As I wrote a few weeks ago when I reviewed the book Digital Minimalism, I have dialed back my web browsing considerably, especially news sites.
I’m somewhat of a news junkie, and I was going to all kinds of web pages looking, perhaps, for a different angle on the same issue or topic. And if I’m honest, I was probably looking for pieces written with a slant with which I would agree.
Since I tout the importance of objective news, I realized my own hypocrisy.
Generally, I now obtain news from a couple of different sources, and I read the short news alerts that come to my phone. If one of those alerts piques my interest, I might go a little deeper and visit one of those sites I once frequented.
Although I have found that not be happening very often, perfection will always elude me in this area. Last week I spent more time on a particular site than I should have — certainly not in line with the new standards I have set for myself.
Old habits and all that. But since I did it, I’ll tell you about it.
This site was doing a series on the political division in our country and how it affects our everyday life. There were opinion pieces from psychologists and other such experts about the lack of civility among us and how unbecoming, if not unhealthy, it is. (Shocking, I know).
Readers were invited to contribute personal stories and that’s what I found especially compelling. There were accounts of not only broken friendships, but of fractured family relationships. All over politics.
Some wrote how they were dreading Thanksgiving because they knew the conversation would eventually move toward politics, and things would inevitably become nasty.
This caused me to think back to the earlier years of our marriage. On about a half-dozen Thanksgiving holidays, when we were living in Arkansas and both of my parents were still living, we invited them and my wife’s parents to spend Thanksgiving with us.
Our parents lived in different cities and were not best friends, but they got along well. And once we had children, the two sets of grandparents were 100 percent united in their admiration of their grands. It was always a pleasant and pretty chill environment.
Our biggest challenge was navigating the food traditions and preferences of the two families, like mashed vs. sweet potatoes, and giblet gravy as opposed to the lack of any turkey innards as part of the meal. As head of food preparation, my wife managed to please everyone.
All of this family harmony was threatened, however, in 1992, the year Arkansas’ native son Bill Clinton was elected president.
One set of parents was all in, with plans to go to the inauguration.
The other pair, however, especially the father, believed it was the end of democracy as we knew it. (He might or might not have had an “Impeach Clinton” bumper sticker on his pickup truck shortly after the election).
We fretted mightily over Thanksgiving that year. How could the pro-Clinton parents not share about their upcoming historical trip to the presidential inauguration, and why should they not be able to do so?
Well, because the anti-Clinton faction (again, especially one member) would likely take that opportunity to explain everything that would be wrong with having this home-boy Democrat in the White House.
It was all too much to fathom.
There wasn’t time to take a crash course in psychology where we could learn everyone’s strengths, weaknesses and personality types and handle the conversation that way.
So rather than dispensing with our holiday no-alcohol policy at the time and setting up an open bar before dinner, which I suggested but my wife vetoed, we prepared a script.
When a certain party might bring up a topic related to the recent election, the upcoming inauguration or anything remotely related to the current political environment, one of us would step in and change the subject.
Who knew the outfit someone was wearing to the inauguration could transition right into the way second-graders were learning cursive writing?
Or that Bill Clinton allegedly dodging the draft all those years ago was the perfect shift to a conversation about the lightness of that year’s pumpkin pie?
As I recall, we did not even have to use the script, but we were ready. It always pays to be prepared.
It was exhausting, to be sure, but we survived and had subsequent Thanksgiving holidays together with less stress.
Come to think of it, I might have hit on a little side hustle here. Send me your feared spontaneous-combustion Thanksgiving scenario and for a nominal fee, I’ll write a script for you.
It will be cheaper than an open bar.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at email@example.com.