S. presidential election Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Frankly, no-one wants Thanksgiving to turn out like this confrontation at Trump Towers

Thanksgiving in the US is a celebration of the blessings of the previous year. This time it included one of the most divisive presidential campaigns, well, ever.

Even now it is over and Donald Trump will soon be taking up residence in the White House, the strength of feeling has yet to dissipate.

Which would be fine, if only people of all political persuasions were not preparing to spend the next 24 hours together in a confined space to celebrate that most American of holidays, Thanksgiving.

Indeed, the event and its potential for arguments is considered so perilous it has spawned its own hashtag on Twitter, #HowToAvoidPoliticsAtDinner.

The advice, it has to be said, is varied, and not always legal. "Poison them all," suggests one Twitter user, while another advocates releasing live raccoons into the room as a distraction, and another plumps for running away.

But fear not Americans, the British have already survived almost six months in a post-Brexit world, and have some advice to share on how to avoid a fight over the turkey.

Cover up any badges of affiliation

Image copyright AP
Image caption Driving your car, complete with a lit-up Trump banner, into the middle of a Democratic neighbourhood is just a bad idea

It might be fine to have your Hillary bumper sticker in New York, but it isn't going to go down well in Wyoming, where 70% voted Trump.

Similarly, your "I love Trump" T-shirt will probably not be popular in California, where 62% voted Hillary.

So we advise leaving the T-shirt at home, and covering up the stickers. Remember, Thanksgiving is but once a year, but your mother's anger because you upset Uncle Bob could last for months.

Practise your facial expression beforehand

They say a picture tells 1,000 words. Your face is the same, which means biting your lip is simply not enough this holiday season.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Don't let your face give away your true feelings

You need to invest some energy in making sure your true feelings are completely buried. Ten minutes in front of the mirror should be enough to perfect your neutral face.

And if you are one of those people whose eyes always tell the truth? Well, we suggest closing them. Easy.

Have a list of neutral topics for the dinner table

A good Brit always has a host of neutral topics at their fingertips. Here are some to get you started.

  • The weather

A favourite subject of the British. It is inoffensive, bland and can provide a good half-hour's chat, if done well.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Americans must make sure the weather doesn't wander into dangerous territory

Everyone has an opinion on whether or not it is colder/hotter/wetter/windier than last year/10 years ago/when they were little. You can involve the whole family.

There is one slight downfall to this particular favourite, however. With Clinton and Trump supporters largely split on whether climate change exists, it could inadvertently lead to politics. So it's maybe trickier for Americans than the weather-worn Brits.

  • The Kardashians

A topic that gets all age-ranges involved.

From who are they (for grandpa), to why are they famous (for mum), to Kylie's latest Instagram post (for kid sister), there is something here for everyone.

Just don't get on to Kanye. This will invariably lead to his latest outburst on stage, and his declaration he would have voted Trump. From there, it is a slippery slope into election territory.

  • Sports

Sports may not be a neutral subject. After all, the rivalry between your American football team of choice and your cousin's may have a long and vitriolic history, but it is likely to be less poisonous than the current differences in your politics.

And when the yams end up flying across the table, you can comfort yourself with the fact this would have happened had there been an election or not.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Cat videos will improve even the gloomiest of moods

Offer up a well-timed cat video

If all else fails, there is always YouTube. It has been scientifically* proven that any and all tensions will be forgotten within 13 seconds of a cute cat video.

However, if the argument is about to go nuclear (another topic to avoid at all costs), and a cat video will just not do, we suggest keeping a panda cub video in reserve. That will lighten even the darkest of moods.

(*not really)

But what if there is racism/homophobia/xenophobia/misogyny?

Sorry, but your likelihood of surviving Thanksgiving unscathed has just dropped to nil.

Even if your grandma, aged 87, begins spouting less than salubrious views over the pumpkin pie, you have to call her out.

Luckily, there is a helpline should the worst come to the worst: Showing Up For Racial Justice is offering to send people "some key talking points that tend to come up in these tough conversations".

Image copyright AP
Image caption And if nothing works, you can always go back to the raccoon plan...

SURJ, a US network which organises white people who support racial justice, has also produced a handy leaflet which points out this is a two-way street, and points out everyone needs to stop blaming and shaming people.

Basically, just be nice to each other. It's only for one day, after all.

Happy Thanksgiving!


How will you get through Thanksgiving? How are you preparing to spend the day with loved ones who voted another way? Let us know about your experiences. Email haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk with your stories.

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