If you glanced at any website in the past few days, you'd come away thinking that the world's biggest war zone is the American table at Thanksgiving. It seems as though no publication's holiday schedule is complete without a guide on how to handle your atrocious relatives. The Democratic Party has even gotten in on the act, creating a whole site called "Your Republican Uncle" with helpful facts to counteract the aforementioned conservative gentleman. (I'd love to see a conversation where the uncle starts praising Donald Trump and the nephew looks down at his phone and recites, "He certainly does say what he means, and most of the time, it's xenophobic, or sexist, or out of touch, or totally irresponsible," just like the DNC wrote out for him.)
Seriously: Does nobody actually like Thanksgiving? Are the nation's homes truly such minefields of barely suppressed rage and misery? Are there really no addresses where everyone sits down and one person doesn't immediately launch into a diatribe about ISIS?
America's content creators surely know that, for every family filled with awkward culture clashes, there is another family where everyone likes each other just fine. The media fixation on turkey-based horror says more about the media than it does about what's necessarily going on at every gathering in the country. It's not just the natural inclination toward conflict that leads to so much content based on the idea that all families loathe each other. It's also the hackneyed notion of smart, educated—and, usually, white—people returning to flyover country from their coastal bastions of reason to deal with the boorish, uninformed souls who raised them. Hey, I know some educated white people who live on the coasts and may be projecting their own experiences on the world at large!
Still, you do have to feel bad for anyone whose Thanksgiving even roughly resembles the bloodbath our media seems to think we all go through. For them, I offer some handy advice:
It doesn't actually have to be that way.
Seriously, there is no rule that says you have to do Thanksgiving in any way that you don't want to do it. You know that, don't you? If there's any problem with the holiday—besides the fact that it's basically celebrating the genocide of Native Americans, or am I just reliving that one anti-Thanksgiving essay I wrote in the 6th grade?—it's that it exerts the passive tyranny of all holidays. We all know the feeling: Thanksgiving is coming around, I guess I have to make pie, right? But you really don't! Turkey is not mandatory. You will not get shot for choosing to dispense with stuffing. You are a human being with free will. If you hate being around your family so much, DON'T GO. You'll probably be seeing them in like three weeks anyway. If you love your family but would rather eat chicken, maybe suggest that?
The world is a terrible enough place already. Sometimes the convergence of terribleness is so acute that it can feel like we are an irredeemable species. There is no reason for anyone to add to that by needlessly subjecting themselves to things they can't stand. Let us liberate ourselves from the shackles of expectation! Let's make ourselves happy! Let's show each other that there is some hope on the planet!
Of course, by the time you read this, it will already be Thanksgiving, so I suppose this is all advice for next year.