Getting Through the Holiday Season After This Election

Today I’ve decided to stay off Facebook. I may stay off it tomorrow, too. In fact, I don’t know when I’m going to be back using my personal wall. I’m sure I’m missing some cute puppy videos and pictures of my friends’ kids, but I’m definitely not missing the vile commentary towards one another I was seeing yesterday. It only got worse at the end of the evening and I checked out. It had nothing to do with the election results by then, but the rampant hatred towards one another. It’s so unnecessary. People throwing away friends solely because of the way they voted. I’m so sad.

It’s okay to share your opinion, of course. Being passionate about your beliefs is good. If I don’t agree, I still respect your right to share and stand up for what you believe in. What I don’t respect is the reverse hatred.

So here’s a little social experiment story to share. A few friends and I decided to test something out. We’re scattered all over the country, but six of us all shared anonymously who we were voting for. Then we all looked at the totals. Three of us had voted for Hillary, and three had voted for Trump. We didn’t know who it was, which is the whole point of the experiment — because it didn’t matter. Before the poll, we were all the same people as we were after.

All six of us are nice people. We donate to charitable causes, we support all communities, we hand money to the homeless. We’re kind to our neighbors and we hold doors open for strangers. One of the ladies is a single-mom running a dog shelter. Another is a NYC attorney who does a lot of pro bono cases. One lady won’t tell you, but she spends hundreds each Christmas putting together shoe boxes full of gifts for children who won’t get them otherwise, and one is an ex-beauty queen who was attacked while jogging years ago. Each lady is social, a busy member in her local neighborhood and spends time volunteering. One is ex-military. Appearance wise as well, we’re a very diverse crowd, coming from all perspectives, ancestries and lifestyles.

In other words, we’re successful, caring and contributing members of society. We love one another. We are your friends, your family members and the people who take your money in the checkout stand at the grocery store.

Yet, based on what we’re seeing on Facebook now, we’re all horrible people….because we voted for ‘the other party.’ Three of us can be labeled racist, sexist losers who embrace some pretty bad stuff, and three of us could be labeled as lying, corrupt thieving killers.

Wow, right?

When you read our actual attributes, we’re a crowd of socially acceptable people who you enjoy being around. When you judge us by who we voted for, we’re scary people who get unfriended on Facebook. Yet we didn’t change.

We didn’t change. Not one bit. The new labels are solely a result of what name we put on a piece of paper. If you didn’t hate our behavior beforehand, why hate us now?

This is what happens when you judge people by an action or a thought that differs from yours. Bad things happen when you forget that our system was built on the freedom — freedom to vote being just one freedom — yet we suddenly don’t want to extend that freedom to voting.

It makes me sad, and I’m not even touching on the results of the election. What I am going to touch on is the fallout we’re dealing with now and how it’s going to affect the upcoming holiday season. Sure, that’s small potatoes right now if you’re unhappy with the result, but we can’t kill the economy and all our relationships and still move forwards. We can’t give up on so much that was fine just one day before.

So how do we go about getting through the holidays after this election mess?

We love one another. It’s the best way to approach life when nothing else works. Remembering that everyone is a human, who at least voted and tried to contribute, with their own reasons and thoughts and experiences that formed their opinion. Then we make a plan on how to still make the change this world needs.

It’s not that simple though. Many people are going to be spending Thanksgiving dinner around the table with people who are rabid supporters of someone and won’t stop talking about it. Almost every family or gathering has someone who won’t stop talking about their beliefs. Add in alcohol or ‘this is my house’ or ‘I haven’t seen you in forever so I’m assuming I know how you voted’ and it’s a recipe for disaster

Here are some tips to get through the holidays without unfriending everyone over politics.Click To Tweet

If you’re the hostess, you need to be ready to shut it down, but you’ll want to shut it down without fanning the flames or insulting anyone. One way is the tell everyone up front: no political discussions, it’s Thanksgiving! Another is to have a bell handy. It sounds cheesy, but having it available to ring and shut everyone up can work wonders. Aunt Suzy going crazy on a rant? Ring the bell. “Thanks, everyone! Dinner’s going to be in 10 minutes, get ready!”

Another distraction is an ongoing trivia game. Randomly ring the bell, ask a holiday-related question and tally the name of who gets it right first. The sillier, the better, because is a great diffuser.

Keep a tray of snacks or cookies available. When you see Cousin Jo has the “oh my gosh, please let me crawl under the table now” face, interrupt Uncle Jay to ask if he wants a cookie…then talk about the recipe. Boring someone into walking away is not a bad thing in this case.

Name cards at a table setting can help prevent dinner from taking a nasty turn. This might be a good year for multiple tables, but do your homework. Don’t assume you know how people feel; you’re likely going to be very wrong.

I recommend an escape plan if you’re the lone rebel in a house of people with leanings diametrically opposed to your own. I’m not saying lie, but honestly have a place to go or a time set up to leave. Your holiday doesn’t need to be miserable, so retain control of what you have to experience. Have a few one-liner responses ready: “Hahaha, Uncle Frank, not going to happen! I’m taking the day off from politics! Did you see that turkey?” It doesn’t matter if it’s obvious you’re deflecting; don’t feel guilty for not being goaded into a conversation that you know will end badly.

In the event you have that one family friend who proclaims that “everyone who voted for xx is a loser,” or worse yet, “I heard you voted for xx”, you can respond in kind, but that’s not a good move. Being labeled The One Who Ruined Dinner is no fun, even when it’s not your fault. “Don’t get him started!” is a comment that we’ve all heard far too often. No one says you have to be the butt of someone else’s negativity, so it’s okay to walk away. “Oh, I forgot my drink!” Even a bathroom break is better than responding and you’ll have time to formulate the next answer should you get stalked.

Some people may need to choose to not even attend a gathering this year. Holidays are supposed to be enjoyable, so if you’re considered about nothing but being drilled regarding your choice or the horrible-ness that is to come, exercise your right to say no. Just don’t go. It may be better to temporarily upset someone than see the ugly that could permanently tear people apart.

And if you’re the one that’s emptying the room…give yourself a time out. Recognize what you’re doing. Acknowledge that yes, you have freedom of speech and of thought, but those things don’t trump the need to be kind. Your opinions are right — to you. To others, maybe not. Be open minded enough to be willing to say — in your head, not out loud — “We don’t need to agree for me to still be kind to you.”

Because relationships ought to matter more.

Because if we go out, we should go out together.

Because love can change everything.

Because even small things matter.

Because if we work together, we can change things, but if you’re alone, you’re just….lonely.

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