How To Reach Across The Aisle While You Reach For The Turkey

Nov 22, 2016

After a bitter and divisive presidential election, many are approaching Thanksgiving with trepidation, even hoping to avoid politics entirely. WFSU gets some advice on how to find common ground.

Credit Mark Surman via flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/marksurman/

For many, Thanksgiving means traveling to be with friends and family from different parts of the country, and maybe different ends of the political spectrum. At a time when many liberals and conservatives don’t know or like each other, sitting down at a diverse table is a rare opportunity to understand different viewpoints. Liz Joyner leads the Village Square, a non-profit that tries to foster civil conversation and political engagement. And she says people should treat politics like they treat the folks around their Thanksgiving table.

“No matter how nuts you think Great Uncle Harry is, he’s still your guy, you know? And I think that’s usually what happens when people know each other, because we know more than just a two dimensional characterization of each other. We know the complexity of each other’s lives,” Joyner said.

Joyner believes a strong democracy is built on a diversity of opinions. And she calls the task of rebuilding civil discourse and shared respect both impossible and mandatory.

“Our founding fathers wanted us to engage with each other as a way to protect the democracy. Otherwise you need a king. And if we’re going to do it without a king, we’re going to have to do it with each other,” she said.

Joyner says national issues will not improve until families, friends and neighbors value each other’s political differences.

"If we really do dive in to being engaged with a very broad group of our neighbors who disagree completely on the issues that are right in front of us, that are the ones that we decide about. And if you can multiply that by hundreds of communities across America, it really will be different," she said.