Christmas this year experienced a brief but poignant political detour. Somewhere between Kentucky bourbon-filled chocolates and helping Michael and Jane construct elaborate and non-age-appropriate Lego monstrosities, we did it. Our family actually made a point of having a small, but substantive political debate. For the first time in recent memory it was civil too. No name-calling, no finger pointing. None of the typical disassociated passive aggression: “tell my Liberal son that I’ll be in the kitchen,” and such. Our discourse was surprisingly frank and cordial.
We covered many previously off-limits topics such as the Keystone pipeline, the Occupy movement, and school vouchers. There were occasional interruptions of “Naked boy, naked boy,” constituting Michael streaking through the middle of the conversation in the buff. “Well that’s one way to get our attention,” my brother said and then quickly added, “I guess he gets that from you, hunh?”
“Hey, clothes are overrated, right Michael?”
“Arrgh…Jingle Bells, my naked bottom smells,” Michael says while bending over and rhythmically slapping Jingle Bells on his rear end.
Up until this Christmas, we couldn’t watch a presidential debate in the same room as my parents. Not that they haven’t been amazing as grandparents, Wifey and I have been able to go on date nights and even out-of-town weddings, but when it came to discussing the Middle East or the middle class, forget it. They’ve even been known to bring our children along with them to certain conservative functions, such as lunch at the Governor’s Mansion in Carson City. There is in fact a framed photograph of our son Michael, then three-years-old posing with my father and Governor Brian Sandoval which was covertly hung up in his room while my parents were babysitting.
“Son, you realize that Grandma and Grandpa are using you as a proxy for political infighting with Mommy and I.”
“Why are you fighting Grandma and Grandpa?”
“Well Michael. We’re not actually fighting them it’s just arguing.”
“It’s not nice to fight.”
“You’re right buddy. It isn’t nice to fight.”
Upon reflection, I think two things really contributed to the amicable nature of our discussion. One was certainly all of the good food and booze lubricating our bellies as well as our minds. The other reason I really must credit to my younger brother. He and his new wife live in Colorado and have become active in the loosing battle in that state against natural gas “fracking.” My parents who insisted for years that industry could do no wrong and capitalism was best in the laissez-faire variety finally consented to watch some videos on fracking such as “GASLAND” and gradually began to change their minds on the subject. This admonition that their job-creator, tea-party, shall-not-be-infringed, ideology was not infallible was a starting point for them and for all of us. If they can admit that fracking is not safe then perhaps, I can concede some ground on the excesses of social welfare spending.
Michael and Jane have a lot to do with this too. After an hour and a half redundant discussion on the merits of “sleepytime,” it is generally much easier to handle a measly ten minutes of hyperbolic lecture on “Obamacare.” I suppose that it’s a logical outgrowth of having children: patience being cultivated. Wifey and I have decided to make an effort to really listen to my parents positions on racial strife, income inequality, the “war” on Christmas or whatever else the talking heads at Fox News tell them to be upset about. In fairness to them, I generally regurgitate the most recent Bill Maher or John Stewart diatribe which isn’t necessarily thinking for myself either.
Christmas really was the ideal time for our family to finally find some political common ground. Between building Legos and Brio train tracks, as well as gorging and imbibing, the spirit of compromise and commonality felt more tangible than under other circumstances. Maybe that’s what our national politicians need: lots of ham and turkey, a good eggnog buzz, and occasional comic interludes by naked toddlers.
Holiday Political Discussions, Do:
1. Come prepared. Do your research.
2. Listen and empathize, there is no way that anyone will value your ideas if you don’t first legitimatize theirs.
3. Use your children as an excuse to step out of the conversation, when needed.
Holiday Political Discussions, Don’t:
1. Attempt without alcohol.
2. Resort to juvenile playground tactics: name calling and finger pointing (even though that’s how our politicians seem to operate).
3. Forget the words of Mark Twain who was probably a grandparent at the time, “Politicians are like diapers they both need frequent changing, and for the same reason.”